Mr. K. Hopley,
Action Against Crime Unit,
50 Queen Anne's Gate,
London. SW1H 9AT
Dear Mr. Hopley,
In our view the Home Office is right to take action to protect children from sexual abuse. However, the new proposals set out in Sentencing and Supervision of Sex Offenders mistakenly lump together consensual and coercive sexual offences, and those between adults and those involving children.
We believe the proposals should be restricted solely to people convicted of sexually abusing children, and should not penalise persons convicted of consensual sex with other adults or other young people of a similar age.
In accordance with the Indecency With Children Act 1960, we propose that the definition of a child should be a young person under the age of 14.
The requirement to register with the police, and other penalties outlined in Sentencing and Supervision of Sex Offenders, should exclude those convicted of consensual sex offences involving persons aged 14 or over, and those convicted of similarly victimless offences where both partners are under 14 and of roughly comparable ages.
We furthermore believe that those convicted of consensual offences involving one person over 14 and the other under 14 should also be excluded from these proposals, providing there were no more than three years difference in their ages (as in the case of mutually agreed sex between a 13 year old and a 15 year old).
Some young people under 14 knowingly and willingly sexually experiment with each other. They are not a threat to children and should not therefore be subject to the provisions set out in Sentencing and Supervision of Sex Offenders.
We particularly want the largely gay and consensual offences of buggery, indecency, soliciting and homosexual acts on merchant ships deleted from the index of offences in Annex A. Accordingly, we propose the removal of:
(1956 Sexual Offences Act)
* Section 12 - Buggery (or attempt to commit buggery)
* Section 13 - Indecency between men
* Section 32 - Solicitation by a man
(1967 Sexual Offences Act)
Section 2 - Homosexual acts on merchant ships.
There are plenty of other laws (apart from the four mentioned above) which can be used to protect young people against abusive, coercive and violent sexual exploitation, such as the Indecency With Children Act 1960, and the laws against rape, incest and indecent assault (under the Sexual Offences Act 1956).
There is no need, or justification, to punish the thousands of gay and bisexual men who have convictions for consensual sex with other adult males.
Our research, based on Home Office and police statistics, suggests that there were nearly 20,000 convictions for homosexual acts between consenting adults during the period 1980-89 (mostly for victimless cruising and cottaging).
In 1994 alone, about 500 gay and bisexual men were found guilty of offences which caused no harm and had no victims. All these men will now be required to notify the police of changes of address, as will many thousands more if these proposals are made indefinitely retrospective to cover anyone who has ever had a conviction for a sexual offence (a proposition we urge the Home Office to reject).
Under the Home Office proposals, the Bishop of Durham, Michael Turnbull, who was convicted of gross indecency with another man in a public toilet in 1968, would be required to inform the police of any change of address and alert them if he went away on a holiday or religious retreat lasting longer than four weeks. The idea that men like the Bishop are a threat to children is absurd.
It is a gross mistake to classify men involved in consenting sex with other adult males alongside child sex abusers, rapists and other harmful sex offenders. Most importantly, it will not help to protect children from unwanted sexual advances and molestation.
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