Monthly Archives: July 2017

Australian Gay History: Paul Dexter & The Gay Army

1983. Gay Politics: Sydney’s Mysterious (and Dangerous) ‘Gay Army’Posted on July 21, 2014 by Colin Clews

Anyone who was around in the early 80s will remember the media’s hysterical response to AIDS and the ease with which it attributed it to gay men. It wasn’t labelled ‘the gay plague’ or ‘gay bug’ out of sympathy for us.
So it was unsurprising that, in these hostile times, gay community organisations were doing everything they could to put across a true picture of the emerging crisis. As attacks on gay men increased dramatically in light of perceptions that we had ’caused’ AIDS, an intelligent and cautious approach was the order of the day.
Or, alternatively, you could get yourself into the headlines and onto TV by claiming to be the leader of a non-existent gay organisation and making outrageous claims. Step forward Paul Dexter, self-proclaimed head of ‘the Gay Army’ in Sydney, an organisation that he claimed “represents the gay community more than others”.
Gay Army Gay ConspiracyIn May 1983 he appeared as ‘the gay community spokesperson’ on a Channel 9 report on AIDS. His credentials were never provided nor was it explained why his views were more important that an organisation like, say, the Gay Counselling Service. Indeed, no one even bothered to ask for evidence that an organisation with the ridiculous name of ‘The Gay Army’ even existed. Nonetheless, he was up there with leading AIDS doctors and commentators like Larry Kramer.
In June 1983 the Sydney Morning Herald – a newspaper that really should have known a lot better – quoted his claim that “left-wing elements” were responsible for the outcry against AIDS publicity. They didn’t even bother to explain just what that ridiculous statement actually meant.
And yet, in spite of the obvious absurdity of this man, his fictitious organisation and his groundless claims, the Herald turned to him again the following year. Under the headline Gay group slates AIDS statement, Dexter – now “official spokesman for the Gay Army” – declared that AIDS was far more infectious than health experts claimed. “The advertisement suggests that AIDS cannot be spread by sneezing, coughing, breathing or mosquitoes but according to Mr Dexter, medical experts can give no scientific assurance of this.”
Whilst Dexter was quick to challenge medical experts on their authority, he made no attempt to justify his own. And, yet again, no one asked him for any, nor evidence that his Gay Army actually existed.
But, yet again, this was to be a case of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story. Dexter, it seemed, was happy to say anything to stay in the spotlight and the media were more than happy to report it. Take, for example, another headline Call for homosexual to spot gay clients, in which the “spokesman for the Gay Army” argued that “A homosexual should be behind the counter of the Red Cross Bank to spot any gay blood donors…”
The entire article was farcical as Dexter claimed that he had seen a gay man give blood while he himself was in the Blood Bank (“Of course, I didn’t give blood…”). Dexter knew he was homosexual because “He had effeminate gestures, was wearing a bracelet and his key ring was in his right hand pocket – which is a sign of being gay.”
His statements would be hysterically funny is they didn’t have such serious consequences. After stating, “Of course, you wouldn’t be able to pick out every gay but a homosexual would have a far better chance”, he went on to reinforce the conspiracy theory that HIV+ gay men were deliberately infecting the blood supplies: “A homosexual behind the counter would also deter any resentful homosexuals from giving blood.”
It’s hard to say who is the most irresponsible here; Dexter for his blind self-promotion or the media for carrying stories about ‘conspiracies’ and health experts concealing the true facts when they didn’t even bother to do the most basic check on Dexter’s own credentials. When it comes down to it, they both share a huge amount of shame and blame.

In 1985, Channel 10 did a report titled “The Truth About AIDS in Australia” ( The witch-hunt was now in full swing. Popular 2GB talj-back host Mike Carlton, joined others in suggesting that gays were deliberately donating contaminated blood out of spite! The 10 report investigated, and lent support to, accusations that gay men were deligerately spreading AIDS! The charge was made in an anonymous letter sent to a New South Wales parliamentary committee inquiring into prostitution. The author suggested that heterosexuals who had been infected vua blood transfusions were innocent victims of an “evil conspiracy” in which homosexual activists deliberately infected blood supplies, so that their calls for government funding to fund AIDS would be acred on. Furtgermore, gays were knowingly infecting other men in their community to “get even” with old boyfriends because “the gay community is notoriously bitchy” .

The letters author, a “King’s Cross Homosexual” was also angry that a “fringe group of radical homosexuals” – the NSW AIDS Action Committee led by Sydney academic Lex Watson – was claiming to speak on gehalf of the entire gay community. “They are establishing paper empires to get government funds and couldn’t care a stuff about their gay brothers and sisters” he wrote. While the Network 10 program acknowledged that it was impossible to prove these claims, it remarkably stated that it could ” prove that the AIDS blood plan was seriiysly considered” because homosexuals in America gad contemplated such an act of political terrorism, and the “intimate links across the Pacific ensured the American plan became pillow talk down under”. The report did not reveal how most American gay men regarded this terrorist actio, nor explain why Australian homosexuals would contemplate the plan when the Commonwealth and the State governments were already responding to AIDS with more urgency than politicians in the Unired States had shown during the first three years of the AIDS epidemic.

The claims made in the letter were extraordinarily similar submissions nade to the mainstream and gay press by Paul Dexter, self-proclaimed leader of the Gay Army, which, as far as other gay men were concerned, consisted only of himself! Those who knew of his antagonism towards the AIDS Action Committee, and those who had begun to view the program cynically, would not have been surprised to see Dexter soon introduced as a “spokeman for the gay community” to confirm that a fringe group of radical gays were indeed spreading AIDS. As an “unbiased” member of the gay community, he supposedly served the purpose of demonstrating that homophobia was not the basis for the program’s investigation into the “evil conspiracy”. To many Darlinghurst gay men in the audience, hiwever, his presence only confirmed their doubts about the authenticity of the letter. 

It is interesting yo note that when a nan considered by Jenny Ross to be an inappropriate representative of the hemophilia community was interviewed by another television station, his comments were omitted from the program that went to air at the request of the Harmpholia Foundation. Despite the complaints of the AIDS Action Committee that Paul Dexter did not represent the general views of homosexual community, and that he was predisposed to making spiteful comments about some of its members, it was extended no such curtesy. Rather, Network Ten neglected to examine Dexter’s personal & political motives for accusing radical homosexuals of donating blood infused with HIV , just as the press had failed to challenge the factual basis of the doctor’s claims. Presumable, the print and electronic media would have been more thorough in their search and selection of their witnesses if they were to accuse National Party politicians or religious leaders into spiteful murder. Moreover, one can be certain that a public outcry would immediately follow if such accusations were made.

Paul Dexter was a small blip in the early days of HIV in Australia, but by setting himself as a self-appointed spokesman on the epidemic, and managing to gain as much exposure as he did, he created a lot of controversy, misinformation, and bias which in turn created its own problems. It is now difficult to even find any information on him…though like all bad history, he should not be forgotten! 

Tim Alderman (2017)


Learning to Trusr: Australian Responses to AIDS – Google Books

    Fractured Reflections From My Dotage! Life On The Melbourne & Sydney Gay Scene 1970/1980 Pt.1&

    First published in the Dolphin Motor Clubs newslatter “Quid Nunc” in 1990.

    It would have been 1975. I can remember that I had just passed my 21st birthday and moved out of home to my first apartment in Allowah (thanks to a legacy from my grandmother, which allowed me to live surrounded by all life’s comforts). I hadn’t come out, but was on the brink of doing so. I had a female friend (I would love to know what has become of her – does anyone know Jo Conway?) who used to come over and play “the girlfriend” whenever my father was coming to visit. He was convinced that this was his future daughter-in-law, the girl from whose loins would spring the fruit that was to be forever stamped with the family name. Fortunately, he died before finding out that (a) she was a lesbian, (b) I was gay, and (c) I changed my name – lock, stock & barrel.

    My lesbian friend was also the first to introduce me to Oxford St, which had its reputation even back then! We would catch the train from Allawah on Saturday nights and start out in Kings Cross, which back in those days still had its mixed bohemian atmosphere, unlike today. The evening would usually start at  Chez Ivy in Bondi Junction, then to the Cross with the Barrel Inn, move onto the Bottom’s Up bar (strictly rough trade back in those days – not that I knew what that was…then!),Mother’s Cellar in Elizabeth Bay, then down to Jools, and up to Oxford St.

    First port of call was usually Caps, followed in succession by Flo’s palace (not filled with the clientele it later became associated with), then onto the small, but popular coffee and jaffle haven in Bourke St called Nana’s (later to become Chu Bay Vietnamese restaurant).

    My friend was a close friend of the proprietor, who was called Nana by everyone, and we had the privilege of being invited back to his terrace one night. Nana was the epitome of 1960’s camp – the bouffant hair, the wiggle walk, the limp wrist, the over-the-top clothes, the works. The terrace was the ultimate in Victoriana – restored and decorated so. It was like entering another time! I vividly remember  sitting on the edge of an extremely dainty looking lounge, sipping Twinings tea out of giant amber Duralax cups, and nibbling on Iced Vovo’s (truly), all the time keeping a very nervous eye on Nana (who kept leering at me) and his flatmate, affectionately called Cupcake, who kept flouncing down the stairs in various flowing creations, loudly declaring that he one of Sydney’s premiere designers under the auspicious label of “Margot of Sydney”.

    The final stop of our outings was Central station, at 6 o’clock in the morning for the first train back home.

    Oxford St confused me in those days. I wouldn’t let Jo’s hand go all night. I thought I should have been looking at the girls, being straight for all intents and purposes, but couldn’t stop myself looking at all the men and fantasizing over how great it would be to get off with one. On my solo stints into the city, I felt too intimidated to come to Oxford St. I frequented The Zoo in William St, (I think I now know who it was that tried to pick me up there…Paul Costello!), and the Downunder Disco in the Hyatt Kingsgate, all filled to the hilt with Italian John Travolta look-alikes, who all had with them girls who looked like Maria Venutti. I always went home alone. I was almost tempted  to go into the Zig Zag Disco in Darlo Rd, Kings Cross – which was reputedly gay – but nerves sent me fleeing at the last moment.

    The Oxford Hotel

    By 1979, I had settled for terminal, eternal celibacy! My one attempt at a straight relationship was a dismal failure. I nearly – which would have been a disaster – married her. She had a 6-year-old daughter who I thought the sun shone out of (and vice versa). She almost tipped the scales in her mothers favour. Sexually, the relationship was doomed! I could not envisage a life of making love to a woman, while orgasming to the fantasy of a man. The body shape was – to me – all wrong, anyway. And coming down from the fantasy was disillusioning. Celibacy seemed the only answer! My father also died at this time, so I had no need of pretense anymore. My company offered me a lucrative position in Melbourne – initially for 6-months, but ended up as 2 years.

