Paedophilia, Gay Marriage and the Year That Was – The Human Rights Roundup

6 January 2013 by

Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your weekly bulletin of human rights news. The full list of links can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here and previous roundups here.

This week’s major stories include deportation appeals, gay marriage, the petition for a posthumous pardon of Alan Turing on the centenary of his birth, and some discussion on the nature of paedophilia. This week also saw the new year rung in, and as such many legal blogs (including this one) have been running articles about the year that was. For those curious over whether they’ve missed anything, or looking to reminisce, here is a list of articles, sorted by topic:

Human Rights

Our very own review of 2012, by Adam Wagner

Media law


In the news

Seven more years

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Prime Minister David Cameron has said he wants to be re-elected and serve until 2020, so that he can oversee “a wave of new reforms”. The Prime Minister explained that he will not turn back on policies unpopular with his party’s support base such as gay marriage, but states that he feels the Government’s stance on gay marriage was “poorly communicated” as the way in which churches conduct marriage won’t change; only civil marriages will be required to accomodate homosexual couples. Mr. Cameron also discussed his stance on the EU, former chief whip Andrew Mitchell and his long-term vision for Conservative Party policies.

The PM also announced a new policy on deportation appeals – see Adam Wagner’s post Deport first, appeal second

Gay Marriage

Last week my counterpart Daniel Isenberg reported in his roundup that High Court Judge Sir Paul Coleridge described gay marriage as a “minority issue” unworthy of devoting a great deal of Parliamentary time to in view of the wider breakdown of the institution of marriage in Britain. This week, Philip Dayle, a pupil barrister at Took’s Chambers, writing in the Guardian, has criticised Sir Paul’s view. Mr. Dayle points out that to view gay marriage as unworthy of note because it concerns a minority is to ignore one of the purposes of human rights law: to protect the rights of minorities from the whims of the majority.

A pardon for Alan Turing?

2012 was the centenary of the birth of Alan Turing, and brought with it a fresh petition to posthumously pardon him for the crime of consensual homosexuality of which he was convicted in 1952 . Turing is a national hero, and many have felt that his treatment by the country he helped save in the Second World War was reprehensible, and in need of rectification. Alex Bailin QC and solicitor John Halford have argued on the Oxford Human Rights Hub that not only is there a strong moral case for a pardon, there is also a legal one: Section 92 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, which allows those convicted of homosexual offences to apply for their convictions to be “disregarded” (in effect, pardoned). Section 92 was written to recognise the injustice of old laws, so the argument goes that a refusal to pardon can no longer be justified on grounds of upholding a conviction that was lawful at the time.

James Wilson has offered a response to this position on his “A(nother) lawyer writes” blog, arguing that the post on the Oxford Human Rights Hub conflates two separate issues: Turing’s conviction for a crime that we no longer recognise as such, and whether Turing was sufficiently recognised for his contributions in life. The argument goes that Parliament has recognised the injustice of convictions for homosexuality by decriminialising consensual homosexuality in legislation – thus exonerating Turing, along with any and all other less famous deceased persons convicted of these offences. Whether Turing’s work has been given the recognition it deserves is, in James Wilson’s view, an issue for a separate debate.

Paedophilia as sexuality

Paedophilia is an enormously difficult subject, which is not often discussed save to establish that one is deeply set against it. In the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, Jon Henley writes an opinion piece in the Guardian exploring the academic discourse on the subject – specifically what causes it and whether it amounts to “a sexuality”. His conclusion revolves around the idea that child abuse can be prevented by recognising that some people are sexually attracted to children, but that acceptance and support could prevent acting on these desires.

Chris Ashford, writing on the Law and Sexuality blog, welcomes Henley’s article as it contributes to an almost non-existent debate, and makes a particularly interesting human rights point in doing so: that if paedophilia was recognised as a sexuality, then rights would have to be balanced against one another (which of course involves giving rights to the paedophile in a child abuse context, something Ashford rightly recognises as toxic), rather than asserted against a “perverse” group. He also recognises the subject is so toxic that an actual debate is unlikely, referencing Damian Thompson’s Telegraph response to the article as an example of the backlash generated by discussing it.

A lengthy and considered response to Henley’s article can be found in Tom Watson MP’s reply. He disagrees with Henley’s conclusions, in particular picking up on the side of the argument that Henley has not fully engaged with – the evidence from child protection workers and survivors of child sex abuse of the damage that it causes. Granted, Henley does not actually advocate sexual relationships between adults and children (and his conclusion is that paedophiles need acceptance and support to prevent them acting on their desires), but as Tom Watson points out, due to the nature of the issue (and the provenance of some of Henley’s sources, in particular Tom O’Carroll) many will see him as having done so.

