Here we are, four years after the infamous Bolton 7 prosecution, and justice has still not been done.
There have been positive spin-offs, of course, but it's a pity that these could not have been achieved without the spur provided by this misguided prosecution. Although the law under which the case was brought remains unchanged, it can now only be enforced in a way which will inevitably involve the Government in expense and censure.
This is because of the two rulings of the European Court of Human Rights, firstly the A.D.T. case and, very shortly afterwards, the Bolton 7 case. Compensation was awarded to all the appellants but, unfortunately, Norman Williams - one of the Seven - did not appeal to Europe, having been ground down beyond caring by what he had already endured.
At its last Annual Conference, CHE unanimously passed a resolution calling on the government to make an ex-gratia payment to Norman Williams of the same amount as that awarded to each of the others.
This the Government refused to do. Sensing - correctly as it turned out - that the Home Office now considers itself too grand to reply to a mere pressure group, we persuaded Andy Burnham, MP to take up the matter on Norman William's behalf. After a three month delay Keith Bradley replied to Mr. Burnham on behalf of the government, as follows:-
"I am sure you will appreciate that, for any litigation settlement to be reached, the parties must be in litigation.
"Unfortunately, as Mr Williams did not appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, he is not entitled to a settlement from the Government."
We, of course, had never suggested that Mr Williams was entitled to anything. In pointing out that his human rights had been denied just as much as those of the others, we argued that compensation should be paid to him on an ex-gratia basis. Keith Bradley's letter came on the official Home Office notepaper which carried along the bottom the printed legend "BUILDING A SAFE, JUST AND TOLERANT SOCIETY". There is no justice in the situation Mr Williams now finds himself. Any sense of regret seems foreign to this Government and, in those cases where it is forced to pay compensation, it does so with gritted teeth.
Preceding Governments were no better at expressing regret for what has been done in their name to gays. Recent years have seen apologies to the Irish for the potato famine, to the blacks for slavery, to the Native Americans for the annexation of territory, similarly to the Aboriginals. But for years of gay suffering under the law and countless wasted lives, not a word of regret, never a mea culpa, and every advance in gay rights having to be fought for every inch of the way - ten years to secure legislation which produced a watered-down version of the 1957 Wolfenden report and almost every subsequent advance forced upon British Governments as a consequence of obligations under human rights treaties (with more gritted teeth, no doubt) and with the latest report "Setting the Boundaries" out for a seemingly unprecedented post-publication round of consultation, producing 700 responses embracing, I have little doubt, every shade of lunacy from the moral right.
However, despite it all, we are promised legislation which will remove all legal discrimination based on sexual orientation. But don't hold your breath. And when it comes - IF it comes - it would be nice to think it might be followed by an official apology whilst at least some of those who have suffered under these monstrous laws are still alive.