Fetish club manager acquitted.
Whiplash defendant Martin Church has been found not guilty of running a disorderly house by a jury at Southwark Crown Court after a two week trial.
Church, manager of the Reflex Club, the Putney venue which frequently hosts Whiplash, was charged under the 1751 Disorderly Houses Act after a raid in October 1994 by 60 officers on the monthly fetish club.
The prosecution alleged that undercover officers had seen group sex between three men and a woman and oral sex taking place in the bar area; a tv being beaten so hard that blood showed through his knickers and a group of tv's masturbating together. It was further alleged that the police had found a woman being fucked with a riding crop, another used two candles in a sex act while a third had hot wax poured on to her genitals. It was stated that throughout proceedings hard core SM videos were shown. According to prosecuting counsel, 'The music was loud but the sound of whipping was louder.'
Defence witnesses poured scorn on the police version of events. Church stated that he saw beatings, whippings and spankings but they were consensual and the participants were not distressed, nor was blood drawn. Witness Dr Mike Frost added that he had not seen any of the events the police described. The videos, he said, were tame.
In his closing speech, defence counsel Paul Higham stressed that the case had major importance for civil liberties and sexual freedom in the UK, 'This is a test case in 1996 on far a jury are prepared to permit the criminal law to control and punish the acts of consenting adults.'
Judge Peter Jackson, summing up the case told the jury that, 'One of the things you will have to consider in this case is are you sure that certain things happened and, if those things did happen do they outrage public decency.'
Commenting on the verdict Paul Higham said that the jury felt that even if the allegations were true, 'in 1996 what outrages the sense of morality is the mass genocide in Bosnia, not the behaviour of consenting adults in relative private.'
The failure of such a high profile and prosecution has been hailed as a land mark decision by civil liberties campaigns such as Liberty and Spanner. Hopes were expressed that the result would be seen as a test case which would discourage police interference with SM and fetish clubs in the future.
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