A brief history of the State/Police prosecution of British gay men into adult consensual SM.
Late 1987 the British police "Obscene Publications Squad" conducted a series of dawn raids against gay men involved primarily in SM. The investigation started some months earlier in the Manchester area when the police, as a result of an unconnected investigation, came across a homemade video showing several men involved in heavy SM.
The police were apparently "so shocked" by what they saw that they decided a full scale separate investigation was required. Thus was born "Operation Spanner".
What did they see on that first video tape? Well we cannot be certain which of the many homemade tapes they saw first. However during the investigation they confiscated numerous tapes from several of us which had been recorded by myself and some other gay men over about the previous two years or so depicted among other things: Beatings of buttocks, legs, cocks and balls with leather straps, canes, nettles etc. Hot wax being dripped onto genitals, torsos, legs etc. Play piercings of tits, scrotums, cock knobs, shafts, and foreskins. Genital application of heat (hair driers) and cold (ice cubes). Genital bondage and manipulation etc, ball weights, safe electrical play (just adaptation for electrical sexual play, of the muscle toning gear used by health clubs). Scrotal stretching and pinning out with needles etc. Nipple and cock branding.
The police believed, or so they said, that they had stumbled across the makers of "snuff movies". Something the police in this country seem to have an obsession about. They are also constantly convinced that there are satanic ritual groups up to no good and constantly performing human sacrifices. That the country is littered with paedophile rings intent only on murder. One tape which I believe really caused us defendants a lot of problems, was the one I did (at the request of the Master) of his slave having his cock and scrotum gently cut with a scapel. The following morning there was NO sign of the cuts having ever been made, but unfortunately we had videoed the events.
From the beginning the police, in the form of the Obscene Publications Squad [OPS], were convinced that "the victims" shown on the videos would have never consented to the acts depicted on the videos. During the early stages of their investigation so convinced were they that they had found makers of a snuff movie, that they dug up the garden of one of the guys, to look for bodies. Of course they found nothing because there were no bodies to find. Throughout their questioning of us all, they were repeatedly told that everyone concerned had fully consented. Eventually it dawned on the police that we had been telling the truth, & that all the "victims" had indeed fully consented [in fact even enjoyed] the acts performed on their bodies.
Another factor that served to convince the police that we were dangerous men was the "fetish clothing" worn in some of the videos. They knew only dangerous men in a state of sexual debauchery wear leather & rubberware. Good Christian folk do not wear leather or rubber, do they? An ironic observation made by myself & others during our trial at The Old Bailey [England's most famous criminal court] was the fetish wear of Judges & Barristers. You know the deviant sort of stuff, horsehair wigs, red robes, black robes, fancy shoes etc etc. Still I suppose it's in "the public interest" if you are, most probably, a Mason [one of the UK secret societies so beloved of Judges, top police, Lords, MP's etc]
After several months of Operation Spanner, the police had spent a considerable amount of time & money on the investigation. Because the OPS could not afford to lose face by just dropping the case it was inevitable that prosecutions would follow. I believe that by the time we were sent for trial at The Old Bailey Operation Spanner had cost tax payers some 3,000,000 pounds.
The problem for the police was, with what to charge us. The indecision meant very long delays for us. In my case, 8 months passed before even being formally interviewed at New Scotland Yard, & TWO years before any charges were bought. Because of the uncertainty of the charges and the thought of possible imprisonment, these long delays had a terrible effect on my mental health and a deep depression set in. My performance at work also suffered terribly. I had worked as a Group Head at British Aerospace on the design of missile support systems, a high tech job that I enjoyed & was good at. I got no further merit pay rises after the raid in 1987.
Eventually in Sept. 1989 we were all charged with numerous offences. Among my charges were:- Actual Bodily Harm (ABH) for cock waxing & play piercing; unlawful wounding for cock caning, play piercing & abetting the Master while he cut his slave's cock with a scalpel; aiding & abetting assault occasioning ABH for doing the scalpel video; unlawful wounding for sticking things down my mate's urethra & play piercing his foreskin; ABH for beating a guy's bum with a leather strap. Also the Master was charged [among other things] with ABH for sand papering my testicles.