    In Melbourne, I came out – and not with a whimper!

    Another time, another name!

    Melbourne was my chance for a new start. Nobody knew me, no family to watch me! I needed to make friends, so I joined a gay group. My very first meeting with the group, and I scored my first man. Being naive, I was an easy target for anyone. I hadn’t learnt to say no to a man at that stage, and he wasn’t exactly the most desirable of men, but what the hell – one had to start  somewhere. I used him as much as he used me. He initially picked me up, after the meeting, at the old University Club, in Collins St. Shit – my first encounter with a gay group, my first solo venture to a gay venue, and my first man…all in one night!
    He drove me to his place (with my dick out all the way), which was a good hours drive from Melbourne. The next morning, I had to get a train back. I wasn’t impressed! To this day, he doesn’t know he was my first. I’m a great actor!

    I discovered The Laird. I discovered Mandate. I became a clone, and still am (albiet a 90s version). And bought my first leather harness, and vest, from The Beat. I fell in lust with Laurie Lane, the owner, but didn’t get to meet him until many years later.  I still have a pin-up of him from a 1981 magazine. Between The Laird and Mandate, I started my tally sheet. I performed my one and only act of public sex – a blow job in the barred areas around Mandate’s dance floor. We danced to “Fade to Gray” at Smarties, drank beer at the Elizabeth Hotel, watched drag at Pokies. I discovered that trying to have a relationship with another bottom was a sure recipe for disaster. I was attracted to him, he loved me – but the beats more! My first broken heart, and one of the few times I have cried over a man! Getting drunk is a better cure! No man is worth the vile hangover the next day! I met a man from Sydney. I came back…but on my terms! This relationship was also a disaster. The fact that I had travelled 800-odd kilometres for it, made it worse. I met a friend of his, and we used to go to the 253 sauna to get off. My first intro to the baths. I disliked them, but it was convenient for both of us.

    Bob – the Melbourne clone

    Signal, the Barracks, and Club 80 were going strong, but not my scene. I saw the 4th Mardi Gras, and joined the parade for the 5th. I remember the first Sleaze Ball at the Paddington Town Hall, and Parties 1, 2 & 3. I drank at the Albury, Flinders, and Beresford, and danced at the Shift.

    The Shift back then was clone and leather heaven! Split level dance floor, and lots of dark, wooden tables. Very barn-like, actually. The front bar was called “Charlie’s Bar”…and Charlie ruled it! The toilets were infamous, not to mention the goings-on around the dance floor. There was flesh everywhere – usually…okay, almost always, naked! People danced in Speedo’s and jockstraps, bandana and key codes meant something, and pick-ups were easy!

    We often partied until 9am, falling out the door into full sunlight, then off to The Spirit Cafe in Crown St for breakfast. Home for a few hours sleep (maybe someone elses home, and not much sleep) then back out again.

    We shopped at the Portuguese Deli (where Ian Roberts worked, and everyone wanted things from the top shelf just to get a rear view as he climbed the ladder); paid for over-priced groceries at Clancy’s; went clothes shopping at Daly Male (still going, though moved to a new spot), and Aussie Boys, Wheels & Doll Baby, Route 66; our leather and fetish gear from The Link, Jayar & Sax; books from The Bookshop; novelties from the Pop Shop; cakes from Pandora’s; flowers from Christopher’s Florist. We ate from the Bagel House; The Schnitzel Hut; Green Park Diner; Angkor Wat; Rockerfeller’s; Old Saigon; Billy Bunters; Betty’s Soup Kitchen; Loreto’s Larder; Raquel’s; The Californian (originally King’s coffee shop, named after the  mother establishment, of the same name, in King St, Newtown); Olympic Yeeros (pizza slices on the way home from a big night out); Tin Hong (food poisoning central); La Boheme; Alfredo’s; The Balkan; Una’s (Victoria St); Oddy’s; the list was endless. We read the Sydney Star – then the Sydney Star Observer, Capital Q, SX, Campaign, Outrage,  and the Village Voice; bought medical supplies from Serafim and Rely’s chemists (under-the-counter Ephedrine & Amyl); our newspaper, magazines & stationery from Pigott’s Newsagency, or the newsstand outside The Oxford; hired video’s from Video Capers, then Videorama; costume accoutrement from Dita’s Feathers; bibs & bobs from Mother Of Pearl & Sons: records from Central Station (originally in the vicinity of what became the Bagel House) and Red Eye. There was even 2 butchers and a green grocer…once upon a time! And not to forget a very brief appearance from Gowings.

    The Oxford opened, and became to a whole clique for many years (until the trendy set made it too uncomfortable for us). The Flinders and Beresford sponsored street parties. Sleaze Ball became a major event (remember  the one with all the wrecked cars on the dance floor?). Pete’s Beat (originally the Purple Onion) came and went (Wendy Wayne & Tiny Tina live on in memory), the Handle Bar came and went, as did The Man. The Link moved from Crown St north to Crown St south, and finally to Newtown. Jools, Signal, The Barracks, Club 80, Hip Hop, the Roman Baths, 253, The Spirit cafe, Caps, T.C’s (Crown St), the Beresford, French’s (not gay, but certainly memorable), all slowly closed and entered the realms of Gay nostalgia. Friends and lovers started to die, and it seemed that the scene was going with them. Life became abbreviated to the Oxford, the Shift, Mardi Gras & Sleaze Ball.

    Tiny Tina, Wendy Wayne, Barry Costello – Mardi Gras ’86

    My (our?) lives moved on also. I tested Positive for HIV, as did many others I knew. Some of us passed on (and still are), though thankfully many of us sre still hale & hearty. Eight years under a sentence is a long time! Still, most of oyr old haunts are gone, though we still have a good time – somewhat more quietly these days. Forgive us our reminiscences. We have a lot to remember, and I still claim we had the best of it! The eleven years since coming out, and now seems to have gone amazingly quickly. Lovers, friends, venues have all come and gone in the blink of an eye.

    I am very hsppy now. My mother knows I’m gay, and reluctantly accepts it – evidently she always knew. My half-sister will carry on the family line, if nothing else. I chucked the rest of my family years ago. To sever those ties, I changed my name. I like the empowerment derived from beginning & ending a family line. I am in several groups, which fulfils my nerd to feel that I am doing something on the gay scene. I have made friends on the Lesbian scene, whichn takes me back to my gay roots. My social life is fulfilling enough. I am healthy, and will hopefully remain so. That is the only question mark in my life. I am in a relationship…again! Not the first since the Sydney/Melbourne  episode, may I say, but certainly the most fulfilling I have ever had. I think the sun shines out of him, and he has added a dimension of happiness I don’t think he knows he has contributed. I see a lot of changes on the scene. I don’t necessarily like, or approve of, a lot of them, but I guess I’ll lesrn to live with them. It saddens me a bit to not have a venue for people in my age group who feel more comfortable with others from our generation. I won’t give up hope on this point yet.

    The Beresford, Christmas ’85

    I guess to some, this is just another odyssey of coming out. I see it as the encapsulation of 10 years of change on the gay scene, from someone who saw the scene as it was in the 70s, before coming out into the madness of the 80s.

    As you can see, the adage of “the more things change, the more they stay the ssme” doesn’t always apply!

    Tim Alderman ©1990 (revised 2017)

    Peter McCarthy, Peter Gilmore, Bevan, Steve Thompson, Tim Alderman – Quilt unfolding, Government Pavilion, late 80s.

    John “Happy Jack” Scaddan – Western Australia Premier 1911-1916. (Great Grand Nephew of Richard Scaddan (Convict))

    Despite notes on the Scaddan family tree that “Happy Jack” Scaddan was the Prime Minister of Western Australia, he was, in fact, Premier.

    John Scaddan (1876-1934), miner, engine driver, premier and businessman, was born on 4 August 1876 at Moonta, South Australia, second youngest of twelve children of Richard Scaddan, hard-rock miner, and his wife Jennifer, née Smitheram, Cornish migrants. The family moved to Woodside where John attended primary school. When he was 13 the family moved to Eaglehawk, Victoria, where he worked in the mines, read widely, attended the Bendigo School of Mines part time, and gained an engine driver’s certificate. He played football and was a Methodist Sunday school superintendent.

    In 1896 Scaddan went to the Western Australian goldfields and operated a stationary steam-engine at a mine. On 9 May 1900 at Boulder he married Elizabeth Fawkner, who died on 21 September 1902 of Bright’s disease. On 1 September 1904 he married Henrietta Edwards.
    A member of the Goldfields Amalgamated Certificated Engine-drivers’ Union, he won Ivanhoe for Labor at the State election of 28 June 1904, when the party’s strength in the 50-man Legislative Assembly rose from 6 to 22; he had been out of work and thought he ‘might as well have a fly’. He spoke mainly on gold-mining issues, principally mine regulation and the inspection of machinery, but by 1906 began to debate more widely. In 1906-11 he was secretary of the Australian Labour Federation (Western Australian Division); in that post he helped to arrange the building of the Perth Trades Hall.

    By 1909 Scaddan was one of Labor’s main parliamentary speakers, prone to make speeches of up to three hours. On 3 August 1910 he was elected party leader, succeeding Thomas Bath. His first major controversy as leader was his attack on an electoral redistribution by Frank Wilson’s Liberal government. It was alleged to be a gerrymander, but the October 1911 election was a Labor triumph.

    Scaddan campaigned on a wide-ranging radical policy, largely as laid down by the 1910 State congress. His victory, by 34 seats to 16, made him the first Australian to lead a State Labor government with a substantial majority; it has never since been equalled by a Western Australian Labor premier. At 35 he was also the youngest premier the State had seen. The government’s main strength lay in the goldfields and metropolitan working-class areas. In almost five years, the eight-man cabinet saw only one change of personnel.

    Scaddan was also treasurer; he led a reformist government which did much to aid the State’s economic development, while implementing policies benefiting wage-earners. It set up a Workers’ Homes Board, modified the arbitration system to help unionists and increased workers’ compensation benefits. It abolished secondary-school students’ fees, raised the land tax, and in 1912 introduced a graduated income tax, which it greatly increased on the outbreak of World War I. It also amended the laws relating to divorce, the criminal code and irrigation. Thus its relations with the rank and file were much more harmonious than in New South Wales. Scaddan’s achievements came despite opposition from the Liberal-dominated Legislative Council, which blocked or amended at least forty bills, including one to end alienation of crown land.

