A commentary and resource on Law and Sexuality by Professor Chris Ashford and guests
The awesome Dr Alex Dymock and Dr Matt Lodder have organised a two part conference entitled ‘Remembering Operation Spanner: Culture, Law, History and Crime’ taking place next month. It has a tremendous line-up including one of my PhD students, Sara Mohammadzadeh. You can check out full details of the event here.
February 2017 will mark the 20th anniversary of the 1997 European Court of Human Rights’ judgment in the case of Colin Laskey, Roland Jaggard and Tony Brown v United Kingdom, ending the legal appeals for the defendants in R v Brown . A group of men were convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm for engaging in ‘extreme’ sadomasochistic sex acts. None of the ‘victims’ of the ‘assaults’ were themselves the complainants, and in fact gave evidence of their consent to the acts. Moreover, the activities were undertaken in private without causing any lasting injury. An undercover Manchester Metropolitan police investigation of 1987 called Operation Spanner uncovered video evidence of the incident and the CPS made the decision to prosecute the assailants.
While legal scholars have interrogated the judgment by focussing on the deployment of consent, recklessness and the legality of sexual pleasure, a major interdisciplinary project that examines the wider and longstanding impacts of Spanner and the judgments has not yet been undertaken. The ruling was affected by and had wide-ranging impacts on culture more broadly, and its shockwaves continue to be felt today.
These two 1-day workshops, at Essex and Royal Holloway, are intended to serve as a scoping exercise for a wider project on the political, social, legal and cultural legacies of the Operation Spanner arrests and trials. We are interested not only in the doctrinal precedents set by the law, but the shockwaves the eventual convictions sent across sexual subcultures, artistic and body modification communities, as well as the ways in which they have shaped sexualities scholarship more broadly.