I was charged on a Saturday & on the Monday the boss at work called me into his office and asked if had I read the papers. "No" I replied. One of them said "Top scientist arrested" but I was not named. That all changed on the Tuesday, all the national papers named everybody charged. Back to the boss's office for a brief talk & then I was sent home without a job. Of course the gutter press was "most concerned" about National Security once they found out a homosexual was working for an armaments company. So the company declared I had not had any access to "Secret" documents or data. Not true of course, as I had had my own Security Book for signing out secret documents needed by my staff or me.
Generally speaking when the British police are accused of crimes they get suspended on full pay. Gay men in industry get instant dismissal !
The local paper (read by my friends & neighbours) declared that I had received over 100 charges. Later during the main trial they declared that "Jaggard had mutilated men's genitals" It is very hard to maintain self esteem when you are being vilified in the national & local press. "Friends" began to disappear at a rate of knots especially the married ex-work colleagues. Those that remained both straight & gay could not understand why I should have wanted to do the SM things they were reading about. Just to make my life at this time "even better" my father died after a long illness & as an only child I had to arrange his funeral & comfort mother, in between court appearances.
The most important thing in my life during these times was my COMPLETE LACK OF GUILT ABOUT ANY OF THE SM PLAY IN WHICH I HAD ENGAGED. Because of this I was determined not to kill myself no matter what happened to me.
I KNEW I WAS NOT A CRIMINAL whatever the Judge & the Law said. So sure were the police & the Judge that "The full consent of everybody concerned" was no defence to the charges of assault, that it took TWO weeks of legal argument to reach the "Consent is no defence" judgement by the aptly named Judge Rant ! As a result of Rant's judgement (following the advice of our legal teams) we all pleaded guilty to our charges.
On December 19th 1989 I was sentenced to 3 years in prison for consensual SM sexual play. I broke down in tears after I was taken to the cells.
Prison. & the Appeal Court.
After only three hours waiting in the Old Bailey cells, we were all taken to Wandsworth Prison (generally agreed to be one of Britain's worst prisons) to start our sentences. As is usual with "criminals" we were stripped, searched & then kited out in our prison clothes. My first night was spent with one of the other Spanner defendants, but next day I was moved in with a hard drugs drug's dealer. We were all placed on a Rule 43, wing of the prison. That's the place where they send prisoners like Sex Offenders, Queers (Gays), Child Molesters etc, who would be likely to be attacked by your "ordinary decent criminal".
We were locked in our cells for around 23 hours a day (no toilet facilities, only a bucket. Phew !), & only let out briefly to collect our meals & for an exercise period.
A constant air of menace pervaded the place. Tension, anger & threats between prisoners & from the staff was common. For me it was a terrible situation in which to be. In spite of enjoying heavy SM CBT play, I am NOT a violent person & had never been in a fight with anybody in my life. The prospect of being beaten-up was very real & filled me with a constant fear. Our fellow prisoners were not the sort of people we (the Spanner folk) had ever mixed with before in our lives, nor hoped ever to mix with in the future.
Being in prison over Christmas was terrible. Apart from not being at home for the celebrations, the birthdays of both my parents & my partner fell during this period. Even now, writing this eight years later, I become very upset at the memory of that period of my life and the misery caused to my Mother, Partner & me. The result entirely, of my imprisonment because of "Official" prejudice & sanctions against gay SM'ers.
Because of the total injustice some of us Spanner Men felt at our prosecutions & convictions, immediately upon conviction we decided to pursue our case as far as possible through the legal system. Therefore our lawyers applied to "The Appeal Court" for the overturning of both our Convictions & Sentences. Leave to appeal was granted & pending "The Appeal Court" hearing, (expected in about 1.5 to 2 years) we were advised to apply for bail. However I was determined to get the sentence over with, & initially turned down bail when it was offered by my solicitor. I didn't want to be released, just to be sent back to prison at a later date. My solicitor said that if I was granted bail it was very unlikely I would be returned to prison at a later date because the judges didn't like to do things that way.
