27 April 2018


'Buggery and Parliament, 1533-2017' by Paul Johnson comments 
Over nearly five centuries the UK Parliament, and its earlier incarnations, frequently legislated to ensure the regulation and punishment of buggery, a form of sexual conduct once generally accepted to constitute one of the most serious criminal offences known to law. In the early twenty-first century, Parliament abolished the offence of buggery and, subsequently, granted pardons to certain individuals previously convicted of it. Whilst some aspects of the history of Parliament’s approach to buggery are well known – particularly in respect of homosexual law reform – much of this history remains obscure. This article provides an in-depth consideration of the making of statute law in Parliament relating to buggery that reveals the dramatically changing attitudes of legislators towards this aspect of sexual conduct and highlights the significance and importance of the pardons granted to those convicted of the offence.
Johnson provides a cogent discussion of disregards and pardons, before going on to conclude that
Whilst the criminal offence of buggery has been abolished in English and Northern Irish law references to buggery continue to endure in a range of statutes which, for example, make provision for granting anonymity to people who allege they are victims of the offence, ensure the continuity of sexual offences law in respect of criminal justice proceedings, and regulate what information a person must provide when making an application for a licence to provide gambling facilities. Buggery also forms one of the offences for which a person can become subject to the notification requirements of the ‘sex offenders register’. In due course, when those who were victims of buggery and those who committed the offence are deceased, all of these statutory provisions will become superfluous and, along with the legislation making provision for the disregarding of offences, will likely be repealed. At such time, the only references to buggery that will endure in UK statute law will be in the legislation that provides pardons for past offences (which, as discussed above, will hopefully be expanded in the future in respect of armed forces personnel). Buggery will not, however, disappear from parliamentary debate but will continue to be discussed in relation to those jurisdictions to which Britain ‘exported’ the offence and where it, or some version of it, continues to endure in criminal law. A concern with buggery will remain an inherent aspect of the ‘common enterprise’ that has recently developed amongst legislators committed to challenging and abolishing ‘oppressive discriminatory laws’ affecting LGBT people around the world in Commonwealth nations, as well as in the Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories.