OUTing the Past: the Salop Assizes

SalopAssizes

Salop Assizes 1949

SalopAssizesIn the Spring of 1949, a Shrewsbury man, Geoffrey, sought assistance from the police, after his friend, Percy, was assaulted. What followed was not what they  expected. Their call for help led, instead, to the arrest of many gay men from the town; suspected of ‘gross indecency’. By mid-Summer, Geoffrey and another man, William, had been sent to prison; for terms of two years and 18 months.

Full details were reported in the Shrewsbury Chronicle, together with their addresses and work details; a clerk, a photographer, a railwayman, a nurse…………..

The Judge, Mr Justice Hilberry, at Salop Assizes, described Geoffrey as “a real danger” and noted he and William “had discovered others addicted to the same practices through a magazine ‘Health and Strength’

Along with thousands of men across the UK and the Commonwealth, Geoffrey & William’s lives (and the lives of their friends and families) were wrecked.

The real danger was section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885: its gross indecency’ provision not repealed until 2003 .

In 2012 the Government passed law which allows William & Geoffrey (if still alive) to apply for their records to be disregarded. If deceased, there is now posthumous pardoning.

Peter Roscoe is OUTing the Past in Shrewsbury on Saturday, 18th February