    The government rightly saw the wheat industry’s development as the key to the State’s growth, as gold-mining declined. The area sown to wheat trebled in 1911-16, as did production. 

    Scaddan expanded facilities for technical advice to farmers, and greatly liberalized the lending terms of the Agricultural Bank. Railways were built at the highest rate—239 miles (385 km) a year—in the State’s history and most construction was in the wheatbelt. By 1914 Western Australia had a far higher ratio of mileage to population than any other State, but in 1914-15 the railways ran at a loss for the first time in twenty years. In the 1914 drought, which severely cut average wheat yield, Scaddan set up the Industries Assistance Board; seed-wheat, superphosphate and fodder were distributed to needy farmers. He was rewarded with a record harvest in 1915-16; however, heavy expenditure brought the government deficit to the unprecedented total of £1 million; Scaddan was dubbed ‘Gone-a-Million Jack’. He responded, ‘As if the workers hadn’t got the deficit in their pockets!’

    Scaddan’s most spectacular move was to establish many state trading concerns, part of the party policy of creating ‘state socialism’. To circumvent the Opposition-dominated Legislative Council, he used executive rather than legislative methods. During the parliamentary recess of 1912 he spent £100,000 from the loan suspense account to set up these enterprises, principally the State Shipping Service with the purchase of four steamers. By the end of his term the government had also set up a brickworks, an agricultural-implement works, sawmills and a fishing business, and entered every phase of the meat industry from breeding stock to the retail trade. It had taken over Perth’s tramway and ferry system, and ran a dairy farm, abattoirs, a quarry, and hotels.

    Premier John Scaddan toured the south east of Western Australia in 1915. His party visited the towns of Norseman, Salmon Gums, Grass Patch, Esperance, Gibson, Ravensthorpe, Kundip and Hopetoun.

    Scaddan’s was a doctrinal approach to specific problems. The shipping service was to prevent northern pastoralists exploiting southern meat consumers through a shipping ring. The sawmills supplied sleepers for the transcontinental line and developed unused forest resources. The brickworks countered a price-fixing racket and provided cheaper, better bricks for workers’ homes. The agricultural-implement works were in response to farmers’ complaints about costly machinery. Dissatisfaction with Perth’s private tramways was so great that some of Scaddan’s fiercest critics strongly supported his government’s takeover, the details of which he concluded in England in 1913. The dairy farm supplied unadulterated milk to hospitals and doctors testified that it saved lives.

    The formation and early life of most of these trading concerns was surrounded by controversy; opponents objected to them on principle. Most had serious operating problems and their standing suffered because they had no proper accounting system. The State Shipping Service and the agricultural-implement works were the most plagued by inefficient management, losses and shoddy work, but the implement factory was defended because it helped farmers in 1915-16. Scaddan declared that profits were of secondary importance. Even the tramway purchase caused him trouble, as services barely improved. Some Labor men saw the enterprises as unemployment relief projects. Scaddan’s cabinet became angrily disillusioned that so many of the government’s employees were lazy and unco-operative and acted as if the business had been created for their benefit, rather than the community’s.


    One of Scaddan’s last enterprises, the Wyndham meat-freezing works, helped to destroy his government. In 1914 he had accepted an offer from S. V. Nevanas, a London financier, to build the works at a price which departmental experts insisted was unrealistically low. Nevanas had to abandon the work, receiving compensation when the contract was cancelled. As Scaddan’s ineptitude was revealed, criticism abounded; this was significant as his majority had been cut to two at the October-November election, which saw the newly created Country Party win eight seats. Labor’s only wheatbelt member, Edward Johnston, led caucus criticism of Scaddan’s handling of the issue. He was also angry at Scaddan breaking an election promise to sell farm land cheaply. Scaddan survived a caucus crisis in the spring of 1915. Then he lost his majority when J. P. Gardiner, a Labor member, mysteriously disappeared from parliament; Johnston left the party and retained his seat as an Independent; and the Country Party fashioned an alliance with the Liberals. During the January-July recess of 1916 Scaddan remained in office without a parliamentary majority. When parliament resumed on 25 July he was defeated, Wilson becoming premier again.

    Scaddan lost to one of Wilson’s ministers in a metropolitan seat at the consequent ministerial by-election, then resumed his goldfields seat. Although the new government retained nearly all the state enterprises, Scaddan was prominent in the dispute over legislation which introduced proper accounting methods and made the establishment of future enterprises subject to a parliamentary veto.

    He had lost office just as the controversy over conscription for overseas military service was developing. He campaigned for conscription and his deputy Philip Collier, against. After conscription was rejected at the October plebiscite, Scaddan and Collier were confirmed as leader and deputy leader of State Labor. That party, with great common sense, tried to prevent a permanent breach between conscriptionists and anti-conscriptionists, but in the eastern States the rival factions would not compromise. When Labor’s former Federal leader W. M. Hughes and new leader Frank Tudor campaigned against each other at the Federal election of May 1917, Scaddan was forced to choose between them. He had supported Hughes’s attempts to conscript men to serve in a just war; he could not now abandon him. So he resigned from the party and Collier became leader.

    Grass Patch people admiring Premier John Scaddan

    Scaddan formed the National Labor Party in Western Australia, negotiated with the Liberals, and joined the National Party coalition government formed by (Sir) Henry Lefroy in June, but lost his seat in the July ministerial by-election. He was again defeated (by Labor preferences) when he stood for National Labor in Albany in the Federal election later that year but represented Albany in the Legislative Assembly in 1919-24.
    Turmoil in Lefroy’s government led, on 17 May 1919, to (Sir) James Mitchell becoming premier. He chose Scaddan as a minister, but he did not re-enter parliament until 31 May, ranking fifth in the ministry. His portfolios were railways, mines, police, industries and forests. In 1920 he moved from the National Party to the Country Party, becoming its de facto parliamentary leader, although loyal to Mitchell.

    Scaddan improved the means of coping with miners’ phthisis; his brother had died of it in 1915. He improved working conditions in shops, factories and mines and took steps to counter the illicit traffic in gold. One of his Acts specified rules to apply if oil was discovered. He was appointed C.M.G. in 1923.

    In 1924 Scaddan rejoined the National Party and left parliament at the general election. For three years he managed Westralian Motors, Perth, and then became a stock, farm and estate agent. In 1930 he returned to parliament as representative of Maylands and in Mitchell’s 1930-33 ministry held the same five portfolios as in 1919-24. He organized Depression unemployment relief, involving sustenance payments and large camps. In 1931 when the State Savings Bank was made over to the Commonwealth Bank, anxious clients stormed the bank’s Perth office. Scaddan’s booming voice addressed them: ‘If the bank fails, you can lynch me’. They did not. He complained of the neglect of Western Australia by the Commonwealth and was on a six-man committee which prepared the case for secession. The busy minister also brought in special help to men incapacitated in the mining industry and restricted the sale of firearms.

    Scaddan lost his seat at the 1933 election, partly because his party stood two other candidates against him. He now had more time for bowls, homing pigeons and watching football, as his only public office was chairman of the Perth Roads Board (1931-34). He died suddenly, of cerebral haemorrhage, on 21 November 1934 and was buried in Karrakatta cemetery. His wife, daughter and son survived him; his estate was valued for probate at £132.

    Despite the controversies and changes of party, Scaddan was remembered as ‘Happy Jack’, a large, jovial man of great energy who wore a flowing moustache as premier, but was later bald and clean-shaven. Although he had once declared, ‘The Trades Hall is my Church and Labour is my Religion’, he kept a lifelong allegiance to the Methodist church, advocated temperance, and was a Freemason. A good family man, he said that he disagreed with equality between the sexes, not having asked his wife to chop the wood. As early as 1909 he opposed capital punishment for murderers. He opposed the employment of Asians in his State, but was not as uncompromising as some Labor men. His industrious, pragmatic, humanitarian approach suited a pioneering State in need of industry and development.


    1. V. Courtney, All I May Tell (Lond, 1956)
    2. G. C. Bolton, A Fine Country to Starve In (Perth, 1972)
    3. West Australian, 22, 24 Nov 1934
    4. J. R. Robertson, The Scaddan Government and the Conscription Crisis 1911-1917 (M.A. thesis, University of Western Australia, 1958)
    5. private information.

    Citation details

    J. R. Robertson, ‘Scaddan, John (1876–1934)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 26 July 2017.

    This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

    Tim Alderman (2017)

    CONVICT: Richard Scaddan – Spouse of Catherine Penhale (My Maternal GGGG Aunt)

    Richard Scaddan was born in Gwinear, Cornwall, England in c1775. He was the son of Henry Scaddan & Jane Clemens. He was baptised in Gwinear on 30 July 1775. He married Catherine Penhale, in Gwinear, in 1802. They had 4 children – Richard (1803); William (1809); Sphia (1815); and James (1817).
    Richard  was found guilty at the Cornwall Assizes at Bodmin on 4.8.1817 of stealing “one ewe sheep of the price of twenty shillings of the goods and chattels of William Roberts”. On trial with him were John Wills and Richard Bath and the three were sentenced “to be severally hanged by the neck until they are dead”  It is reported that the judges reprieved the capital offenders and sentenced them to transportation for life. The trial papers are stored at Chancery Lane, London.

    England & Wales Criminal Register 1791-1892. Richard Scaddan – Death Penalty

    Richard was received onboard the Prison Hulk “Captivity”, moored at Portsmouth, on 24 October 1817. He was sent to NSW on 26 August 1818. 

    UK Prison Hulk Registers & Letter Books 1802-1849

    The convict ship “Globe” departed Portsmouth on 9 September 1818, and arrived in Sydney on 8.1.1819 with 140 other male convicts (139 landed). The ships Master was Joseph Blyth, and ships Surgeon was George Clayton. Convict records state that he was a native of Cornwall, his trade was ship’s carpenter, sawyer and boat builder, his age was given as 42, height 5’5″, fair to sallow complexion, brown to grey hair and grey eyes

    On the 3 March 1819 (Colonial Secretary’s Papers), Richard  was listed as a runaway, captured near Newcastle. He was forwarded to Sydney. Then on 3 April 1819, he absconded from a dockyard in Sydney with a J. Burton. On the 10 April 1819, he eas forwarded to Sydney. On the 17 April 1819, he was sentenced to 100 lashes, and confined to the Gaol Gang in double-irons for 12 months for escaping from the Colony in an open boat, captured off Newcastle. 

