Prosecute, Prosecute, Prosecute
It was naive. I suppose, to think with a relaxation of some laws against male homosexual behaviour, there would be an accompanying general tolerance of the "funny little ways" men and boys get up to with each other. That the law would get out of the bedroom where no one was hurt, frightened and no one was forced.
With an openly gay man in the cabinet and a gay couple starring in the Abbey, attitudes have changed.
Not out there, they haven't.
But, alas, I'd forgotten how homophobia is as present in life as homosexuality. And I never reckoned back in our campaigning days in the 1960's, how the law would tighten itself with the Crown Prosecution Service. What in 1957 might have been informally dealt with by some PC Dixon saying with a cuff around your kisser "Now come on, don't let me catch you doing that again on my manor" - is now no chance. CPS pursues. What other job have CPS to prosecute, prosecute, prosecute? It's in their interest. Comb the statutes. Change the charge. Find a way. Prove their job.
Another "modern" factor I have never sussed, that as homosexuality "came out" gays would behave to gays under certain circumstances with all the vindictiveness and revenge we'd seen in divorce proceedings. It was a feature of the Oscar Wilde trials, but litigious ness is a disease endemic of now.
So it is that certain homosexuals are against the law, while other manifestations are perfectly acceptable to Politically Correct Society - that Elton John attends W Abbey with his partner David Furnish. It is accepted by the Sun that Chris Smith, MP, and Government minister lives with a man, Dorian in a relationship like a marriage they hope will "last forever". This is all hunky-dory in 1997 in a way unthinkable in 1987. And yet what homosexuals get up to -not even with homosexuals. All sorts get up to homosexual behaviour that is prosecuted, prosecuted, prosecuted as if no laws have changed: because they haven't - not the laws the CPS use. Phew - yep. There we are, a dismal daily trial of men caught "at it", up for punishment by courts of law just because their behaviour was gay. It's as if the forces of law can't stop wanting to prosecute homosexuals. Where there is a law they'll use it. And me and my old pal Allan Horsfall, veteran gay activist, whose contribution to liberation and care is respectfully recorded in all modern histories of this struggle for an equality of citizenship for those who express their humanity in homosexual ways, are back having our ears bent as befrienders in smoky anterooms to these courts, listening to grief and hurt as if it were 1957.
"Why are we picked on?" the victims berate us. "I wouldn't be prosecuted if it were me and a lass?" No.
"Because it's male gay sex, I'm being done: ruined. Were I a lesbian, there could be no charge."
Oh, I know some things are better. Some things. Elton and David walk proud in the Abbey. Chris and Dorian invited as an item to Buck Palace. Life was terrible. When Allan and me traipsed about in the late `50's and early `60's. We remind ourselves - that club in Wolverhampton - Flamingo it was called. Where the owner didn't know what was going on in the back yard. The towel produced in court. As if the forces of law were enjoying the public display of every detail in it's dirtiness. And what sex isn't with some dirty bits.
He went down, the owner. And nobody taking part in the goings-on in the back had ever been forced. It was all consensual, but he went to prison. A disgusting excess it was of justice. Who was the lawyer that defended? That decent Ivan Geffen from Walsall? Did his best. But the law was the law. And used.
And without a bill of rights, laws will be found that will be used. You see I remembered - this one you wouldn't be done for today because the sex was consensual - I think John was 24 and his boyfriend 19, when the age was 21. But the circumstances are a caution and John Clarkson was so brave. He fought not guilty all the way. Some don't> But he did. Brave to the final crack from the old wig in red. "Take him down." He got three years. His lover to a detention camp. They never got back together. It broke them. Bastards. And they were lovestruck and monogamous. True "for ever" they had vowed as Chris and his Dorian. John had had a run in previously with the police. They had tried to do him for a burglary and failed. Egg on PC Plods face. The Bill was determined to have John. They watched his flat. Sussed it, and kicked his door in at 7am. Off in the van. And the sheets to forensic. I remember Nottingham Assize, the old court on Nigh Pavement. The thin bed sheet held by the ushers. Learned QC pointing with a stick to the stains. The jar of Nivea was passed along the jury. "Notice the pubic hair."