How wrong can you be ? After about six weeks I was granted bail.
In the morning of my day of release I had to have a blood test taken to check the blood-levels of the Lithium I was being given for my deep depression. The "medical orderly" who took my blood sample was one of the prison officers attached to the prison hospital. He was NOT skilled at doing injections.
On my release day, my partner had been due to visit me in the afternoon & did not turn up as expected. In 1990 telephone calls were not allowed by prisoners & when an expected visit does not happen the natural fear is to imagine the worst. Early evening the cell door was unlocked & I was told "Pack your things you're going home."
By the time I arrived home my arm was a mass of bruises from the attempts of the incompetent orderly to take the blood sample. My partner was incensed that I had been sent to prison for (among other things) consensual Play Piercing, & yet the orderly had been able to make a complete mess of my arm without any sanction, indeed he had the full approval of "The Prison System."
The Appeal court & "The House of Lords"
The hearing at the Appeal Court started on 17th February 1992 & ran for three days. Prior to the hearing although I had been granted bail & was back home with my partner, I had to "sign on" twice a week at my local Police station.
The six of us who had decided to appeal were heard before Lord Lane, Chief Justice [described on another occasion by another high court judge as, I believe, "A prehistoric dinosaur !" ] & two other elderly Judges.
The hearing lasted three days. By the third day I was in a terrible state both mentally & physically, I could barely walk unaided because of the stress induced by the hearing & the way it was conducted by Lord Lane. Lane made it clear from the outset that it was by no means certain that bail would be granted at the end of each day's hearing [The bail I was on is surrendered when you return to court & has to be applied for again at the end of each day's hearing.]
During the hearing almost all points raised by the Defence Counsel's were being rejected & those of the Prosecution were always being accepted. It was very one-sided just like the Old Bailey trial. The upshot of the hearing was that in spite of the way Lane had conducted the hearing, generally speaking our sentences were cut. Mine was reduce from 3 years to six months. However Lane made it absolutely clear that he had very reluctantly reduced the sentences only because we did not know that we were breaking the Law. If any of us were to appear before him again on similar charges "We could expect no mercy from the courts & any sentences would be substantial"
Three of us decided on the spot to appeal to "The House of Lords" (H.O.L) the highest court in the UK.
My passport was returned & my partner & I took a short Greek holiday.
There were lots of solicitors & barristers meetings to attend as they prepared a joint case for the three of us in advance of the H.O.L hearing. In September '92 we were back in custody as the Law Lords debated our case in chambers at The Houses of Parliament at Westminster. After the hearing we were again granted bail pending the decision of the Law Lords, a process which could take up to six months.
March 3rd 1993, back into custody to await the verdict on our appeal by the Law Lords.
We LOST by 3 [over 70 years old, Law Lords] against to 2 [ under 55 years old, Law Lords] in favour of us.
Two of us still had some of our prison sentence outstanding so our Counsel asked if we wanted to apply for bail pending an appeal to "The European Court of Human Rights" [ECHR]. We both said no, we just wanted to get the rest of our prison sentences out of the way & get on with the rest of our lives. Our decision to accept a return to prison was also influenced by the fact that the wait for a hearing before the ECHR could take up to two years.
So handcuffed it was off to Brixton Prison for the two of us. The stay in Brixton was actually not at all bad.
Brixton Prison & Freedom.
Brixton was not at all bad, mainly I expect because we knew that at last our prosecutions were at an end & that soon our real fight back against the system would start. Tony (my fellow Spannerman) & I were taken to Brixton in the prison officer's van. Tony remarked to the prison officers that the handcuffs we were wearing were much better than the pair the police had taken from him, & could he have a pair to keep !