    From the Sydney Gazette & NSW Advertiser, Saturday 17 April 1819, Page 2

    In the convict records for 8 September1821, he is listed as a “Shopwright, victualled HM Magazines (NSW State Archives, Reel 6016′ 4/5781 p75). In 1822 the Muster of Convicts listed Richard as a government servant appointed to William Thurston of Sydney. He appears in the 1822 NSW general convict Muster. In the Colonial Secretary’s Papers, event dated 28 April 1824, it is noted that Richard “Carpenter. On return of bonded mechanics.”. The Colonial Secretary’s Papers record an event dated 1 October 1824 “On monthly return of convict’s assigned in the counties of Northumberland & Durham, to William Evans.”. 

    From the Census & Population Books, noted in yhe District Constable’s Notebook, that from 1822-1824 he resided in Parramatta (Baulham Hills 1822). The 1828 Census showed that he was a government servant to William Evans at Bellevue, Pattersons Plains. His age was given as 61 and he was working as a boatbuilder. The entry in the 1828 Census is under the name of SEADON not SCADDEN but it is definitely Richard Scadden from other details given.

     In the Convict Records – Assignment & Employment of Convicts – 1810-189, and dated 13 May 1830, it is noted that due to his wife now being here he is given a “Ticket of Exemption from Govt Labour 1830-1831″.”. The same exemption is granted 6 January 1831. On the 2 January 1832 he is granted a further exemption from Govt Labour from 1831-1832. On a petition to Governor Darling in 1831 it was stated that he had been in Mr Evans’ service since November, 1823. The petition was for his son Richard & Richard’s wife Grace, and their son Thomas to join the family in the colony. It is not known if Richard came to Austealia, thiugh he appears to have died in Cornwall.

    His wife Catherine, son James, and daughter Soohia, came to Australia on a ship “Lady of the Lake” which left England on 12.9.1829 and arrived in Hobart on 1.11.1829. From Hobart Catherine, James and his sister Sophia travelled on the “Calista” which arrived in Sydney on 5.12.1829. Catherine had come to Australia to join her husband Richard nearly 11 years after he had arrived in Sydney as a convict. 

    It is sad to relate that Catherine, Richard, James & Sophia were not to be together for long as Richard is noted in the Convict Death Register for 1826-1879 as having died on 29.1.1833 at Matiland at the age of 65, buried in the Parish of Newcastle, County of Cumberland.

     After her husband’s death Catherine [aged 48] remarried on 27.8.1833 to William Pregnell, a widower aged 46 in the Parish of Maitland. Catherine had been born circa 1785 and was baptised in the Parish of Gwinear, Cornwall on 22nd May, 1785 the daughter of John Penhale and his wife Eleanor Hooper who were married in Gwinear on 7th February, 1785. Eleanor had been baptised in Gwinear on 26.7.1761 the daughter of John Hooper and his wife Jane. No record has been found of Catherine’s death (up to 1905).

    James married Margaret Arnold on 3.9.1860 according to the rites of the Church of England at Grafton. No record of James’ arrival in Grafton is known and he died in Killean Street, Balmain on 19.5.1887. To date no arrival in Australia has been found of Margaret Arnold or her mother & father, William Arnold, a farmer, and his wife Jane Griffith[s. 

    James & Margaret had 7 children, William, Jane (Sophia Jane) Emily, Bessie Martha, Sarah & Louisa, all living when their father died in 1887. The informant on the death certificate was aged 17 and gave James’ age at death at 87 but this is not correct. James was a shipwright and boatbuilder and it is assumed he worked in Grafton at this trade. Margaret Scadden married again in Balmain in 1888 to a William Green but no death date is known. Her age in 1888 was given as 43.

    Sophia Scaddan married James Moy (Convict) on 20 December 1832. They had 8 children – Henry J, Rebecca, Richard, Rebecca, Eliza Jane, Eleanor C, William E & Sophia.

    Tim Alderman ©2017

    The Final Two Executions For Sodomy In Britain – 1835. James Pratt & John Smith – A Travesty Of Justice!

    Old Bailey judgements in this case:

    “1934. JOHN SMITH and JAMES PRATT were indicted for b—g—y at the parish of Christ Church, Surrey; and WILLIAM BONILL was indicted as an accessory before the fact.

    SMITH— GUILTY.— DEATH . Aged 40.

    PRATT— GUILTY.— DEATH . Aged 30.

    BONILL— GUILTY . Aged 68.— Transported for Fourteen Years.

    Third Jury, before Mr. Justice Williams..”

    James Pratt (1805–1835)[1][2] also known as John Pratt, and John Smith (1795–1835)[1][2] were two London men who, in November 1835, became the last two to be executed for sodomy in England.[3] Pratt and Smith were arrested in August of that year after being convicted of having sex in the room of another man, William Bonill.

    William Bonill, aged 68, had lived for 13 months in a rented room at a house near the Blackfriars Road, Southwark, London. His landlord later stated that Bonill had frequent male visitors, who generally came in pairs, and that his suspicions became aroused on the afternoon of 29 August 1835, when Pratt and Smith came to visit Bonill. The landlord climbed to an outside vantage point in the loft of a nearby stable building, where he could see through the window of Bonill’s room, before coming down to look into the room through the keyhole. Both the landlord and his wife later claimed they both looked through the keyhole and saw sexual intimacy between Pratt and Smith, so the landlord broke open the door to confront them. Bonill was absent, but returned a few minutes later with a jug of ale. The landlord went to fetch a policeman and all three men were arrested.[1]

    Pratt, Smith and Bonill were tried on 21 September 1835 at the Central Criminal Court, before Baron Gurney,[4] a judge who had the reputation of being independent and acute, but also harsh.[5] Pratt and Smith were convicted under section 15 of the Offences against the Person Act 1828, which had replaced the 1533 Buggery Act, and were sentenced to death.[Note 1][Note 2] William Bonill was convicted as an accessory[6] and sentenced to 14 years of penal transportation.[4] James Pratt was a groom,[3] who lived with his wife and children at Deptford, London. A number of witnesses came forward to testify to his good character.[1] John Smith was from Southwark Christchurch[1] and was described in court proceedings[4] and newspaper reports as an unmarried labourer[2] although other sources state he was married and worked as a servant.[3] At the trial, no character witnesses came forward to testify on his behalf.[4]

    The conviction of the three men rested entirely on what the landlord and his wife claimed to have witnessed through the keyhole; there was no other evidence against them. One modern commentator has cast doubt on their testimony, based on the narrow field of vision afforded by a keyhole and the range of acts the couple claimed to have witnessed during the brief length of time they were looking.[7]
    The magistrate Hensleigh Wedgwood, who had committed the three men to trial,[8] subsequently wrote to the Home Secretary, Lord John Russel, arguing for the commutation of the death sentences, stating:
    “It is the only crime where there is no injury done to any individual and in consequence it requires a very small expense to commit it in so private a manner and to take such precautions as shall render conviction impossible. It is also the only capital crime that is committed by rich men but owing to the circumstances I have mentioned they are never convicted.”
    Wedgwood described the men as “degraded creatures” in another letter. Nevertheless, he argued that the law was unfair in their case as wealthy men who wished to have sex could easily afford a private space in which to do it with virtually no chance of discovery. Pratt and Smith were condemned only because they could only afford to use a room in a lodging house, in which they were easily spied upon.[9]
    On 5 November 1835, Charles Dickens and the newspaper editor John Black visited Newgate Prison; Dickens wrote an account of this in Sketches by Boz and described seeing Pratt and Smith while they were being held there:[10]
    “The other two men were at the upper end of the room. One of them, who was imperfectly seen in the dim light, had his back towards us, and was stooping over the fire, with his right arm on the mantel-piece, and his head sunk upon it. The other was leaning on the sill of the farthest window. The light fell full upon him, and communicated to his pale, haggard face, and disordered hair, an appearance which, at that distance, was ghastly. His cheek rested upon his hand; and, with his face a little raised, and his eyes wildly staring before him, he seemed to be unconsciously intent on counting the chinks in the opposite wall.”

    — A Visit to Newgate
    The jailer who was escorting Dickens confidently predicted to him that the two would be executed and was proven correct. Seventeen individuals were sentenced to death at the September and October sessions of the Central Criminal Court for offences that included burglary, robbery and attempted murder. On 21 November, all were granted remission of their death sentences under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy with the exceptions of Pratt and Smith.[11] This was despite an appeal for mercy submitted by the men’s wives that was heard by the Privy Council.[12]

    Pratt and Smith were hanged in front of Newgate Prison on the morning of 27 November. The crowd of spectators was described in a newspaper report as larger than usual;[13] this was possibly because the hanging was the first to have taken place at Newgate in nearly two years.[14][Note 3] The event was sufficiently notable for a printed broadside to be published and sold. This described the men’s trial and included the purported text of a final letter that was claimed to have been written by John Smith to a friend.[15]
    William Bonill was one of 290 prisoners transported to Australia on the ship Asia, which departed England on 5 November 1835 and arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) on 21 February 1836.[16] Bonill died at the New Norfolk Hospital in Van Diemen’s Land on 29 April 1841.[17]

    Newspaper Reports on the Execution

    Monday 23 November 1835

    On Saturday the Recorder made his report to his Majesty, at Brighton, of the undermentioned capital convicts under sentence of death in Newgate, convicted at the September and October sessions of the Central Criminal Court: – . . . Robert Swan, 28; for robbery. John Smith, 49, and James Pratt, 30, for an unnatural crime. . . . to all of whom his Majesty has extended his royal mercy, except John Smith and James Pratt, who are left for execution on Friday next. (London Standard)

