Lyons 10 Jun 1975 Court of Appeal (Church)

The several appeals posted today are all relevant to the Christian Church. See a list of all of them here at the end of the day – Index of Court Appeals on this b

Lyons offences were on boys of an age that would not now be an offence, hence redaction of some personal detail. He was sentenced with two others, Patrick and  Smith.


Some court reports have had victims names redacted and some assault details redacted.

This is a difficult balance –  normally I would think that  I should not “censor” details but on consultation with various people I have taken the decision to redact. This is mainly to protect victims, their friends and relatives from unnecessary detail and to stop the gratification of those who seek salacious details.

In addition to the obvious “victims redaction” to protect victims details, there may also be “assault redaction” across most of the spectrum of abuse. The assaults are left in the charges, but mainly redacted when repeated with reference to the individual. I have also redacted unnecessary detail of assaults.

Redaction may obscure sometimes the legal reason for the appeal, but should make no large difference to the vital information for researchers that these documents contain. That vital information is mainly names of the perpetrators, past addresses, institutions where assaults occurred, the actual charges the perpetrators faced, and dates – on which newspapers are pathetically inaccurate and this information enables the links between people and places and abuse at various times to be ascertained.

Some transcripts may have been subject to automatic reading software and whilst effort has been made to correct these, the text should not be regarded as definitive.  Common mistakes in reprinting here are that quotation marks are sometimes not correct, replaced by odd symbols.

If you think that the balance is not correct or that a particular redaction needs reconsideration, please say.

This appeal is redacted for some personal detail by cathy fox blog

Index of Newspaper and Journal articles on this blog [1]

Index of Court Appeals on this blog [2]

[1975] EWCA Crim J0610-4

No. 1672/C/75


Tuesday, 10thJune1975

Lord Justice James



[redacted] Lyons

(From the Shorthand Notes of Cherer & Co., 34 Essex Street, Strand, London, WC2R 3AT. Telephone No. 01-583 4121. Shorthand Writers to the Court.)

MR. N. TAYLOR, Q.C. and MR. C. MAGILL appeared as Counsel for the Appellant.


LORD JUSTICE JAMES: On the 24th March last at the Central Criminal Court [redacted] Lyons, the Appellant, pleaded guilty to two offences of gross indecency. The offences were committed on the 6th July, 1974 and the gross indecency was committed with two youths, one just over the age of eighteen and another youth of sixteen. For those offences the Appellant was sentenced to a term of two years’ imprisonment concurrently. He appeals to this Court by leave of the single Judge. There were others involved on the indictment, in particular the Appellant’s friend named Smith who was twenty-eight years of age. He was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in all for offences of indecent assault, attempted buggery and publishing obscene articles. Another person named Patrick, who was forty years of age, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for indecent assault on male persons and gross indecency, the higher sentence being imposed on the gross indecency charges. The activities of the co-accused were not confined to the 6th July; those of the Appellant were.

The facts can be stated quite shortly. The Appellant was of good character up to these offences. He had educated himself and trained himself into the Church, having attended a theological college. He had various positions in the Church and the post that he held at the time of these matters was one that he had recently taken up as curate at a church in North London. The offences were committed after he had been with his friend, the co-accused Smith, to an organ recital. The two of them had gone with five youths, two just over the age of eighteen and the others younger, the youngest being some fourteen years of age. They had gone to licenced premises where they had taken alcoholic refreshment, beer and gin, and they had gone then to the flat occupied by the co-accused Smith.

