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1967 – Police Arrest Four Young Men

People may have hoped that the partial decriminalisation of sex between men in 1967 would bring more enlightened times. Sadly police action against gay men increased and this included action against young men under the age of 21.  The first concerted police campaign against gay men under the new age of consent was in Staffordshire in the Autumn of 1967. Four youths were arrested and charged, one later committed suicide. 

The case attracted national attention, mostly from those who were concerned that the new law was being applied in a way that had not been intended. The article below is taken from “The Observer” in March 1968

The following account is  from “Odd men out: Male homosexuality in Britain from Wolfenden to Gay Liberation” by Joyce, John-Pierre.  Revised and updated edition published by Manchester University Press

“The case, which caused some consternation in the press, began when David Bourne, a 19-year-old public baths attendant, started hosting parties at a house in Newcastle-under-Lyme. According to guests, the parties, which drew between 30 and 50 young men at a time, were ‘not grossly indecent: youths danced together and occasionally kissed. From time to time some of them went in pairs to bedrooms and made love in private, behind locked doors.’ One evening, a group of five young men from Stoke removed lightbulbs from the bus they were travelling on to get to the party. They were subsequently arrested for alleged theft, and, during questioning by the police, ‘other matters came to light concerning their sexual habits’. One of them, a 25-year-old, was tried and acquitted of stealing the lightbulbs. The other four – William Ansell, 19, Clifford Fitzgerald, 17, Stephen Cheetham, 17, and an unnamed 16-year-old – were sent to a remand home before being released on bail. Ansell was subsequently rearrested on an unrelated larceny charge and again sent to a remand home, where he hanged himself”

In court, the defence attempted to establish that the newly introduced age of consent was  intended to protect young men from abuse by adults and was not intended to prosecute the young men themselves. The judge was unsympathetic as this report in the Evening Sentinel, from April 9th 1968 shows (below)

Copyright Notice

The newspaper cuttings featured here have been compiled by the posts author, Andrew Colclough, from online archives as part of his personal research into local LGBT+ history. Copyright belongs to the newspapers that published the articles. The news cuttings have been shared here by this post’s author, Andrew Colclough, on the basis of fair personal/non commercial use.

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