Current sexual offences law

In May 2004, the Sexual Offences Act 2003 repealed the anti-gay sexual offences of gross indecency and buggery which were deleted from the statutes.

The law in Scotland is slightly different – see the Stonewall Scotland website. Lesbianism has never been specifically outlawed in the UK, but there have been some prosecutions for indecent assault.

Sexual Offences Act 2003

On 18 November 2003, the Sexual Offences Act 2003 received Royal Assent and came into force on 1 May 2004.

The Act criminalises sexual behaviour that a person knew or ought to have known was likely to cause distress, alarm or offence to others in a public place. This includes sexual activity in public cruising and 'dogging' areas.

Although the Sexual Offences Act 2003 repeals the anti-gay sexual offences of buggery and gross indecency, there is concern regarding a new offence of 'sexual activity in a public lavatory'. Some gay men are worried that this offence will allow the police to continue stigmatising and victimising gay men in particular. During the adoption of the Sexual Offence Act 2003, Stonewall received an assurance from the Home Office that this will not be the case and the offence will be implemented in a balanced manner without targeting gay men.

There are some gay men who have been convicted under the 'gross indecency' offence for sexual acts with a man between the ages of 16 and 18 before the age of consent for gay men was lowered to 16. Now that the age of consent has been lowered and gross indecency has been removed from the statutes, those men registered as sex offenders have been contacted by the Home Office individually in order to remove their names from the sex offenders register.

From 1 October 2012 these men will be able to apply to the Home Office to have gross indecency offences, which involved sex with people over the age of 16 and did not involve sex in a public lavatory, removed from their criminal records. See details on the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 for information about the application process.


how i can help

I am still a student. However, when I'm done with my biothechnology program, I will be applying to work with you for the wellbeing of those who are at a disadvantage.

magdalenarose, 21 July 2009


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