Spanner hearing in Europe results

The application by three of the 16 defendants in the Operation Spanner trial to have their convictions for assault resulting from consensual SM activities overturned was heard by the European Commission of Human Rights in Strasbourg today.

By a majority vote the Commission decided that their case should go forward to a full hearing of the European Court of Human Rights. This is likely to take place during the latter half of 1996.

This is a major hurdle which has been passed. 18 members of the commission heard papers by the applicants' lawyers and representatives of the British Government arguing whether or not the Spanner convictions interfered with the applicants' rights to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

The Spanner applicants hailed the decision as a vindication of their assertion throughout that consent should be a defence to charges of assault when the SM activity was consensual and resulted in no lasting harm.

At the same hearing the Commission considered an application by five other people (the Liberty 5) who claimed that the SM activities they engaged made them liable to prosecution. The five had never been prosecuted for assault as a result of SM activities but European Court precedents have allowed applications from people who were of a class likely to fall under a law which was being contested.

The Commission rejected their application but until the full reasons are delivered in February it is not clear whether this meant that the Commission considered the Liberty 5's activities fell outside the Spanner judgement or that though their activities were technically illegal under the Spanner ruling they were unlikely to be prosecuted.

Since the original Spanner convictions there have been no prosecutions in the UK for assault where both parties consented. However there has been increased police interest in heterosexual SM clubs who have been threatened under more ancient 'disorderly house' laws.

The Spanner 3 and Liberty 5 applications were funded by donations and fundraising events throughout Europe and North America. Back to Spanner Home Page