This Times Report is about an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights by 3 men convicted of consensual sado masochism. The case was brought about through Operation Spanner set up after a raid in Manchester found a video with a man slicing another mans pens with a scalpel.
The men were convicted, the Appeal Court upheld the convictions but lessened the sentences, and the House of Lords dismissed the appeal with two judges dissenting.
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Index of Court Appeals on this blog 
20 February 1997 Times Law Reports
European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg
Laskey, Jaggard and Brown
United Kingdom (Case No 109/1995/615/703-705)
Before R Bernhardt, President and Judges L-E Pettiti, C Russo, A Spielmann, Sir John Freeland, M A Lopes Rocha, L Wildhaber, P Kuris and E Levits
Registrar H Petzold
Deputy Registrar P J Mahoney
(Judgment February 19 )
Human rights – sado-masochistic practices – protection of health justifies conviction
Protection of health justifies conviction
The prosecution and conviction of the applicants for sado-masochistic practices was an interference in their private life which was “necessary in a democratic society”. The European Court of Human Rights so held, unanimously, in finding that there had been no violation of article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (1953) (Cmd 8969).
The applicants, Colin Laskey, Roland Jaggard and Anthony Brown, were born in 1943, 1947 and 1935 respectively. They were members of a group of homosexual men who took pant in sado-masochistic activities, involving maltreatment of the genitals, ritualistic beating and branding.
Those activities were consensual and took place in private between men of full age. The infliction of pain was subject to certain rules, including the use of a code word to call a halt to any activity, and no permanent injury or infection was caused.
The members of the group made videos of those events for private use, and some of those tapes fell into the hands of the police. Laskey, Jaggard and Brown, among others, were charged with a series of offences, primarily causing bodily harm and wounding contrary to sections 47 and 20 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861.
They argued that the consent of the alleged “victims” to the assaults provided them with a defence, but on November 19, 1990 the trial judge ruled that it could not. They subsequently pleaded guilty, and on December 19, 1990 were sentenced, in respect of the offences under the above mentioned sections, to imprisonment of twelve months (Laskey), three years (Jaggard) and two years and nine months (Brown).
The applicants appealed. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeals against conviction but reduced the respective sentences to three months, six months and three months (The Times February 21, 1992; (1992) QB 491). The House of Lords, with two of the five dissenting, dismissed their appeals (The Times March 12, 1993; [1994 1 AC 212). The majority in the House of Lords took the view that, in general, a victim’s consent was no defence to a charge under the 1861 Act and that it would not be in the public interest to create an exception to that general rule to cover sado-masochistic activity.
The proceedings were given widespread press coverage. As a result, all the applicants lost their jobs and Jaggard required extensive psychiatric treatment. Laskey died in 1995.
The application to the European Commission of Human Rights, which was lodged on December 14, 1992, was declared admissible on January 18, 1995 as regarded the applicants’ complaint concerning the alleged violation of their right to respect for private life. The remainder of the application was declared inadmissible.
Having attempted unsuccessfully to secure a friendly settlement, the Commission drew up a report on October 26, 1995 in which it established the facts and expressed the opinion by eleven votes to seven that there had been no violation of article 8 of the Convention.
In its judgment, the European Court of Human Rights held as follows:
The applicants complained that their prosecution and conviction had violated their right to respect for their private life under article 8 of the European Convention.
It was common ground before the Court that the criminal proceedings against the applicants constituted an “interference by a public authority” with their right to respect for private life, that the interference was carried out “in accordance with the law” and that it pursued a legitimate aim, namely that of the “protection of health or morals”. The only issue before the Court was therefore whether the interference was “necessary in a democratic society”.
The Court observed that the State was unquestionably entitled to regulate the infliction of physical harm through the criminal law. The determination of the tolerable level of harm where the victim consented was primarily a matter for the state authorities.
The Court was not persuaded by the applicants’ submission that their behaviour belonged exclusively to the sphere of their private morality and therefore fell outside the scope of state intervention.
It was evident from the facts that the applicants’ activities had involved a significant degree of injury and wounding. Furthermore, state authorities were entitled to consider not only the actual harm but also the potential for more serious injury inherent in the activities.
There was no evidence to support the applicants’ allegation of bias on the part of the authorities against homosexuals. The majority in the House of Lords had based their decision on the extreme nature of the practices.
Accordingly, the reasons given by the national authorities to justify the interference were relevant and sufficient.
In addition, given the degree of organisation involved, the limited number of charges finally selected for inclusion in the prosecution case, and the reduced sentences imposed on appeal, the interference could not be regarded as disproportionate.
The national authorities had been entitled to consider the interference “necessary in a democratic society” for the protection of health and there had therefore been no violation of the Convention.
20/02/1997 Times Law Reports
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]
 Index of Newspaper and Journal articles on this blog https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/2015/05/23/newspaper-stories-index-timeline/
 Index of Court Appeals EWCA on this blog https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/a-timeline-of-court-and-ewca-documentation-on-cathy-fox-blog/
 2017 Mar 25 Cathy Fox Blog 1989 Oct 10 Glasgow Herald Fifteen charged after Operation Spanner https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/glasgow-herald-10-oct-1989-fifteen-charged-after-operation-spanner/
 2017 Mar 24 Cathy Fox Blog Laskey, Jaggard and Brown v UK ECHR Times Law Report 1997 Feb 20 (Operation Spanner) https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/2017/03/24/laskey-jaggard-and-brown-v-uk-echr-times-law-report-operation-spanner/
 2017 Mar 24 Cathy Fox Blog Laskey, Jaggard and Brown v UK – Times Law Report 1997 EHCR (Spanner) https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/laskey-jaggard-and-brown-v-uk-times-law-report-1997-ehcr-spanner/
 2017 Mar 24 Cathy Fox Blog Brown, Laskey, Jaggard, Lucas, Carter, Cadman 21 February 1992 Times Law Reports Court of Appeal (Spanner) https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/brown-laskey-jaggard-lucas-carter-cadman-21-february-1992-times-law-reports-court-of-appeal-spanner/
 2017 Mar 24 Cathy Fox Blog Brown, Lucas, Jaggard, Laskey, Carter 12 March 1993 Times Law Reports House of Lords (Spanner) https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/brown-lucas-jaggard-laskey-carter-12-march-1993-times-law-reports-house-of-lords/
 2017 Mar 24 Cathy Fox Blog 2000 Apr 6 Michael Hames The Dirty Squad https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/cka/Dirty-Squad-Michael-Hames/0316853216/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1490120494&sr=8-3&keywords=Michael+hames
[A] Sanctuary for the Abused http://abusesanctuary.blogspot.co.uk/2006/07/for-survivors-coping-with-triggers-if.html