‘OLD LAW AN OFFENCE TO GAY RIGHTS' – Marylebone Pensioner John Crawford challenges justice ministry on declaring his 1959 sex crime

Friday, 26th February 2010

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Published: 26 February 2010
by JAMIE WELHAM

A PENSIONER from Marylebone who was convicted for having sex with another man more than 50 years ago has vowed to overturn “outdated” law in an landmark legal challenge.

John Crawford, a retired butler who lives in Old Marylebone Road, is fighting legislation forcing gay men convicted of “buggery” – a crime that no longer exists – to reveal their history to employers.

He told the West End Extra: “I was born gay and I’ll die gay. I didn’t have a choice about it. I was punished enough when it was a crime. I don’t see why I should be criminalised now.”

The 70-year-old contacted lawyers after he was challenged about the conviction while applying to volunteer for a charity working with gay prisoners in Wormwood Scrubs.

He said: “I didn’t know anything about it [the rules]. It was only when I tried to get this job and they pulled out this dusty file saying I had a criminal record. 

“Then I started to review all the jobs I had applied for in the past and it started to make sense. I lost jobs because of this without ever knowing about it.”

Mr Crawford was convicted of having consensual sex with another man aged 19 while serving in the Army in 1959.

But despite the conviction being “obsolete” he could face prosecution under the Sexual Offences Act if he failed to disclose it to an employer.

He has been told the conviction will remain on the police database until his 100th birthday.

He received the conviction when a gay friend of his went absent without leave at Aldershot barracks and a “snitch” told the military police he had been close to Mr Crawford. 

They turned his room over and found a bag belonging to the man. 

He said: “I remember it so clearly. It was full of old clothes, but then out dropped a fake eyelash. That was their evidence he was gay. And, of course, in their eyes that meant I must be gay.”

Mr Crawford said he was locked in a cell and subjected to daily beatings and abuse, refused access to a bed, and deprived of sleep for three weeks. 

Mentally and physically beaten, Mr Crawford gave up the name of his partner and a few months later he was standing in the dock. 

He said: “It was a terrible ordeal. I cried every day. I mean you can imagine the abuse. 

“I was called a f**king queer every day. I remember speaking to my dad afterwards and him saying ‘you’ll grow out of it son’. 

“I was given a suspended sentence but now I think the police wanted to scar me. They were the people that made the record stick. I’m sure about that.”

Last night (Thursday), Mr Crawford’s lawyer, Anna Mazzola from Hickman and Rose, said: “We are waiting for a response from the Ministry of Justice clarifying whether they agree to change the law in order to make clear that those convicted of offences which have since been decriminalised no longer have to declare those convictions if asked by an employer.

“Assuming that they refuse to change the law, then we will instigate judicial review proceedings and file a claim at court on the basis that the Exceptions Order is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, specifically the right to privacy and the right not to be discriminated against. 

“The case has strong merits as the current state of the law is clearly discriminatory towards men, such as John, who were convicted under legislation which has since been put on the statutory scrapheap.”

She added: “According to the current state of the law, it is irrelevant that the conviction was for an offence which has been decriminalised on the basis that it was discriminator.”

Mr Crawford is being supported by the gay rights charity Galop after seeing an advert in a magazine.

For more information visit www.galop.org.uk

 

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