What is the current law on SM

It is anyone's guess. After the Spanner case in which eight gay men were sent to prison the law was - anything that left marks that were more than transient and trifling was illegal. That does include CP for Tony Brown was sent to prison essentially for CP. However in the Wilson case, held before different judges (where a husband gave his wife a branding on the buttocks) the court decided that it was OK if for the purpose of "adornment". This is not applicable to SM for pleasure but does suggest that in a future case the judges will be looking for loopholes to let people off.

Why is the law so vague?

The spanner men were convicted of assault. Assault is part of common law and as such is whatever judges collectively decide it should be. The principle used to be "that which is done by consent is no assault at all". Over the years the law has gradually changed and probably can now only be changed back by an act of Parliament. However the government's law commission has been looking at how the laws on assault and consent should be reformed and have suggested that SM should be legal up to the level of seriously disabling injury.


As you probably know the Spanner appeal to Europe failed. The judges ruled that the British government had the right to protect health and that it was up to the government to decide whether the danger to health was real. But we would be happy if the law was changed to permit anything that wasn't dangerous!

What now?

The Spanner campaign is working to build up a consensus for change. To this end we send speakers to anyone who will listen to us. At the moment we are trying to arrange a meeting with Jack Straw to discuss how the law can be changed.

How can you help?

The biggest thing you can do is write. Write to your local MP. Write to Jack Straw. All you need write is, in your own words, that you think the law is wrong.

Jack Straw, The Home Secretary
50 Queen Anne's Gate
London SW1

Your MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA