Candle-light vigil for the Bolton 7 | Undated | Outrage | 14353
The Bolton 7 were gay and bisexual men convicted on 12 January 1998 at Bolton Crown Court of gross indecency under the Sexual Offences Act 1956 and of age of consent offences under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
While gay sex between two men was decriminalised by the Sexual Offences Act 1967, the seven were convicted under section 13 of the 1956 Act because group sex was still illegal. One of the men convicted was also six months under the statutory age of consent for gay sex (18) at the time.
Equivalent heterosexual behaviour was not a crime.
The offences came to light when police seized videos of the men having sex.
During sentencing on 20 February 1998 Gary Abdie, David Godfrey, Mark Love, Jonathan Moore and Craig Turner were given probation and community service orders. The Judge gave Norman Williams a two-year suspended prison sentence and Terry Connell received a nine-month suspended sentence and was ordered to pay £500 towards the cost of the prosecution, which is estimated to have cost £500,000.
Moore, Williams and Connell were also required to sign the Sex Offenders Register for the age of consent offences committed with Turner.
There was a huge campaign to prevent the men being given custodial sentences. The campaign was successful.
Six of the men appealed to the European Court of Human Rights arguing that the prosecutions against them had violated their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights by interfering with ‘the right to respect for a private family life’ enshrined in article 8 of the Convention.
They won and were awarded compensation. As Williams was not part of the litigation, he did not receive compensation.
The law has radically changed since the case. The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000 equalised the age of consent for sex, now 16 for both heterosexuals and gays. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 changed the way sexual offences are dealt with by the police and courts, replacing many of the 1956 provisions. The offences of gross indecency and buggery have been repealed. Sexual activity between more than two men is no longer a crime in the UK.