Taking the facts from there on from the statement that was subsequently made by the Appellant himself it appears from what he says that everyone got rather boisterous ” …..making a lot of noise and then someone turned the light out in the room we were in. I am not sure how many of us were there, but it was something like six to eight people. I remember someone trying to take my trousers off and touching me. Everyone was generally engaged in mutual masturbation and were in different stages of undress. I remember that I masturbated AB and he masturbated me. I also remember that I orally masturbated one of the boys, but I’m not sure which one. This was not a passionate affair, it was just a lot of people behaving stupidly.” And, having regard to what was later said in the medical report, it is right to point out that at the conclusion of that statement, naming another boy, he says: ” … although I do like”, so-and-so, “and would have liked to have had a relationship with him, …. the opportunity never presented itself apart from being able to put my arm round him while others were present.” That statement was made in connection with his observation that he had not had any relationship with any of the other boys on that occasion.

The Court has available, as did the trial Court, a report from a senior and experienced probation officer, Miss Putnam, who, having interviewed the Appellant, came to the conclusion that the difficulties and anxieties and “even turmoil of Mr. Lyons’ emotional life come from the conflicts he experiences in his sexual orientation.” That is confirmed by the two medical reports obtained from Dr. Snowdon of the Bethlem Royal Hospital and the Maudsley Hospital which we have had an opportunity to consider. Miss Putnam points out that the consequences of the conviction for these offences have been great indeed. The Appellant is full of shame and feels degraded by what he has done. He has lost his future, it would appear, so far as the Church is concerned in relation to his active service as a priest. But let it be said his future in respect of the Church, so far as advice and comfort is concerned, is assured in that his spiritual adviser, the Reverend Dean, has continued to show even greater interest in him and to give all the support that can be given, and the Court is assured that that will be available in the future.

The explanation put forward from the result of medical investigation or psychiatric investigation is that at the time this Appellant, who is bisexually orientated, had his social judgment impaired by what had gone on before the offence took place and by the circumstances and behaviour of those who were with him at that time. It is suggested that this experience, resulting in the conviction and sentence, will ensure that nothing of this sort will occur again.

In the second report of Dr. Snowdon it is said that imprisonment “serves merely as a punishment and cannot be thought of as therapeutic in any sense. Indeed, I believe it serves as a counter-therapeutic measure in two respects: firstly by depriving the community of the excellent social work with old people that he had just commenced in Camden Town; secondly, by increasing the chance of him remaining bitter and chronically tense as a result of what he sees as the unfairness of the law.”

It is right to say that after the conviction and his suspension from duties in the Church he did take up employment under the London Borough of Camden, working with elderly people, and he has served the community so well in respect of that that the local authority have written two letters which in their totality confirm that employment in that field would be open to him if he were to regain his freedom as a result of this appeal, and they support his appeal.

Mr. Taylor, who appears on behalf of the Appellant, has argued everything that can be argued on behalf of the Appellant. It is right, as has been said, that both boys clearly had considerable sexual experience of this sort before the 6th July when this Appellant became involved with them. Indeed, none of the boys who were present were members of or attached to the church where the Appellant was a curate. But, looking at the evidence, it is quite clear that those boys who were present when the offences were committed knew the Appellant as the curate of a church.

It is argued properly that at the time of these offences the Appellant was coming out of some acute emotional disturbance over the breakdown of a relationship he had had with a young lady, which he had hoped would come to fruition in a marriage but which was, in fact, terminated.

Although it does not appear as a ground of appeal Mr. Taylor has argued that the sentence of two years’ imprisonment upon the Appellant is inequitable when one considers the sentence of two years’ imprisonment imposed upon the co-defendant Patrick, whose offences were, as to some of them, more grave in their classification though not necessarily in their circumstance and whose offences were in fact stretched over a period of some four years and not confined to one particular date.

Disparity of sentence is a perfectly proper argument to put forward. It is a difficult argument upon which to succeed because, if only for this reason, that the trial Judge has an advantage over any appellate court in having had the matter placed before him on behalf of all those who appear before him at the same time. We cannot find here anything that would lead us to interfere with the sentences on the Appellant on the ground of disparity with the sentences imposed upon Patrick.

