Spanner Time Line

late 1987 Manchester Police search homes following a tip-off. During the next year some 200 - 300 individuals are interviewed in what the police call “Operation Spanner”

Sept 1989 16 men are charged with “Assault”, “Aiding and Abetting Assault” and/or “Keeping a Disorderly House”, a further 26 are cautioned.

Dec 1990 Spanner case is heard at the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, Judge Rant presiding. Consent ruled ineligible, defendants pleaded guilty with mitigating pleas.

Jan 1992 Appeal is heard at the High Court, by Lord Lane. Convictions confirmed but sentences reduced.

Aug 1992 Public Meeting at Conway Hall, London, launches Countdown on Spanner.

Dec 1992 Appeal is heard by the House of Lords.

March 1993 House of Lords issue judgement confirming convictions on a split decision (3:2). Dissenting Law Lords recognising that the case was about sexuality not violence.

March 1993 3 Spanner defendants register case with the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg, alleging that the UK Government is principally in breach of Article 8, which establishes a right to privacy. Privacy is normally taken to include private expression of sexuality

March 1993 Law Commission initiate consultation on the issue of consent in assault law.

May 1993 Police raid private party at Hoylandswaine, Yorks. The Crown Prosecution Service later declare there is no case to answer and in 1995 the police pay compensation.

June 1994 CPS Guidelines define Actual Bodily Harm as “minor but not merely superficial cuts that require stitches”: the injuries in the Spanner Case were far less serious but they were found guilty of ABH.

Oct 1994 Police raid a “Whiplash” party night at Putney, the club promoter and the manager of the venue are charged with “Keeping a Disorderly House” but found not guilty.

Jan 1995 European Commission on Human Rights accepts that the case should be heard by the Court of Human Rights - verbal decision.

May 1995 Colin Lasky, an appellant to the European Court, dies after a heart attack

April 1995 Cul D’Or, a spanking magazine is raided. Magistrate refuses destruction order on the grounds that material is not obscene.

Sept 1995 The Spanner Trust Fund is formally announced. Trustees: Tim Woodward, Tuppy Owens, David Burrows, Kellan Farshea, Carole Scarodimos. Secretary: Rob Grover

Dec 1995 European Commissioners give written decision that case should go to the European Court. Recognition that case was about “mutual sexual gratification” and not violence but opinion (11:7) that UK Government was within its rights to intervene.

Dec 1995 Law Commission issue second consultation document reccommending that SM, short of causing serious or permanently disabling injury, should be legal.

Feb 1996 Court of Appeal (R v Wilson)overturns the conviction of a husband for branding his wife: “consensual activity in the privacy of the matrimonial home was not a matter for criminal prosecution”

Oct 1996 European Court hears the Spanner Appeal.

Feb 1997 European Court gives verdict. Spanner Appeal turned down.

To be continued....