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Encyclopedia > Wolfenden Report

The Report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution (better known as the Wolfenden report, after Lord Wolfenden, the chairman of the committee) was published in Britain on September 3, 1957 after a succession of well-known men, including Peter Wildeblood, were convicted of homosexual offences. Lord John Federick Wolfenden (1906 - 1985) is probably most famous for chairing the Wolfenden report which was published in 1957. ... September 3 is the 246th day of the year (247th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1957 (MCMLVII) was a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Peter Wildeblood (19 May 1923 - 14 November 1999) was a British-Canadian journalist, novelist, playwright, and gay rights campaigner. ... Since its coinage, the word homosexuality has acquired multiple meanings. ...


The committee

The committee of 14, including three women, was led by John Wolfenden (1906-1985) who had previously been headmaster of Uppingham and Shrewsbury and in 1950 became Vice Chancellor of the University of Reading. He later became Director of the British Museum. 1906 (MCMVI) was a common year starting on Monday (see link for calendar). ... 1985 (MCMLXXXV) was a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Uppingham School is one of the most famous co-educational English public schools in Britain. ... This does not cite its references or sources. ... 1950 (MCML) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will take you to calendar). ... The University of Reading is one of the older established UK universities. ... The centre of the museum was redeveloped in 2000 to become the Great Court, with a tessellated glass roof by Buro Happold and Foster and Partners surrounding the original Reading Room. ...

The committee also included:

The committee first met on 15 September 1954 and met on 62 days, 32 of which were used for interviewing witnesses. Evidence was heard from police and probation officers, psychiatrists, religious leaders, and gay men whose lives had been affected by the law. Psychiatry is a branch of medicine that studies and treats mental and emotional disorders (see mental illness). ... For other uses, see Glasgow (disambiguation). ... Girlguiding UK is the national Guiding organisation of the United Kingdom. ... Presbyterianism is part of the Reformed churches family of denominations of Christian Protestantism based on the teachings of John Calvin which traces its institutional roots to the Scottish Reformation, especially as led by John Knox. ... Theology (Greek θεος, theos, God, + λογια, logia, words, sayings, or discourse) is reasoned discourse concerning religion, spirituality and gods. ... Her Majestys High Court of Justice (usually known more simply as the High Court) is, together with the Crown Court and the Court of Appeal, part of the Supreme Court of England and Wales: see Courts of England and Wales. ... A judge or justice is an official who presides over a court. ... The Conservative Party (officially the Conservative & Unionist Party) is currently the second largest political party in the United Kingdom in terms of sitting Members of Parliament (MPs), and the largest in terms of public membership. ... September 15 is the 258th day of the year (259th in leap years). ... Year 1954 (MCMLIV) was a common year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar. ... For other articles with similar names, see Gay (disambiguation). ...

The recommendations of the report

Disregarding the conventional ideas of the day, the committee recommended that "homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence". All but one of the committee were in favour of this and, contrary to some medical and psychiatric witnesses' evidence at that time, found that "homosexuality cannot legitimately be regarded as a disease, because in many cases it is the only symptom and is compatible with full mental health in other respects." The report added, "The law's function is to preserve public order and decency, to protect the citizen from what is offensive or injurious, and to provide sufficient safeguards against exploitation and corruption of others ... It is not, in our view, the function of the law to intervene in the private life of citizens, or to seek to enforce any particular pattern of behaviour." The recommended age of consent was 21.


The report's recommendations attracted considerable public debate, including a famous exchange of views in publications by Lord Devlin, a leading British judge, whose speeches and publications argued against the report's philosophical basis, and H.L.A. Hart, a leading jurisprudential scholar, who provided argument in its support. Patrick Arthur Devlin, Baron Devlin, PC (25 November 1905 - 9 August 1992) was a British lawyer, judge, and jurist. ... H. L. A. Hart (Herbert Lionel Adolphus Hart) (1907-1992) is considered one of the most important legal philosophers of the twentieth century. ...

The recommendations eventually led to the passage of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which replaced the previous laws on homosexuality contained in the Offences Against The Person Act 1861. The law was only narrowly passed and it was a decade after the report was published before the law was changed. The Sexual Offences Act 1967 is an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom (citation 1967 c. ... This page is a candidate to be copied to Wikisource. ...

The report's publication was a turning point in the legalization of homosexuality in Western countries, all of which have now legalized homosexuality and homosexual acts (most have also equalised the age of consent between homosexual and heterosexual acts, and have enacted anti-discrimination and same-sex partnership laws).

John Wolfenden came 45th in a list of the top 500 lesbian and gay heroes, The Pink Paper, 26th. September, 1997, issue 500, page 19.


  • Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution, 1957. Report of the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office.
    • Reprinted 1963 as The Wolfenden Report: Report of the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution. New York: Stein and Day.
  • Eustace Chesser, 1958. Live and Let Live: The Moral of the Wolfenden Report. Taylor Garnett & Evans.
  • Charles Berg, 1959. Fear, Punishment, Anxiety and the Wolfenden Report. George Allen & Unwin.

See also

In the early 1950s the police were actively enforcing the laws affecting homosexual men (some say this was a result of CIA pressure following the Burgess–Maclean spy scandal). ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... A sodomy law is a law that defines certain sexual acts as sex crimes. ... The Homosexual Law Reform Society was an organisation that campaigned in the United Kingdom for changes in the laws that crimialised homosexual relations between men. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Peter Wildeblood (19 May 1923 - 14 November 1999) was a British-Canadian journalist, novelist, playwright, and gay rights campaigner. ... Victim is a 1961 British film directed by Basil Dearden, starring Dirk Bogarde and Sylvia Syms. ... 1961 (MCMLXI) was a common year starting on Sunday (the link is to a full 1961 calendar). ... Dirk Bogarde Sir Derek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde (28 March 1921 – 8 May 1999), better known by his stage name Dirk Bogarde, was an actor and author. ...

External links

  • Homosexuality should not be a crime (BBC).
  • [1] (Knitting Circle)
  • [2] (GMax - Queer History)



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