Well, any stick to beat a dog. It's why we need a bill of rights. That what is private and consensual be private. Laws w e need - have: on rape. Oh aye. Equal across the sexes. Sex with force is wrong. Messing with children pre-puberty. From a position of authority is abuse of power. Got to be against the law. But after a certain age same for boys and girls. You may not like it, but it's not out of order in any natural human nature. Never did me any harm. Here we go. But there we are. In my grammar school old boys' association when we've met, we've talked how- Dougy did this, and Vicar Hussey stroked your leg, too: when you were 14. And tug the SM drew the tent flaps tight and played with the Boy Scouts tails. Or do we exaggerate, as old boys do?
Of course, sex has "advanced" - a bit. None of us were buggered, sucked off or licked by elders. No. It was an age when that sort of thing was feeling you beneath bundles of your clothes, which were never taken off: to use an 18th century expression - bundling. No one stripped - no one in the buff: no kiss this. When did KY come in? Yet we buggered each other. Boys to boys. In the bogs - did Payney do you? Really? Vaseline. Or spit.
But I was properly brought up. From my parents, love. No violence: no abuse of any kind. I was taught to want new experiences. to be interested in strangers: to say "yes" softly and add "please" without greed and of course how· to say "no" when it was something "wrong" I didn't like. "No: not today, thank you". And the wandering hands on my youth? Did they make me promiscuous? No. Did they make me in my turn get turned on by boys? No, not at all.
And so the years pass, laws change. We're old now, Allan and I. Following this sad phone call and that distressing small report in a weekly newspaper. Befriending. Monitoring. And sometimes we're not welcomed. Such shame. But usually - really well received. This year we've done- well Allan has - a mayor (Labour) of a considerable town. Used to be First Division, declined a bit. But in his year of office, that town's mayor got caught in a cottage. In a cubicle with consenting (well over age) stranger. Pants down (just). Didn't want to go into details but it were two coppers on an afternoon shift crouching in the rafters. And then - gung-ho - it were two in a one-some. Bit of foreplay and then -jump. Go guilty and you'll be home for supper. Sign the charge sheet. There we are.
"CPS'll be informed and then it'll be up to them now." Gone guilty: more than a 50 per chance of conviction I'd say. It's a mayor: public interest. I'd say if I were CPS. At magistrates it's a fine, just a fine. In the papers, though. Who tells the papers? Got the mayor up this morning? Don't resign as a councillor was our advice and he didn't.
Who tells the police to sit in the rafters? No member of the citizenry was present to be offended. Only evidence - police. Oh, the CPS said the toilet was near to a children's play area. It is - on the other side of a river you can't cross for a quarter of a mile. CPS said there had been complaints. What evidence? None Offered.
The plain matter is it shouldn't be prosecutable. Where there's no complaint. And where it does go on and
is annoying, isn't a brighter light a more sensible solution than sending in the police. My - we've had worse than this mayor. Bloke in Hollinwood got a hard on when a youth stood in the stalls beside him unbuttoning his fly - and then wham bam "I'm a police officer". Entrapment. An abuse of authority, I'd say. Would CPS`? Some victim has got to be brave enough to sue back such an officer. Not yet. But give us a bill of rights!
If local authorities want to damp it down, there are ways without prosecuting people. I have heard it said that a reason some modern police forces want to come down hard on cottaging is that gays have their own cruising areas in their own clubs where just anything goes. Ah. But that misses the point. Most cottagers are not gay, gay sex, as in "on the scene" gay. Most are married. And not all clubby. Just - wouldn't mind a fiddle around in the afternoon, to nick a phrase from Tommy. Not that I do. Not at the moment. Nor dare I say do David or Elton. Chris or Dorian. But I might. I have done. Not a lot - but then the mayor was not Tom Driberg.