    Saturday 28 November 1835

     RECORDER’S REPORT – On Friday the Recorder made his Report to his Majesty in Council at Brighton, of the prisoners who were capitally convicted at the September and October Sessions of the Central Criminal Court: – viz James Pratt and John Smith, for a nameless offence, committed in the borough of Southwark; Robert Swan, for extorting money from Thomas Reynolds, a Quaker, under a threat of accusing him of a nameless offence; R. Lavender, D. Ward, B. Vines, M. Collins, J. Coleman, and M. Harris, for burglary; . . . [and others] all of whom his Majesty was graciously pleased to respite, except James Pratt and John Smith, upon whom the law is left to take its course, and who were ordered for execution yesterday. The Council were in deliberation a considerable time on the case of Robert Swan, and did not break up until half-past eight o’clock in the evening. The Recorder came immediately to town by post, and made known the result of the Council to the Governor of Newgate, who lost no time in communicating it to the convicts whose cases had been reported. (Huntingdon, Bedford & Peterborough Gazette; virtually the same report appeared in the Derby Mercury for 25 Nov. 1835, the Manchester Courier for 29 Nov. 1835, and many others)
    Charles Dickens, in his essay “A Visit to Newgate” published in Sketches by Boz in 1836, describes his visit to the press-room of the condemned ward of Newgate where he saw Pratt and Smith awaiting their execution, together with Joseph Swan who would eventually be transported rather than executed (for extortion involving the threat to swear sodomy against someone – see Newspaper Reports for 1835). All three men were kept separate from the other condemned men becasue of the sodomitical nature of their offences, and Swann also distanced himself from Pratt and Smith because he was a blackmailer of sodomites rather than a sodomite himself.
    In the press-room below, were three men, the nature of whose offence rendered it necessary to separate them, even from their companions in guilt. It is a long, sombre room, with two windows sunk into the stone wall, and here the wretched men are pinioned on the morning of their execution, before moving towards the scaffold. The fate of one of these prisoners [Swan] was uncertain; some mitigatory circumstances having come to light since his trial, which had been humanely represented in the proper quarter. The other two [Pratt and Smith] had nothing to expect from the mercy of the crown; their doom was sealed; no plea could be urged in extenuation of their crime, and they well knew that for them there was no hope in this world. ‘The two short ones,’ the turnkey whispered, ‘were dead men.’ 
              The man to whom we have alluded as entertaining some hopes of escape [i.e. Swan], was lounging, at the greatest distance he could place between himself and his companions, in the window nearest to the door. He was probably aware of our approach, and had assumed an air of courageous indifference; his face was purposely averted towards the window, and he stirred not an inch while we were present. The other two men were at the upper end of the room. One of them [probably Smith], who was imperfectly seen in the dim light, had his back towards us, and was stooping over the fire, with his right arm on the mantel-piece, and his head sunk upon it. The other [probably Pratt] was leaning on the sill of the farthest window. The light fell full upon him, and communicated to his pale, haggard face, and disordered hair, an appearance which, at that distance, was ghastly. His cheek rested upon his hand; and, with his face a little raised, and his eyes wildly staring before him, he seemed to be unconsciously intent on counting the chinks in the opposite wall. We passed this room again afterwards. The first man [i.e. Swan] was pacing up and down the court with a firm military step – he had been a soldier in the foot-guards – and a cloth cap jauntily thrown on one side of his head. He bowed respectfully to our conductor, and the salute was returned. The other two still remained in the positions we have described, and were as motionless as statues.

    Saturday 28 November 1835

    Yesterday morning, at the usual hour, the sentence of the law was carried into effect upon James Pratt, aged 32, and John Smith, aged 34, who were convicted at the September Sessions of the Central Criminal Court of a capital offence. The Sheriffs arrived at Newgate about half-past seven o’clock, and immediately proceeded to visit the prisoners, whom they found engaged in prayer with the Rev. Mr. Cotton, the chaplain of the gaol, and Mr. Baker. Both the culprits appeared in a very weak state, and when eight o’clock arrived, the hour of execution, it was found necessary almost to carry them from their cell to the press room. Pratt, especially, appeared dreadfull weak and dejected. While Smith was being pinioned, Pratt appeared to suffer dreadfully. His groans resounded through the prison, and while he was pinioning he repeatedly exclaimed, “Oh God, this is horrible, this is indeed horrible.” He at this time was so weak that the executioner’s assistants found it necessary to hold him in their arms to prevent him from falling to the ground. All the preparations having been completed the melancholy procession proceeded to the scaffold, and in the room leading from the debtors’ door, as it is called, the ceremony of delivering up the prisoners to the Sheriffs of Middlesex was performed by Mr. Cope, the Governor of Newgate. Smith was the first who ascended the scaffold, and immediately afterwards Pratt was also assisted up the seps and placed under a beam. The moment the culprits were perceived they were received with groans and hisses, which lasted during the whole of the time the hangman was making the necessary preparations. These having been performed the bolt was drawn, and after a very short struggle the culprits ceased to exist. Pratt was a married man, the other culprit was single. (Morning Post)

    Sunday 29 November 1835

    EXECUTION. – On Friday morning, at the usual hour, the sentence of the law was carried into effect upon James Pratt, aged thirty-two, and John Smith, aged thirty-four, who were convicted at the September session of the Central Criminal Cour, of an unnatural offence. There were very few persons present at the execution. Both the wretched men to the last moment denied their guilt; they were convicted on the testimony of their landlady. The soldier, Swan, has been respited. (The Examiner)

    Monday 30 November 1835


    Brighton, Sunday. – On Friday, his Majesty held a Privy Council, at which the Recorder attended, when two miserable convicts, John Smith and James Pratt, was ordered for execution on Friday next. In the evening, the Ministers and a large party dined with their Majesties. – This morning, their Majesties attended Divine Service in the Palace chapel. In the afternoon, the Queen attended at St. George’s chapel. (Salisbury and Winchester Journal)

    Monday 30 November 1835


    The two wretched culprits, James Pratt and John Smith, suffered the last penalty of the law yesterday morning in front of Newgate. (Salisbury and Winchester Journal)

    Wednesday 2 December 1835

    EXECUTION. – Yesterday morning, at the usual hour, the sentence of the law was carried into effect upon James Pratt, aged 32, and John Smith, aged 34, who were convicted at the September sessions of the Central Criminal Court, of an unnatural offence. Thursday night Pratt was visited by a respectable Dissenting Minister. The Rev. gentleman exhorted him to repentance, and he confessed his guilt. The Sheriffs arrived at Newgate about half-past seven o’clock yesterday morning, and immiedately proceeded to visit the prisoners, whom they found engaged in prayer. While Smith was being pinioned, Pratt appeared to suffer horribly. His groans resounded through the prison, and while he was being pinioned he repeatedly exclaimed “Oh, God, this is horrible; this is indeed horrible!” He at this time was so weak that the executioner’s assistants found it necessary to hold him in their arms, to prevent him from falling to the ground. All the preparations having been completed, the melancholy procession proceeded towards the scaffold, which was first ascended by Smith with a firm step, but his companion needed support to the last moment. The executioner with amazing celerity adjusted the ropes, and cause the plank to fall which closed the world upon them. The crowd was excessive, but exceedingly decorous. (Hereford Journal)

    The following is an account of the case, with personal observations, by Father Frank Ryan & Peter Tatchell, who were convinced that the men were innocent!

    Father Frank Ryan casts new doubt on the 1835 convictions
    The wrongful conviction & execution of James Pratt & John Smith for ‘buggery’ in 1835
    By Father Frank Ryan
    The last Saturday of August 1835 was a beautiful hot day. James Pratt (30) left his wife and two young daughters in Deptford, searching for work – promising to return by 6pm. He was a labourer and needed a better job.
    Pratt first visited his aunt in Holborn, before heading to Blackfriars. His aunt thought he’d had too much to drink and needed a rest, but he pressed on. In an ale house he met John Smith, a labourer aged 40, and William Bonill (sometimes spelled Bonell), aged 68. Neither could offer him a job to improve his financial situation but their company was hospitable. Bonill invited Pratt and Smith back to his rented flat and they accepted.
    Little did they know as they made their way to his premises in nearby George Street, that this encounter would result in their execution – and that Bonill would be banished to the penal colony of Australia – all within a mere three months.
    The landlords of 45 George Street, Southwark, Jane and George (also known as John) Berkshire, were determined to curtail the activities of their tenant, William Bonill, who they regarded as an “old villain.” He had been bringing male “couples” back to his flat on a regular basis; sometimes two a day. George was determined to put a stop to this practice and get rid of what he regarded as a disagreeable and troublesome lodger.
    Shortly after the three men arrived, the suspicious, antagonistic George spied into Bonill’s room through a nearby window. A little later, over tea, he told his wife that he saw Pratt sitting on Bonill’s knees and then on Smith’s. There was much laughing and conversation, he said. Jane slipped upstairs and peeped through Bonhill’s keyhole. After a brief look, she returned to tell her husband that she had witnessed sexual acts. He became enraged, went upstairs and also looked through the keyhole. He then burst into the room to confront Pratt and Smith, who were in a compromising position, according to George Berkshire.
    At this point, Bonill, who had gone out for a drink, returned and entered the room. An effort to calm down Berkshire was unsuccessful. George went off to seek the police.
    Pratt, Smith and Bonill were soon arrested and taken into custody. Pratt and Smith were charged with ‘buggery’ (anal sex) and Bonill as an accessory. They went on trial for their lives before Judge Baron Gurney at the Old Bailey on 21 September 1835.
    The arresting police officer had no material evidence to support the charge. The account that Jane Berkshire told the jury is improbable. She said she watched for less minute but claimed to have witnessed the alleged sex acts, from the men undressing to laying on the floor and the “appearance” of anal penetration. She said she saw the men’s private parts but did not answer when asked whether either man had an erection. It seems doubtful that the keyhole could have provided the range of vision needed to see what she claimed.
    The testimony of George was very similar to Jane’s. It had a whiff of coordination. His evidence supported the charge that buggery had taken place. However, he failed to testify if the men had an erection or if he had seen actual penetration; though he claimed to have sighted their genitals and their bodies in motion.
    The anatomical description of intimacy described by George Berkshire would have been very difficult to witness. As in the case with Jane’s testimony, the keyhole probably could not have provided a sufficient angle of sight to provide the evidence he imparted to the jury.
    Neither James Pratt nor John Smith were allowed to give evidence at their trial. Both pleaded “not guilty” to the charge. Nevertheless, the jury returned a guilty verdict.
    The law against ‘buggery’ (not repealed until 2003) was based on an interpretation of the Bible that regarded homosexual acts as an abomination and worthy of death; a particularly evil sin that must be severely punished and eradicated. It was a capital crime.
    The judge had no hesitation in sentencing James Pratt and John Smith to death. He warned them their chances on appeal were hopeless and they could expect no reprieve. They had to prepare, he said, to receive God’s judgement upon departing this life. Both men left the dock in tears.
    William Bonill was sentenced to 14 years transportation to Australia. He died in Tasmania in 1841.
    As well as Pratt and Smith, there were many death sentences for different crimes handed down during the autumn 1835. The process of petitioning for clemency and commutation began.
    While being held in Newgate Prison, Pratt and Smith were visited by Charles Dickens who wrote they “had nothing to expect from the mercy of the crown, their doom was sealed.” The turnkey whispered to Dickens that they were “dead men.”
    John Smith, it seems, had no friends. But the friends of James Pratt commenced a vigorous campaign to save him. They gathered a substantial petition which included the trial prosecutor, former employers, neighbours and even George and Jane Berkshire, their accusers.
    All the documents were prepared for a Privy Council meeting with the King, William IV, to be held in Brighton.
    On 24 November, 12 men sentenced to death were reprieved by the King’s mercy. Pratt and Smith were not among them. Judge Baron Gurney’s warning had prevailed. In their case, the law was to be allowed to take its course.
    News of the pending execution spread around London, confirmed by the erection of the scaffold outside Newgate Prison.
    On Friday 27 November, the two prisoners were taken from their cells and brought to the place of execution, still protesting their innocence. Pratt was weak and had to be helped up the scaffold. The crowd began to hiss, possibly in disagreement with the execution. These were probably the last sounds the men heard. The hangman pulled the bolt and after a short struggle on the rope Pratt and Smith were dead.
    They are buried in a common grave, with others executed at Newgate, in the City Cemetery, Manor Park, London E12.
    In 2014, I petitioned the Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling MP, to grant a posthumous pardon to James Pratt and John Smith on the grounds that even by the standards of those days their convictions were unsafe. Further, the ‘buggery’ law itself was unjust. Consenting adult homosexuality should have not been a crime.
    In reply, the Justice Ministry regretted the men’s execution, acknowledging that it should never have happened, but said the conditions for granting a pardon had not been met. However, since the pardoning of Alan Turing for same-sex relations has established a legal precedent, hopefully the Justice Minister will, with further pressure, re-examine the case and grant a long overdue pardon to Pratt and Smith.
    • The full story of Pratt and Smith is retold in the book, The law to take its course – Redeeming the past, securing our future. It is available as a self-printed manuscript from the author, Father Frank Ryan, for the cost of printing (about £14): 
    • The book and this article are based on Ryan’s original research at the National Archives, British Library and London Metropolitan Archives, plus newspapers reports. 

