Protests are escalating against the conviction of seven men in Bolton, Greater Manchester, for consenting sex in the privacy of their own homes. The men will be sentenced on 20th February. The judge has warned that some may be jailed.
The Bolton 7 were convicted under the arcane ban on gay sex involving the presence of more than two persons, and three were found guilty of age-of-consent violations with a 17½-year-old.
These men have been prosecuted for victimless offences that apply only to gay men. None would have been arrested if their partners had been women.
The latest developments in the defence campaign are:
Over 200 people attended a protest meeting at Manchester Town Hall on 26th January; and 150 joined a candlelit "Vigil for Justice" outside Bolton Crown Court on 31st January.
The prosecution is in defiance of last October's ruling by the European Commission of Human Rights that Britain's unequal age of consent is unlawful.
OutRage! is urging that letters of support, donations, and offers to help organise the Bolton 7 Defence Campaign be sent to the men's solicitor:
Robert Lizar Solicitors,
159, Princess Road,
Tel. 0161-226 2319
Fax. 0161-226 7985
Extract from ILGA Euroletter, no. 57, February 1998
UK Gays in Danger
Whilst the seven men have gone to ground in fear of their lives after fire bombing and beatings, there is a sense of fear spreading through the gay community as it becomes more apparent that a successful prosecution of these men will set a dangerous precedent which could lead to the legal persecution of the UK's gay community. Sources advise that a test case of this nature could be the tip of the iceberg of more cases to follow. The case is being seen as a back door to making a criminal offence of gay culture.
Despite the growing crisis and election promises by the New Labour Government of changes to equalise the legal situation for gay people in the UK, the Government remains silent. The British Government have received an urgent letter from the European Court of Human Rights requesting a full explanation. We have no reports of any response so far.
It will be a smack in the face for EU principles on Human Rights if the U.K government now succeed in [retaining] the Presidency of the E.U., [whilst] applications from other countries to join the E.U. are being delayed or turned down on grounds of similar Human Rights violations.
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