And we got something happening that's a really frightening modern phenomenon. A and B had a sort of affair thing going between them when A was 16 - maybe 15 - and B was 30. Went on some years. On and off A grows up and turns out to be gay of all things. Set-up with a live in lover of his own. Still friendly with B but on a non-sexual basis. Then something happens this year, we're not sure what kicked it off but maybe A asks B for some money·, because he's known to have a bob or two, and B says no: piss off. So A goes to the police and says 15 years ago B messed with him. Abused me. "How old were you?" Nine, says A. Lies, says B. "How many times?" asks the police. Six hundred. He's lying, says B. But how does B prove it? Charges made. CPS proceeds. Oh yes. These matters are taken very seriously. And in the wake of the investigations of abuse in institutions the rules have changed. The lad - well, man he is now - can make his accusations in anonymity because what he's alleging happened when he was a minor at the time. While the accused (pleading not guilty) has his name in the paper already on the first appearance - and address. Witch-hunt territory.
There's been a case reported in this district where a priest at a local boarding school is sent to prison for some sort of sex with four teenage pupils ten years ago. Fondling, probably, "inappropriate touching" the priest admitted: maybe no more. He gets five years. And it's reported that the former pupils - the "abused" who were 16 at the time - are settling with the school for considerable damages. We're going back to blackmail.
Victim (the film). Pre-Wolfenden. "I'll do you. I'll ruin you. Take you for every penny." How do we stop this? It's abuse hysteria getting right out of hand: now it's a tenor of the times to rake the past for money. Vengeance seekers armed with a basket of stony half truths and masked in anonymity. Not surely what Esther Rantzen had in mind - or is it? Homophobia doesn't just fade because Tony and Cherie'll send Xmas cards to Elton and David, Dorian and Chris. I know. I've read. Some terrible things happened in these children's homes to very young lads who were vulnerable or forced. That's wicked. But when it's not in an institution. No force is involved. And it's 15 years ago, is that right? Shouldn't there be time limits to making the allegation?
And oughtn't we to know now so much is "out" what exactly allegedly occurred. Maybe we will do in the cases that we are watching at the moment. There are trials to come. Protection of children. Well, I didn't need any protection. I enjoyed the affectionate advances. And that's about all it was. I'd been properly brought up and knew exactly when to say no and hands off there politely. But I didn't have to. I was never abused. I knew and I said yes: mmm. That's nice. I know. I know dangerous waters - but we need some sorting out or we're denying to lads now what to my generation was accepted (though unspoken) moments of, if you like it, adventure, and fun, and moments of affectionate attentions that helped me find myself. But then it was all unspoken. Now it's all out - and Mummy doesn't like it. Mummy wouldn't have liked the idea then. Oh dear. I know one case, dreadful, where what happened is all recorded, on a home movie with the modern device of the video - used by them: silly chuffs, buggers filmed themselves at it.
Now I've not seen the video - but a lawyer for some of them, she says it's not outrageous. Wouldn't be a saleable item on the top shelf at any sex shop in Soho. The charges: several gross indecencies: some buggeries and an under-age.
To begin with, the CPS had "a conspiracy to commit buggery". That's rare; phew - that charge is really wicked. It meant two of them didn't get bail and had some weeks in custody. No fun there. Before eventually a judge said `let `em out.
There's eight of them involved. The Video Eight is on two or three separate sessions. Three or five of them videoed their fun. There's only one copy of it. Though maybe CPS then copied the copy because they've looked at it so close the charges have changed and "conspiracy" has been dropped. Then they laid specific and "substantial" charges: that Number 2 did this to Number 4 while Number 6 was doing that. Etc. Etc.
Some of the Video Eight go guilty; because says Number 7, all I was doing was sucking off Number I. Go guilty and - maybe right, maybe wrong - he says he'll have his guilty plea taken into account and hence a lighter sentence. We'll see. Oh aye. I'm there in court. And so's Allan. Holding hands. Trying to look bright-eyed while the backs of your eyeballs are crying to fuck. Buying in the court canteen the polystyrene tea and taking as we can people to the pub for lunch.