    • This article was written by Frank Ryan, with the assistance of Peter Tatchell.

    And what of William Bonill?

    Convicted on the 25 September, 1835 to 14 years transportation at the Old Bailey, in London. He was shipped onboard the convict shop “Asia” on the 5 November 1835, to Tasmania (Van Diemen’s Land).

    He arrived in Tasmania on the 21 February 1836. He died on the 29 April 1841. 

    We have an entry from the Daily Sick Book, onboard the Asia “William Bonill, aged 71, Convict; disease or hurt, febris ephemera. Put on sick list, 9 November 1835. Discharged, 14 November 1835. Folio 2: ”

    There does not appear to be any other records for him.


    1.  In the period from 1810 to 1835, 46 people convicted of sodomy were hanged and 32 sentenced to death but reprieved. A further 716 were imprisoned or sentenced to the pillory, before its use was restricted in 1816 (See: Lauterbach and Alber (2009), p.49).
    2. The sentence of death was mandatory, but under the Judgement of Death Act 1823, Gurney would have had the power to commute it to imprisonment.
    3. ^Pratt and Smith were the only people to be executed at Newgate in the three year period 1834–1836; this partial, temporary moratorium may have been for political reasons and because of a change in the law. Prior to 1834, individuals had been executed for any of 20 different offences; after 1836, only convicted murderers were hanged outside Newgate, until the ending of public execution in 1868. See A history of London’s Newgate Prison

    References 1

    •  Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.0, 08 March 2013), September 1835 (t18350921)
    • “Execution”. The Morning Post (20273). London. November 28, 1835.
    • Cook et al (2007), p.109
    • Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.0, 26 December 2012), September 1835, trial of JOHN SMITH JAMES PRATT WILLIAM BONILL (t18350921-1934).
    • Hamilton, J.A. (2004). “Oxford DNB article: Gurney, Sir John (subscription needed)”. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 7 January 2010.
    • “Central Criminal Court, Saturday, Sept. 26.”. The Times (15906). London. September 28, 1835. p. 4.
    • Ryan, Frank (24 March 2015). “Pratt & Smith – Last UK men hanged for sodomy”. Peter Thatchell Foundation. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
    • Cocks (2010) p.38
    •  Upchurch (2009), p.112.
    •  Lauterbach and Alber (2009), p.49
    • “Multiple News Items”. The Standard (2664). London. November 23, 1835.
    • Cook et al (2007), p.110
    •  “Execution”. The Times (15959). London. November 28, 1835. p. 3.
    • “A history of London’s Newgate prison.”. Retrieved March 24, 2013.
    • Anonymous, “The Particulars of the Execution of James Pratt & John Smith” (1835), London printed by T. Birt. OCLC 83814830, Harvard Law School Library, Historical and Special Collection
    • “Asia voyage to Van Diemen’s Land, Australia in 1835 with 290 passengers”. Convict Records of Australia. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
    • William Bonill”. Convict Records of Australia. Retrieved 14 October 2013.


    1. Cocks, Dr Harry (2010). Nameless Offences, Homosexual Desire in the 19th Century. I.B.Taurus & Co. ISBN 9781848850903.
    2. Cook, Matt; Mills, Robert; Trumback, Randolph; Cocks, Harry (2007). A Gay History of Britain: Love and Sex Between Men Since the Middle Ages. Greenwood World Publishing. ISBN 1846450020.
    3. Lauterbach, Frank; Alber, Jan (2009). Stones of Law, Bricks of Shame: Narrating Imprisonment in the Victorian Age. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0802098975.
    4. Upchurch, Charles (2009). Before Wilde: Sex between Men in Britain’s Age of Reform. University of California Press. ISBN 0520258533.

    References 2

    Extinguishment of Historical Homosexual Convictions in NSW

    On 24 November 2014, the Criminal Records Act 1991 (the ‘Act’) was amended to allow historical homosexual offences to be extinguished.

    Homosexuality was decriminalised in NSW in 1984, but prior to this time consensual sex between gay men was a criminal act. People with convictions for these historical offences have dealt with the stigma of a criminal conviction for a ‘sex’ offence which can affect employment opportunities, volunteering and travel. These amendments will allow a person with an eligible historical homosexual conviction to apply to the Secretary of the Department of Justice to have the conviction extinguished.
    Under the changes made to the Act, the Secretary has the authority to decide that an eligible conviction should be extinguished but only if if he or she is satisfied that the other person involved in the sexual activity consented to the sexual activity and was above the age of consent. The Secretary has powers under the Act to require certain persons or bodies to provide information for the purposes of making a decision under the Act.
    Applications may be made to the Department of Justice to have the following offences extinguished:

    • Buggery (s79 Crimes Act 1900)
    • Attempted Buggery (s80 Crimes Act 1900)
    • Indecent Assault on a male (s81 Crimes Act 1900)
    • Act of Indecency with another male person (or procuring) (s81A Crimes Act 1900)
    • Soliciting or inciting offences under ss79, 81 or 81A of the Crimes Act 1900 (s81B Crimes Act 1900)
    • Homosexual intercourse with a male over the relevant age (s 78K Crimes Act 1900)
    • Attempt or assault with intent to have homosexual intercourse with a male over the relevant age (s 78L Crimes Act 1900)
    • Acts of gross indecency with a male person under 18 (or procures) (s78Q Crimes Act 1900)- but only if the other person was over the relevant age
    • Indecent behaviour (s12 Police Offences Act 1901) or behaving in an indecent or offensive manner (s7 Summary Offences Act 1970) if the offence involved:
    • Sexual activity with another person of the same sex, or
    • Procuring another person of the same sex to engage in sexual activity.
    • ​​Exposure or an indecent act committed by an adult (s43(b) Crimes Act 1900), indecent exposure (s11 Summary Offences Act 1970; s78 Police Offences Act 1901) or wilful and obscene exposure (s6 Offences in Public Places Act 1979; s12 Summary Offences Act 1970; s4(2)(d) Vagrancy Act 1902) if the offence involved:
    • ​​The offender engaged in a form of sexual activity with a person of the same sex, and
    • ​​The offenc​e was not witnessed by​ anyone except the other person engaged in the sexual activity or a police officer, and
    • It was the offender’s first conviction for the offence.


    Gay History: Piers Gaveston & Edward II

    The Earl of Warwick stands over the decapitated body of Piers Gaveston. From the 15th-century ‘Rous Rolls’.

    Piers Gaveston Executed
    By Richard Cavendish

    Published in History Today Volume 62 Issue 6 June 2012

    Richard Cavendish remembers the royal favourite who died on June 19th, 1312.

    The Earl of Warwick stands over the decapitated body of Piers Gaveston. From the 15th-century ‘Rous Rolls’.

    The Earl of Warwick stands over the decapitated body of Piers Gaveston. From the 15th-century ‘Rous Rolls’.

    Soaring up from a comparatively humble background, King Edward II’s favourite flew too high and paid the penalty. Piers Gaveston was born around 1284, the son of a Gascon lord, who gave many years of loyal service to Edward I. In his early teens Piers became a member of the royal household. In 1300 he was moved to that of the Prince of Wales, the future Edward II. They were both about 16, took to each other and an extremely close friendship developed. There were many at the time who thought it was a homosexual relationship, but some modern historians see it as more like close brotherly love. The two may have been sworn blood-brothers and Edward referred to Gaveston as ‘my brother Piers’. Edward would have four children by his French queen, Isabella, but he could have been bisexual.

    Whatever the exact nature of the relationship, it spelled trouble. In 1307 Edward I banished Gaveston from England, though he was to be paid an allowance while awaiting recall, but the king died soon afterwards and the new king immediately brought Gaveston back to his side, made him Earl of Cornwall and bestowed on him an extremely well-connected aristocratic wife and substantial quantities of land and money. Edward II was not remotely the man his father was and he had serious trouble with some of his father’s most powerful barons, who bitterly resented being sidelined by a man they considered an arrogant, greedy upstart.

    In 1308 Edward allowed Gaveston a provocatively prominent role in his coronation and the ensuing banquet, at which he paid so much attention to the favourite that Queen Isabella’s French relatives walked out. The king was forced to send Gaveston away to Ireland later that year, but he was back in 1309 and resumed his dominant position at court as Edward’s principal adviser and controller of royal patronage. He behaved as arrogantly as ever and allegedly bestowed disparaging nicknames on leading figures in the realm. Guy de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick was ‘the Black Dog of Arden’, Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke was ‘Joseph the Jew’ and the generally much-respected Earl of Lincoln was ‘Burst Belly’. By March 1310 opposition had mounted to such a point that the king had to agree to the appointment of the Lords Ordainers, a committee of 21 earls, barons and bishops who were to draw up rules for the management of the royal household and the realm. Meanwhile the king led a military campaign in Scotland that failed to subdue Robert the Bruce.

