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Saturday, 18 July 2009


The venerable Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) – one of Britain’s oldest gay campaigning groups – has been given the heave-ho from the civil-liberties campaigning group Liberty.

Pink News tells us it was “allegedly over a motion which called for a time limit on reporting child sex abuse”. Its story goes on:

The gay rights group, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, was informed in April that its affiliation with Liberty would be terminated.

A letter from Liberty director of operations Raj Chandarana said that “significant” concerns had been raised about CHE and the “appropriateness of continued affiliation to Liberty”.

The letter cited issues around “the nature and size of the CHE membership, governance structures, constitution, electoral process, policy-making process, financial transparency, recent issues and commitment to the objectives of Liberty”.

It added: “In particular, your motion on child sex abuse is also clearly contrary to the objectives of Liberty, as listed in Article 2 of Liberty’s constitution.”

The contentious motion read: “We urge the government to introduce a Statute of Limitation which would debar any criminal prosecution in respect of alleged child abuse unless the matter was brought to the attention of the police within five years of the complainant reaching the age of majority.”

CHE – of whose executive committee your humble blogger was once a member, back in the day – says that, in cases of historic abuse, evidence or acknowledgment of an accused man’s being gay can damage his chances of acquittal due to homophobia and confusion between homosexuality and paedophilia.

The organisation’s life president, Allan Horsfall, wrote in its latest annual report, “It is now beyond dispute that a proportion of historical abuse cases result from false allegations that are driven by the prospect of handsome compensation awards.”

Perhaps this is something Liberty is afraid of acknowledging. After all, the slightest suggestion of underage sex will get them twitching and thinking of old pervs abusing small children. Perhaps they believe that someone who is accused of having had consensual sexual contact, years ago, with someone just below the age of consent at the time ought to be pursued to the grave, never forgiven, never understood, never be considered to have maybe been innocent of the charge.

Horsfall told Pink News, “If Liberty didn’t like [the motion], they should have let it go forward to debate. It’s almost impossible to discuss.

“They just said, ‘We’re going to cancel your affiliation.’ They haven’t said the reason but we’re sure this is the reason.”

For years now, Horsfall and a CHE vice-president, the broadcaster Ray Gosling, have been running something called Gay Monitor, which, according to its website, has for 10 years been “watching court cases that involve male gay sex. Often we’ve befriended. Some cases have been very distressing. Of course there have been a lot of different kinds of cases.

“But one theme has cropped up again and again – this is historical abuse.”

I think Gosling and Horsfall are two men who know what they’re talking about. Gosling – in his idiosyncratic style – cites a recent case here. I recommend it.

Liberty wouldn’t talk to Pink News, incidentally. It would be interesting to know what they think. It would be interesting to question them and put them on the spot.

1 comment:

Stuart Hartill said...

I've been a member of Liberty (and Amnesty too) for over 25 years but, paradoxically ,though as personally committed to civil liberties as I ever was I find such organisations are increasingly themselves constricting the liberties of many folk.
I was distinctly underwhelmed by some motions at Liberty's AGM this year which privileged religion too. Religion is a choice, while most of the other reasons folks can get picked on are not. You can choose to change your religion or negotiate boundaries with others about the way you practice it - you can hardly choose be less black, female, gay or, if a child, born into poverty.
What worries me most is that these days you couldn't put a fag paper between the civil liberties groups and government agendas. There's no big vision, just box-ticking and choices to privilege one 'minority' or other on a short term basis according to the social and economic kickbacks.
Time to give up on membership of the big QUANGOs where an ordinary person can't even get to speak and find a new way to 'do' human rights for me, I think.