We shared a cell & soon settled into life at Brixton. Although we were still held under Rule43, the whole regime was much more relaxed & friendlier than that at Wandsworth. There was even a small group of gay men on the wing. Because of all the publicity surrounding the case we were well known of even before our arrival at Brixton. However in spite of all the sensationalist crap written about us by the Tabloid gutter press, neither ANY of the Prison Officers or our fellow prisoners thought we should have been tried, let alone convicted. That fact alone was a great comfort. The other BIG plus Brixton had over Wandsworth was that we could make phone calls to out loved ones. I even had some sex fun whilst there. (Not SM unfortunately.)
Tony & I got loads of mail almost every day in support of us, from people across Europe & America. Our cell wall was covered with postcards. The staff were on the whole very friendly as were the fellow inmates. I became good friends with a rapist. (We still keep in touch today, & he's due out at the end of this year.)
May 6th 1993 RELEASE from Prison & straight off home to see my partner & then over to my Mothers for a celebration.
I was still on high drug doses for the depression, but life did seem much better now the threat of prison was no longer hanging over me & the "fight back" was beginning.
However there was a price to pay as a result of the years of stress. My sex life in general has been wrecked by the case.
I still don't feel guilty about anything I did, indeed I still wish to do most of the things relating to Cock & Ball Play as portrayed on your web site. But I can only do solo play now. I can not have SM related sex play with other human beings as I would like to because I am still in such fear of getting involved with the police & again being put on trial for FULLY CONSENSUAL SM sex. This SM part of me is a fundamental part of my makeup as a human being that I'm having to suppress & it's not at all easy to do. Indeed I think I am slowly falling apart with the internalised stress of the suppression. I shall be quite relieved when my time to die finally comes. No more having to struggle on from day to day.
THE REAL FIGHT BACK
At the time of the Appeal Court hearing a number of UK gay SM enthusiasts decided to start up a support group for us, to help raise funds for Legal fees, to publicise the total injustice of the prosecutions & to show the media & hence the general population that SM sexual activities (Both Gay & Heterosexual) were not only more common than the police, media, & courts had made out, but were also a good form of safe sex in these days of HIV & AIDS, intercourse anal or vaginal rarely taking place as part of a scene.
The support group was called "Countdown on Spanner" and soon encompassed support of Gay Bi & Straight SM'ers across the UK, Europe & the USA Leather clubs. In no small measure it was due to their efforts that we received so much mail while in Brixton.
The first hurdle to be overcome with respect to the ECHR, was to apply for an "Admissibility" hearing of the ECHR when they decide if our case is of sufficient importance to be formally presented to the full Court. Nine out of ten applications to the ECHR fail at this initial hurdle.
In order to boost our case it was decided by our Legal teams and Liberty (A UK Civil Liberties Group) to also submit an application from 5 practising SM'ers (Gay & Straight) who had not been prosecuted but were making a submission on the grounds that as a result of our case the prospect of further convictions amounted to interference with: "Their right to a Private Life." They were known colloquially as "The Liberty 5"
The preliminary was heard in Strasbourg (France) on Wednesday January 18th 1995.
The Liberty 5 & Spannerman Tony & Colin, plus the Legal teams all went off to Strasbourg. I could not go because my elderly Mother was very ill in Hospital.
WE WON. The case for us the 3 Spannermen, was found to be admissible. The case for the Liberty 5 was found not to be admissible. However the very fact they presented a case meant, in effect, that the Legal arguments in our favour were, in effect, heard twice.
Back in England I fielded questions from Reuters & other media. This was a very emotional time for us Spanner 3. For the first time IN EIGHT YEARS SOMEONE HAD RECOGNISED THAT OUR CONVICTIONS FOR CONSENSUAL SM SEX MAY HAVE BEEN UNJUSTIFIED.
The celebrations were however short-lived because a few weeks later, Colin, one of us Spannermen died suddenly of a heart attack. Tony & I were shattered. In spite of advice from our Legal teams that it may be better for our case if Colin's part of the submission to the full ECHR hearing was dropped, we both said "No". We wanted Colin's case included as a mark of respect for him.
The Legal teams were combined, & on advice from Liberty, another leading Queen's Council (QC) added.
After much written preparation, we were ready to present our case to the full Court at the ECHR.
