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Labouchere Amendment

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The Labouchere Amendment to the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 in the United Kingdom was named after the Member of Parliament who introduced it to Parliament, Henry Labouchere. Added to the Act at the last minute, it was rushed through and passed on August 7, 1885, becoming Section II of the Act. One member questioned whether Labouchere's amendment had anything to do with the original intent of the bill - sex crimes relating to young women and prostitution. But the Speaker, Arthur Peel, responded that under procedural rules any amendment was permitted as long as Parliament permitted it. The Attorney-General, Richard Webster, while supporting the amendment, objected to the leniency of the sentence, and wanted to increase the penalty to two years' hard labour. Labouchere agreed, and the amendment was passed.

The act reads: "Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or is a party to the commission of, or procures, or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency shall be guilty of misdemeanour, and being convicted shall be liable at the discretion of the Court to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years, with or without hard labour."

As a result of the vagueness of the term "gross indecency," this law allowed juries, judges and lawyers to prosecute virtually any male homosexual behaviour. Compared to older sodomy laws that prescribed death or life imprisonment, the law was lenient, possibly due to the wide range of acts covered. Dubbed the "blackmailer's charter," it was famously invoked to convict Oscar Wilde in 1895. Wilde was given the most severe sentence possible under the act, which the judge described as "totally inadequate for a case such as this".[1] The law was repealed in part by the Sexual Offences Act 1967 when homosexuality was finally decriminalized in England and Wales, with remaining provisions being deleted later.

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ReferencesEdit

  1. Lex Scripta

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