Some nark always gets the News of the Screws on the press bench, but in what mood? Post-Chris Smith or Pre-Chris Smith? Bastards. Because some of the Video Eight are hell-bound: determined to stick it right way out all the way "Not Guilty·". It's on the video? Aye, but some want to say, appealing right into the jury's eyes, that in European law they did nowt wrong, and we are in Europe: that if we were heterosexual, or lesbian, they'd not be charged as charged. The video was not intended for any public sales and anyway that's not what was charged: and everything what happened were all in a private house. And everyone was consenting.
But is all this prosecution in the public interest? It's ever so complicated legally - but it's ruining small people's lives. Two have lost jobs already·. And it's costing the public purse an open cheque book. Though one of them - is it Number 3 - cannot get - he bends my ear: "I can't get, Ray, the full legal aid." "Right," I replied. "It's all bloody wrong," said Number 3. "Did not the Maxwell sons get millions and I'm having to pay £30 a week. And I done nowt wrong. I just got a job, Ray, six years on the dole and I'd just got a job: nights in tbakery at £150 a week: and this happens. We're picked on: just because we're gay. Come on Ray.'
And then someone brings out of his pocket Woman magazine, a two-page spread. "Why shouldn't I love a teenage boy?" by Denise of Doncaster (32) who'd run off with Trevor (14) who had been her daughters boyfriend. The piece is almost saying going off when you're married with kids and you fall so strong for a teenager so young is fine. Nowt wrong. No prosecute, prosecute, prosecute.
"You see," says Number 3 "in Spain the consent age is 12." Mmm. Trouble is, this Video Eight is not in Spain: they're not women and some of them - some -have had brushes with the law for this and that.
"Known". And they're poor. Put together, they wouldn't earn in a year what Elton earns in a day. Here we go again. I look and they're so ordinary: scuffed trainers and anoraks and I'm back to John Clarkson. You see the man who had the video - well, kept it in his house - is a bachelor who puts up lads. Not necessarily for sex involvement's but just soft on lads. He had a row with one smackhead (aged 17) who was kipping on his sofa. Booted him out. The lad came back and burgled his house. He's inside for that himself now·. But in the booty he nicked he found "the video". Sent it to the rozzers. Anonymously. Have a look at this copper. And he's loads more like this in the house.
Well he hasn't.
But when the police sat back and viewed the video ho ho ho they spied in all their nakedness him, him and him.
Now PC Dixon of Old Dock Green might, might at this stage have...well...returned the video. A favour for a favour` Pedalling around on his bike - saying to Number 8, "I was sent this (tap, tap) which I have reason to believe is yours. We're returning it and I've wiped it quite clean - you naughty boy."
Today, police prefer a pat on the head, "Well done" from the CPS. Evidence "as per video". It's in the police interest to process the CPS cases they can win. "It's all on the video, ma'am: eight of the buggers." Oh dear. Sprat to catch the mackerel. Any charge that fits. What was AI Capone done for eventually? Evasion of income tax!
And some sods burnt - was it Number 4's - house down while he was in the nick. So there we are, me and Allan, trundling around. It's not Elton and David. Not AI Capone. Nor Chris and Dorian. It's pretty naff really-. It's the scuffed and imperfect and elements that tried, or just fell into, having a bit of fun, well, got out of hand a bit. Not a lot. No evil. No force. No money but odd fivers lent between themselves sometimes.
And the point is this - Video Eight and all the cases would not and could not be charged with what they're charged with was it heterosexual behaviour. Picked on just because it was homosexual. Using old laws out of the spirit of new reforms. They- couldn't be done on this in Europe, nor where they lesbian. Charged because they were messing about in a male, gay way.
That's what's wrong. Why we need a bill of rights that say's you can't be done homosexually for what you couldn't also be equally done were it straight.