The hearing was scheduled to start on Monday 21st October 1996 (A wait of ONLY another 21 months!!!!!)
The ECHR Hearing & Result
Before the hearing Tony & I were briefed by our Counsel. A very depressing briefing it was, for our lead Counsel spent the whole time telling us how against our case, this Judge & that Judge would be.
The presentation to the Court by our lead Counsel was, we felt, very poor as it completely lacked any real feeling or passion for our case. At least one of our other QC's presented a more impassioned case.
After the hearing most of us went off to a bar for a drink. I felt very low as a result of the lacklustre presentation to the Court. My mood was not improved by one of our QC's telling us how pleased she was with our case as it had resulted in her first visit to the European Court. Obviously it was worth getting arrested, tried, & sent to prison so the QC got her first ECHR trip!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Upon return to England we found our case to be yet again in the newspapers, indeed Tony & I were approached by one or two of the Tabloid gutter press, but we refused to talk to them. We had given interviews to some of the "Serious press" & several other articles also appeared in the serious press. The vast majority of those articles were supportive. We also did some Radio interviews.
When the police originally bought a case against all us gay SM'ers I'm sure they envisaged smashing SM activities [especially gay SM] out of existence in the United Kingdom. One of the things that gave us Spannerman the most satisfaction was that as a direct result of our determination to fight the convictions right through the UK Legal system & on into The European Court, SM'ers both gay & straight refused to be forced out of existence. Several SM protest marches & demo's took place in the heart of London, much to the surprise of the general public who were not used to seeing men & women some pulling pony carts while being gently whipped, marching through the streets clad in "kinky" leather & rubber wear. SM clubs flourished as never before.
One of the main sex related annual charity events in England is the "Planet Sex Ball" Colin, Tony & I were invited among other guests of honour for the 1996 event. We had won "The Sexual Freedom Campaigners of the Year" award. The award for each of us comprised a Certificate & a magnificent 'Winged Golden Phallus & Balls'.
We also appeared in "Gay Times" top 200 'Gay Icons' listing. We had messages of support from lots of people both gay & straight, married & single.
Wednesday 19th February 1997. We got the verdict of the ECHR.
We had LOST, every vote going against us [15 - 0 against our case]
In view of the pre-hearing briefing the result was not unexpected, however we were very upset at the unanimous decision. "Her Majesty's Government" having suffered several 'Gay related' Human Rights defeats prior to our hearing were, we heard later, due a WIN. We cannot of course confirm or deny this scandalous suggestion of behind the scenes interference with the legal process. We just note the observation.
Odds, Sods, & Sexuality
As a direct result of our determination to fight the prosecutions as far as possible, one of the major positive things to happen was the publication by The Law Commission of a Consultation Paper called: "Consent in the Criminal Law"
The Law Commission is an official Government body that produces among other things Consultation Papers about particularly difficult or unclear areas of the Law. The Law Commission reports are intended to clarify the situation & are used by Politicians to help them draw up future Parliamentary Bills in the particular area of concern. When the Law is clarified by a change of Law it is usually in line with the recommendations of The Law Commission Consultation Papers. It therefore follows that The Law Commission recommendations are most important in the formulation of English Criminal Law.
"Our" document, Consultation Paper [No 139] "Consent in the Criminal Law" was wide ranging, & in places couched in very technical legal language but essentially called into question the whole premise by which we had been prosecuted.
If the recommendations of The Law Commission Consultation Paper had been "Law" at the time of our arrests, then we could not have been charged with any of the ABH & related assault charges.
As a result of us fighting our case AND the recommendations of The Law Commission Consultation Paper future prosecution of Gay/Straight SM'ers is very unlikely.
This fact alone gives Tony & me great satisfaction. Thereby ends my account of "The Spanner Case".
If you the reader become involved with the Police, try & get your friends to mobilise support & put your case to the media. Don't let the Police & the media follow only their own biased agenda.
SM, IS NORMAL BEHAVIOUR for a lot of people.
Regards & Best Wishes RJ, "Spannerman"