    In August 1311 the Ordainers produced their new rules and demanded that Gaveston be sent into exile and never allowed to return. The horrified Edward offered to agree to the changes if Gaveston was allowed to stay, but the Ordainers would have none of it and in November the favourite left the country. He was back in England again by the following January, however, and Edward announced that Gaveston’s exile had been unlawful, restoring all his confiscated possessions.

    The country was now threatened with civil war as the barons gathered their private armies. The Earl of Lancaster (who was Edward I’s nephew) almost caught the king and Gaveston in Newcastle, but they just managed to escape and fled by sea to Scarborough, where Edward left Gaveston and went to York. Gaveston was besieged in Scarborough Castle by the earls of Pembroke and Warwick. In May Gaveston surrendered to Pembroke on condition that, if no agreement could be reached with the king by August 1st, he would be sent back to Scarborough Castle, which was not to be reinforced in the meantime. Pembroke took Gaveston to a town called Deddington, south of Banbury, and left him there for the moment. On the following day, to the dismay of Pembroke, who had guaranteed Gaveston’s safety, the favourite was seized by the Earl of Warwick and taken to Warwick, where he was paraded past a jeering crowd and put in a dungeon in the castle.

    Lancaster and Warwick decided that Gaveston must die. After some pretence of a trial, apparently, he was taken to Blacklow Hill, not far from Warwick, on land that belonged to Lancaster, and run through with a sword before his head was cut off. He would have been about 28 years old.

    Gaveston’s body was left lying there to rot, but was later rescued, embalmed and eventually buried in the Dominican friary at King’s Langley in Hertfordshire. In 1823 a monument was erected on Blacklow Hill by the local squire on the spot where Gaveston was thought to have been executed. The disapproving inscription describes him as ‘the Minion of a hateful King’ beheaded ‘by Barons as lawless as himself.’


    History Today

    “Edward II and Piers Gaveston” – detail of an engraving from a painting by Marcus Stone (1840-1921). Edward and Piers are on the left, Queen Isabella and the disapproving courtiers watch on.

      Further Reading


      Tim Alderman (2017)

      Gay History: 1833 – Captain Henry Nicholas Nicholls, Sodomy Trial

      Sodomy — “buggery,” in the more evocative British phrase, often bowdlerized in court records as b-gg–y or the like — was a capital offense in England until 1861, when the penalty was reduced to “merely” life imprisonment.

      The London Courier reported the event:

      Captain Henry Nicholas Nicholls, who was one of the unnatural gang to which the late Captain Beauclerk belonged, (and which latter gentleman put an end to his existence), was convicted on the clearest evidence at Croydon, on Saturday last, of the capital offence of Sodomy; the prisoner was perfectly calm and unmoved throughout the trial, and even when sentence of death was passed upon him. In performing the duty of passing sentence of death upon the prisoner, Mr. Justice Park told him that it would be inconsistent with that duty if he held out the slightest hope that the law would not be allowed to take its severest course. At 9 o’clock in the morning the sentence was carried into effect. The culprit, who was fifty years of age, was a fine looking man, and had served in the Peninsular war. He was connected with a highly respectable family; but, since his apprehension not a single member of it visited him.

      The popular broadside on the case was scarcely more sympathetic. [Here’s another version of the gallow lit]

      Even though once or twice a year someone would hang for it and the scandal would send family fleeing his name, Old Blighty still had a vigorous underground gay scene in the 19th century. While Lord Byron was enjoying the easier same-sex access of the Ottoman lands, a friend wrote to him, “that what you get for £5 we must risque our necks for; and are content to risque them.” (Cited here)

      Quite accidentally, the senseless destruction this day of a respectable veteran helped set the put-upon gay underground upon its long march towards mainstream acceptance.

      A first-person narrative written* in 1833 under the name of Lord Byron (who was in fact nine years dead, but whose queer identity clearly informs the work), Don Leon was a signal piece of literature: the first overt literary defense of homosexuality in English.**

      It opens with a scene said to be inspired by Captain Nicholls:

      Thou ermined judge, pull off that sable cap!

      What! Cans’t thou lie, and take thy morning nap?

      Peep thro’ the casement; see the gallows there:

      Thy work hangs on it; could not mercy spare?

      What had he done? Ask crippled Talleyrand,

      Ask Beckford, Courtenay, all the motley band

      Of priest and laymen, who have shared his guilt

      (If guilt it be) then slumber if thou wilt;

      What bonds had he of social safety broke?

      Found’st thou the dagger hid beneath his cloak?

      He stopped no lonely traveller on the road;

      He burst no lock, he plundered no abode;

      He never wrong’d the orphan of his own;

      He stifled not the ravish’d maiden’s groan.

      His secret haunts were hid from every soul,

      Till thou did’st send thy myrmidons to prowl,

      And watch the prickings of his morbid lust,

      To wring his neck and call thy doings just.

      The author — whose identity is still debated† — continues writing more or less autobiographically of Byron’s life, and using his illicit desires and lifestyle (with digressions into historical precedent) to defend homosexuality as ultimately natural and harmless.

      The tree we plant will, when its boughs are grown,

      Produce no other blossoms than its own;

      And thus in man some inborn passions reign

      Which, spite of careful pruning, sprout again.

      Then, say, was I or nature in the wrong,

      If, yet a boy, one inclination, strong

      In wayward fancies, domineered my soul,

      And bade complete defiance to control?

      Though law cries “hold!” yet passion onward draws;

      But nature gave us passions, man gave laws,

      Whence spring these inclinations, rank and strong?

      And harming no one, wherefore call them wrong?

      What’s virtue’s touchstone? Unto others do,

      As you would wish that others did to you.

      Then tell me not of sex, if to one key

      The chords, when struck, vibrate in harmony.

      No virgin I deflower, nor, lurking, creep,

      With steps adult’rous, on a husband’s sleep.

      I plough no field in other men’s domain;

      And where I delve no seed shall spring again.

      Look, how infected with rank disease

      Were those, who held St. Peter’s holy keys,

      And pious men to whom the people bowed,

      And kings, who churches to the saints endowed;

      All these were Christians of the highest stamp-

      How many scholars, wasting over their lamp,

      How many jurists, versed in legal rules,

      How many poets, honoured in the schools,

      How many captains, famed for deeds of arms,

      Have found their solace in a minion’s arms!

      Nay, e’en our bard, Dame Nature’s darling child,

      Felt the strange impulse, and his hours beguiled

      In penning sonnets to a stripling’s praise,

      Such as would damn a poet now-a-days.

      To this conclusion we must come at last:

      Wise men have lived in generations past,

      Whose deeds and sayings history records,

      To whom the palm of virtue she awards,

      Who, tempted, ate of that forbidden tree,

      Which prejudice denies to you and me.

      Then be consistent; and, at once confess,

      If man’s pursuit through life is happiness,

      The great, the wise, the pious, and the good,

      Have what they sought not rightly understood;

      Or deem not else that aberration crime,

      Which reigns in every caste and every clime.

      To this conclusion we must come at last:

      Wise men have lived in generations past,

      Whose deeds and sayings history records,

      To whom the palm of virtue she awards,

      Who, tempted, ate of that forbidden tree,

      Which prejudice denies to you and me.

      Then be consistent, and, at once confess;

      If man’s pursuit through life is happiness,

      The great, the wise, the pious, and the good,

      Have what they sought not rightly understood;

      Or deem not else that aberration crime,

      Which reigns in every caste and every clime.

      Statesmen, in your exalted station know

      Sins of omission for commission go;

      Since ships as often founder on the main

      From leaks unstopped as from the hurricane.

      Shore up your house; it totters to the base;

      A mouldering rot corrodes it; and the trace

      Of every crime you punish I descry:

      The least of all perhaps is sodomy.

      I stand a monument, whereby to learn

      That reason’s light can never strongly burn

      Where blear-eyed prejudice erects her throne,

      And has no scale for virtue but her own.

      * Don Leon circulated initially in manuscript form, and was not published in England until years later — a known printing in 1866, and possibly another lost edition from before 1853.

      ** Here lagging well behind France, which had burned only a bare handful of homosexuals under monarchist anti-sodomy laws in the 18th century, and decriminalized homosexuality full stop in 1791. In Philosophy in the Boudoir the Marquis de Sade preened casually triumphant over the bad old days while Lord Byron was still a boy.

      We wonder that savagery could ever reach the point where you condemn to death an unhappy person all of whose crime amounts to not sharing your tastes … Nature, who places such slight importance upon the essence that flows in our loins, can scarcely be vexed by our choice when we are pleased to vent it into this or that avenue.

      † Candidates include parliamentarian William Bankes, who was arrested for sodomy in 1833 but acquitted later in the year; fellow MP John Cam Hobhouse; and playwright and Byron-idolizer George Coleman.


      Executed Today

      Gay History: 1578 – Five Sodomite Monks Executed in (Calvinist) Ghent

      DescriptionExecution of Monks in Ghent because of Sodomy, 28 June 1578; Five monks accused of sodomy about to be burnt at the stake, left, and three others flogged, background centre, in Ghent town square. 1578 Etching
      On June 28, 1578, five Catholic monks were burnt to death in Ghent for homosexuality.

      At our scene in the Spanish-controlled Low Countries, the revolt that would become known as the Eighty Years’ War and secure Dutch independence still had about 70 of those years to run.
      Stadtholder William of Orange, aka William the Silent, has his hands full with the Habsburg forces determined to crush their disobedient subjects.

      Half civil war, half proto-nationalist revolution, this conflict overlaid disputes over both political and religious authority, complicated by a catastrophic Spanish bankruptcy.

      Of this compelling history much beyond our scope, the piece of most moment for our unfortunate monks was a grudging agreement to chill out the sectional suppression as part of a temporary truce between the warring sides. Said “slackening of persecution inspired Reformed public worship and attempts to topple the Catholic stewpot.” (Source)

      Late in 1577, a political coup in the commercial powerhouse of Ghent did just that, part of a mini-Renaissance of Calvinist city-republics that Spanish arms would truncate in the 1580’s. But here in the 1570’s, the newly elevated slate of Calvinists implemented a “Reform” agenda that included aggressive moves against Catholic authority.

