Apologies if you have heard this message before, but it is worth repeating and spreading as widely as possible:
In the late 1980s the police discovered a home-made SM video in the home of a gay man in the north-west of England. The video shocked them so profoundly they immediately launched a murder enquiry(!) and asked Scotland Yard for assistance. They demanded to know all the names and addresses of the men in the video, which led to those homes being raided and more home-made SM videos confiscated. The owners of those videos were asked to identify all the participants, and as the men believed that what they were doing was lawful they freely gave the information and did not exercise their legal right to remain silent and admit nothing. However, even if they had done so it would not have helped them because the police used their own videos in evidence against them!
The investigation was called "Operation Spanner". It lasted four years and used police officers from forces all over the country. Over a hundred men were brought in for questioning. All believed that they had committed no crime, as their activities were consensual and no-one had required professional medical help as a result.
The police subsequently prosecuted sixteen of the men for assault under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. The case (R v. Brown and Others) went to trial in December 1990. The men still believed that they were innocent and used consent as their defence. However, the judge opened the case by saying that he would not allow consent as a defence if the purpose of the assault was sexual gratification. As a result the men had no choice but to plead guilty, and were given sentences up to four and a half years in prison.
As a result of that ruling if you engage in ANY consensual activities in England, Wales or Northern Ireland for sexual pleasure which results in an injury which is more than "transient or trifling" then you have broken the law. (Scotland has a separate legal system where consent is generally a defence but not in all circumstances.)
The phrase "transient or trifling" has not been defined by the courts, but if your consensual activities result in bruises, cuts, welts, burns, grazes, scabs, bloodshot eyes or any other injury for sexual pleasure then you may well have committed a criminal act.
The Spanner Trust's advice is simple: DON'T BREAK THE LAW.
There is more information on the UK law regarding SM on the Spanner Trust website at www.spannertrust.org/documents/smandthelaw.asp, as well as a "bust card" giving advice if you are questioned or arrested by the Police at www.spannertrust.org/documents/bustcard.asp
As a result of the increased number asking for help we desperately need to hear from kink-friendly solicitors willing to provide assistance and/ or legal representation to people involved in SM activities. If you can help please email email@example.com
CONSULTATION ON CRIMINALISING POSSESSION OF EXTREME PORNOGRAPHY
On Wednesday 19th April the Spanner Trust and another BDSM community group had a very fruitful meeting with officials at the Home Office to discuss the proposed criminalisation of the possession of extreme pornography. The discussions reassured us that - at the present time at least - any plans to criminalise the viewing of extreme pornographic imagery will be much less far-reaching than had been indicated in the Government's consultation paper.
The Civil Servants explained that the intent had never been to criminalise material which it wasn't already an offence to publish or distribute under the Obscene Publications Act (OPA). They agreed that the range of imagery that it was reasonable to criminalise had to be restricted to much more extreme imagery than that which had been originally discussed. It was suggested that only images that are pornographic and clearly and explicitly show activities which are life threatening or result in serious disabling injury should be included.
The Home Office also said they would like to continue to discuss the proposals with us as they evolved. (The Home Office had also held meetings with broadcast companies, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and the Internet Watch Foundation.)
It was clear from the meeting that the opinion of Rabinder Singh QC, paid for by money raised by Backlash (www.backlash-uk.org.uk) and the Spanner Trust, together with the huge number of submissions from individuals had helped to inform them about the potential risks inherent in their original plans.
The Home Office representatives said they had received over 400 responses, 313 from individuals and 82 from organisations. The majority of individuals were against the proposals. Thank you to everyone who submitted a response to the public consultation or donated money towards Rabinder Singh's opinion.
EVENTS COMING UP
Spanner Trustees will be at the following events in an official capacity over the few months. Please come up and say hello if you see us:
We would like to launch a fundraiser at KINKFEST3 to run for several months. If you have experience in setting up or administering a raffle and can help us, or if you would like to invite the Spanner Trust to speak at your event or gathering please email info (at) spannertrust.org
We are extremely grateful to the all the individuals who've made donations to the Spanner Trust since our last newsletter. Every penny donated to the Trust goes towards our efforts to change the UK law so that consent is a defence should injury occur, (short of permanent disabling injury or death), during sexual activities between adults.
If you have money from a fundraiser that you would like to forward to the Trust in pounds, dollars or euros, or you would like to make a private donation, please go to www.spannertrust.org/donations.asp or send a cheque to the Spanner Trust, Norvin House, 45-55 Commercial Street, London E1 6BD, UK.
If you run a club and would like to hold a fundraiser for the Trust please let us know. There is a list of clubs and businesses which have helped us recently at www.spannertrust.org/supporters.asp
PRESS AND PUBLICITY
Our thanks to TUG MAGAZINE for printing a full page article about Spanner in their Easter edition, (www.tugmagazine.com). A copy of the article can be found on the Spanner Trust's website at www.spannertrust.org/indexpage.asp?cat=4
WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
Thank you again for all your support, it's much appreciated.
Best wishes, John Pendal
Spanner Trust Chairman