In the courts

AA (Afghanistan), R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2012] EWCA Civ 1643 Court of Appeal: Secretary of State should have considered potential unfairness of decision to grant discretionary leave to asylum seeker arising from fact that he was thought to be over 18 at time of decision but was in fact younger.

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UKHRB posts

by Sam Murrant


  1. ivan says:

    Psychopathy is probably substantially innate. Those people with stronger psychopathic traits who are unable to control themselves from committing highly antisocial actions are likely to find themselves locked up in a “secure hospital”, which may seem a bit unfair if it isn’t your fault. But what are we to do? Society does have a responsibility to find appropriate ways of protecting itself from actions by individuals which are considered highly anti-social, whether their tendency to commit such actions is innate, learned, or a consequence of their own terrible traumas. We are getting better at this: you only have to look at how they handle sex offending in the USA to realise that Europe is much more civilised in this regard. Certainly it would be worthwhile looking more carefully at why certain individuals have a tendency to commit such actions. And it would be helpful if we distinguished underage sex with physiologically matuer but vulnerable individuals from true paedophilia.

  2. James Wilson says:

    Bletchley Park was a state secret during Turing’s lifetime so he probably would not have gained any appropriate awards until its work became known, which post-dated the homosexual law reform of the late 60s. In his lifetime I doubt very many people had a clue how influential and important his computer work was to become, so he probably woudn’t have been properly recognised until very old on that count either. Be that as it may, the answer is to give him posthumous honours for his wartime work and his subsequent computer work, which of course could now be done irrespective of the conviction or pardon.

    Also, there is no end to the number of convictions and punishments in the past with which we would now disagree – all those 11 year olds shipped off to Australia for stealing loaves of bread; or prostitutes who were convicted of offences (regarding consensual activities) whilst their clients walked free for a start. Should we also symbolically commute the sentence of every single person executed in history given that we now disagree with capital punishment? It is not very sensible of this present generation to be retrospectively rewriting the criminal law. I would have thought today’s unsolved crimes and other social issues should have greater call on the nation’s resources – especially given, as mentioned above, everyone convicted of the same offence as Turing has been implicitly pardoned by the repeal of the law.

  3. ObiterJ says:

    Alan Turing was convicted of what, at the time, was regarded as a very serious criminal offence. This would have prevented him receiving any honours for his work on enigma etc. These two matters were linked. Section 92 is limited to those living now but the section recognises the injustice of the old law. I would hope that the government could find some way of either amending section 92 or, alternatively, granting Turing a posthumous pardon.

  4. peterhoo says:

    “Is Jon Henley and The Guardian prophetic or is it just sound science?” is a blog piece that speaks to Jon Henley’s article as well.

  5. r1xlx says:

    Pedophiles are actually addicts addicted to the pheromo es of young bodies and their condition is really termed IPAC or Induced Pheromonic Addiction to Children – this is because like all other addicts they become addicted to the scent of their victims and must have a ‘fix’ as regular as clockwork.
    More work needs to be done on IPAC and especailly by the soap and disinfectant companies to see if children’s soaps and detergents and disinfectants can neutralise the pheromones given off by children and so make them subconsciously repellant to pedophiles.

    for Virped to advocate legalising pedophilia is a gross joke.

  6. Freedom says:

    You have missed the biggest one. Electronic harassment.

  7. virped says:

    Look, as a pedophile, Tom Watson reply is very demonizing. He treats pedophiles as “infiltrating” academia and such: The idea behind this is that pedophiles arent members of society. They are “others”, monsters hiding in the dark. Pedophiles “infiltrate” society: they are not member of it. Pedophiles “infiltrate” institutions: they are not decent and worthwhile members of them. I am not ok with that kind of thinking.

    Pedophiles are human beings. We are not perverts or predators: Most of us are productive, happy and law-abiding members of society. We are not monsters lurking in the shadow. We are members of society. Your son, your daughter, your best friend can be a pedophile. That doesnt make him bad or evil.

    Now, if pedophilia was considered a sexual orientation: what would be the problem? What rights would you loose? We are not talking about depriving people from their rights. We are talking about giving a little of self-esteem, of self-respect to people who live being marginalized and excluded from society. Heterosexuals and homosexuals wouldnt loose rights. You wouldnt loose anything. And we would win self-respect, self-esteem, respect. We wouldnt be considered sub-human creeps, unworthwhile of human treatment.

    You know how many children and teens are pedophiles? Did you know that most pedophiles find about their sexual orientation when they are not even 15? That would let those kids to feel a little human.

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