The main burden of the argument of Mr. Taylor is that bearing in mind particularly the terms of Section 20 of the Powers of Criminal Courts Act 1973, which provides that a Court should not pass a sentence of imprisonment upon a person who has not been sentenced previously to a term of imprisonment unless there is no other method of dealing with that person appropriately, the advantages and disadvantages of allowing this man his freedom as against sentencing him to prison are such that make the balance come down heavily in favour of a non-custodial method of dealing with the Appellant and on that basis it is urged that these sentences should be quashed.

One accepts without hesitation that prison is unlikely to do the Appellant any good. One accepts without hesitation the argument that life in prison for him will be difficult and will subject him to pressures which cannot be of any advantage or good for him. One accepts that he was a person of good character and one accepts that since conviction he has shown himself keen and eager to do the good work that he has been doing and which has been in the interests of the public in the Camden area of London. Looking at the matter from the point of view of the individual alone, the Appellant alone, there is considerable force in the arguments that are put forward by Mr. Taylor on his behalf.

Mr. Taylor has invited our attention to the case of R. v. Willis , which is reported in (1975) 1 Weekly Law Reports, page 292 , and in particular to the passages in the judgment of Lord Justice Lawton commencing at page 295 and going on to page 296 in which the learned Lord Justice sought to give some general guidelines to courts faced with the task of sentencing persons for sexual offences and drew attention to headings under which circumstances can properly be considered when sentence has to be passed in such cases – such as physical injury, moral corruption, abuse of authority and trust, mental imbalance and so forth.

It is not without significance that the learned Lord Justice in that case did say that it is not the label of indecent assault which is important but the nature of the act. The same thing applies if one uses those words in the offence of gross indecency. The learned Lord Justice went on: “In many cases it amounts to no more than putting a hand on or under clothing in the region of the testicles or buttocks. Such cases are not serious. In some the assault may take the form of a revolting act of fellatio, which is as bad as buggery, maybe more so. Sentences should reflect the seriousness of the act constituting the indecent assault.”

It is not indecent assault and there is no element of corruption on the particular facts of this case, but it does remain a case in which the circumstances have to be taken into account in assessing what the proper method of dealing with the offender is. Mr. Taylor has pointed out one side of the coin, and rightly so. The other side of the coin is this, that one of the purposes of passing a sentence is to make clear the seriousness which the Courts on behalf of the public attribute to the offending behaviour. Here we have the circumstance of a man of the cloth, known to be such, going with young boys to what he must have known was going to be an orgy or might develop into an orgy and not resisting whatever temptations, pressures or inclinations he may have felt and indulging in two acts against which the public, although sorry for him in some ways, would nevertheless revolt and would regard as meriting punishment.

Having considered carefully all the arguments addressed to us we cannot find that these sentences are wrong in principle or excessive and the appeal is dismissed.

Please note that victims of abuse may be triggered by reading this information. These links are generally UK based.

  • The Sanctuary for the Abused [A] has advice on how to prevent triggers.
  • National Association for People Abused in Childhood [B] has a freephone helpline and has links to local support groups.
  • One in Four [C]
  • Havoca [D].
  • Useful post on Triggers [E]  from SurvivorsJustice [F] blog.
  • Jim Hoppers pages on Mindfulness [G]  and Meditation [H] may be useful.
  • Hwaairfan blog An Indigenous Australian Approach to Healing Trauma  [J]
  • Survivors UK for victims and survivors of male rape or the sexual abuse of men [K]
  • Voicing CSA group [L] helps arrange survivors meetings in your area
  • A Prescription for me blog Various emotional support links [M]
  • ShatterBoys -“Male Survivors Of Childhood Sexual Abuse Inspiring change, Through Shared Experience Whilst Building Connections…Together We Can Heal” [N]


About cathy fox blog on Child Abuse

the truth will out, the truth will shout, the truth will set us free...
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2 Responses to Lyons 10 Jun 1975 Court of Appeal (Church)

  1. Pingback: An Index and Timeline of Court and Court of Appeal Documents on Cathy Fox Blog | cathy fox blog on child abuse

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