      On 18-22 May [1578], the Reformed launched an attack on the four mendicant monasteries. Their churches were purified and made ready for Reformed worship. On 1 June the first public preaching was organized in the Dominican and Carmelite churches. (Source, a pdf)

      Rumors of homosexuality in the religious orders swept the overheated city (assuming they were not put about intentionally), and this day opened a summer’s terror that saw 14 monks burned (pdf) for the love that dare not speak its name.

      Kenneth Borris translates the inscription on the Franz Hogenberg image linked above thus:

      “five monks are being burned in Flanders, in the city of Ghent. Four are Franciscans (Minnenbruder*) and the fifth Augustinian. Also three have been quickly flogged with switches on the market square as they deserve, because of their outrageous sexual offenses (unzuchtt) that greatly offended the authorities. That is why the four mendicant orders have now been driven out of Ghent.”

      William the Silent, made of more statesmanlike stuff than these zealots, would actually enter Ghent himself the next year to disarm the ruling clique, realizing that firebrands were driving Catholic cities back into Spanish arms.

      But he could not contain the schism. Spain ultimately kept the Catholic-leaning territories that today comprise Luxembourg and Belgium (including Ghent), while the Protestant Netherlands fought onward to independence.

      * “Minnenbroder,” Borris explains, “may be a satiric pun on the word minne (which had come to mean debauchery), suggesting ‘brothers in lust’ as opposed to brotherly love. Hogenberg connects sodomy with ‘godlessness,’ as was common.”


      Tim Alderman (2017)

      Gay History: Ali bin Hittan bin Said, Muhammad bin Suleyman bin Muhammad, and Muhammad bin Khalil bin Abdullah – 2002

      The three men – ‘Ali bin Hittan bin Sa’id, Muhammad bin Suleyman bin Muhammad and Muhammad bin Khalil bin ‘Abdullah, all Saudi Arabian nationals, were publicly beheaded in Abha, Asir province, on 1 January 2002.

      The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior issued a statement announcing that the three were convicted of homosexual acts, adding vaguely-worded charges of ‘luring Children’s rights and harming others’ without providing any further details. The trial proceedings – like most in Saudi Arabia – remain shrouded in secrecy.
      Director of Amnesty International UK Kate Allen said:
      ‘The execution of these three men is yet another gesture of defiance of international standards by the Saudi Arabian government.
      Widespread revulsion at these killings has led Amnesty International members to urgently contact the Saudi authorities expressing concern that these men may have been executed primarily because of their sexual orientation and seeking clarification of the exact charges and evidence brought against them.’
      No detailed information regarding the trial proceedings for these individuals is yet known. Amnesty International is now also seeking urgent clarification of the names of any further prisoners under sentence of death due to their sexual orientation and calling for the commutation of their sentences.
      This case is not an isolated case of people in Saudi Arabia being punished for alleged same-sex sexual relations. In April 2000 it was reported that a Saudi court had sentenced nine young men to prison sentences and up to 2,600 lashes each for ‘deviant sexual behaviour’. Six men were executed in July 2000 on charges partly relating to their sexual orientation and Amnesty International feared that these six may in fact have been among the nine men sentenced to the flogging and prison sentences. Like the recent executions, these six death penalties were carried out in Abha, Asir province.
      This latest action by Amnesty International follows the publication last year of a report – Crimes of hate, conspiracy of silence – revealing that over 70 countries continue to criminalise same-sex relations, with some such ‘offences’ incurring the death penalty.
      “Saudi Shame

      Maryam Namazie

      Published in Gay Times

      June 2005

      Gay people are routinely facing harassment, arrest, torture, flogging and execution in Saudi Arabia. It’s no wonder the gay rights group OutRage! has labelled Saudi Arabia one of the most homophobic countries in the world.

      In May alone, as many as 92 men were arrested as ‘deviants’. On March 10, over 100 men were arrested after a raid for attending a gay wedding and found to be dancing and ‘behaving like women’. According to Amnesty International, 31 of the men were sentenced to imprisonment for 6 months to a year and up to 200 lashes each; four namely two Saudi Arabians, a Jordanian and a Yemeni were given two years’ imprisonment and 2,000 lashes. As is usual in Saudi Arabia, the sentences were passed in a closed session in which defence lawyers were barred. According to Human Rights Watch, the more than 70 men who had initially been released were subsequently summoned back and informed they had also been sentenced to one year’s imprisonment each.
      These arrests closely follow the public beheading of Ahmed al-Enezi and Shahir al-Roubli, two gay lovers in Arar, in the north, for allegedly murdering a man who had found out about their relationship and was threatening to out them. The Saudi Interior Ministry’s statement announcing the execution said the two were found in a ‘shameful situation’, a term which is regularly used by the authorities to refer to homosexuality.
      Whilst the reports are alarming, and seem to be escalating, one can be certain that these are only the tip of the iceberg. Most cases of persecution go unreported for the mere reason that the government is a dictatorship with strict censorship rules. For every report that reaches the international media and organisations, there are thousands of nameless, faceless individuals whose fate goes unreported. Under such circumstances, it is exceedingly difficult to collect facts and highlight the persecution gay people face. In the case of those arrested at the party for example, it was someone close to a defendant who alerted international organisations of the arrests and not official reports. The Saudi authorities seldom release information about arrests until after a trial and it is impossible to independently verify reports. All Saudi executions are also not systematically reported; officials continue to deny that the death penalty is applied for homosexuality ‘alone’. Of course there is evidence otherwise. On 1 January 2002, for example, Ali bin Hittan bin Sa’id, Muhammad bin Suleyman bin Muhammad and Muhammad bin Khalil bin ‘Abdullah were executed in Abha, Asir province, solely for their sexual orientation. And this is not a problem faced by gays in Saudi Arabia alone. In Iran, for example, on March 15, a government affiliated newspaper, Etemad, reported on the execution sentence of two men for homosexuality. No further reports have been received and their fate is unknown.
      The abysmal situation of gay people in Saudi Arabia has to be looked at within the context of serious rights violations across the board. The beheadings of the two gay lovers in Arar brought the numbers beheaded for a variety of reasons this year alone to 24. People living in Saudi Arabia don’t have basic rights and freedoms and human rights violations are truly pervasive. Like all countries under Islamic rule, though, sexual ‘crimes’ are dealt with most severely because of their ‘shamefulness’ and ‘perversity’, especially since an Islamic state is usually most preoccupied with the control of sexuality and sex in order to assert its own ‘divine’ and ‘moral’ legitimacy.
      Certainly, Islam is not unlike other religions when it comes to sex and sexuality. It is just as inherently homophobic and misogynist as other religions but there is one important fundamental difference and that is that it is a religion in power or vying for power in many countries in the 21st century. Homosexuality is condemned as ‘indecency’, ‘lewdness’, ‘degenerate’, ‘transgressing beyond bounds’ and in need of ‘punishment’ in the Koran. In the Hadith, which are the sayings of the prophet Mohammad and part of Sharia or Islamic laws, it clearly states: ‘Kill the one who sodomises and the one who lets it be done to him.’ Under Islamic Hudud laws, ‘illicit’ gay or straight sex are considered offences for which the punishment is mandatory and corporal in nature – including flogging, execution and stoning to death. These ancient religious texts become all the more relevant because they are translated into the laws of countries like Saudi Arabia and effect real live human beings. Whilst according to Amnesty International, more than 80 countries around the world criminalise same sex relations, eight punish it by death (Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria – in states practising Sharia law, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan, and Yemen) – all of which one might add are countries or parts of countries under Islamic law.
      This doesn’t mean that there isn’t an active gay community in Saudi Arabia, Iran or elsewhere or that gay tourists will be beheaded upon entry. Despite serious repercussions, people continue to live their lives, have sex and express their sexuality. Most Saudi cities have underground gay networks, which organise private parties. Some visitors find this pleasantly surprising and therefore mistakenly conclude that restrictions and repercussions are exaggerated. They are not. Or they often consider the legal restrictions and impositions as part of the ‘people’s culture and religion’ rather than that of the ruling class’. These visitors fail to make a distinction between the regime imposing these inhuman and medieval laws and the people forced to live under them.
      Of course homophobia exists everywhere including in countries that do not impose Islamic law. But Islam in power or political Islam has raised homophobia to another dimension. Those of us who have fled political Islam know full well the levels of threats and intimidation those with ‘unchaste’ and ‘perverse’ lifestyles have faced and continue to face. The political Islam behind the arrests, floggings, and beheadings in Saudi Arabia is part of the same right wing reactionary movement, which hung sweet 16 year old Atefeh Rajabi from a city square in Iran for ‘acts incompatible with chastity’, beheaded prostitutes in Iraq and recently stoned to death a 29 year old woman, Amina, accused by her husband of adultery, in Afghanistan. [As I mentioned, in many cases, we are left with only a first name or no name at all.]
      This movement is also permeating into life in Britain and the west as well. Demands for child veiling, Islamic schools and a Sharia court in Britain for Muslims as well as Ken Livingstone’s love affair with al-Qaradawi are all evidence of this fact. In Saudi Arabia and Iran, political Islam kills, maims and brutalises, but here the ‘moderate Islamic scholar’ Qaradawi’s support for women’s ‘modesty’ and his condemnation of sexual acts as ‘perversions’ are deemed mere abstract questions of freedom of speech or academic/theological debates. Don’t be fooled. They are all part and parcel of the same movement and implement Islamic rules as soon as they have any power. [By the way, it was also an ‘Islamic scholar’ who issued the sentence for Amina’s stoning to death in Afghanistan.]
      The rise of political Islam here in Britain is affecting countless women, gays, and others who have sought refuge and safety in Britain from it. Moreover, whilst the UK government has close relations with countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, it continues to refuse and deport its victims. Just last year, Hussein Nasseri, 26, a gay man who feared he would be executed if he were deported to Iran killed himself after the Home Office turned down his second appeal for asylum.
      To make matters worse, any attempt to criticise Islamic laws and states are now being deemed racist and Islamophobic. Even the Saudi government itself has labelled criticism of its policies and practices as such. Clearly though, the targets of racism and discrimination are human beings not beliefs or ideas belonging to or attributed to them nor social or political movements associated with belief systems. Such labels are often used by Islamic states and their apologists in the west to silence any criticism and opposition.
      Nonetheless, the Saudi government and its likes need to know that the world is watching them when they abuse rights with such impunity. They cannot be allowed to torture, imprison and behead gay people and others under cover of secrecy and carry on with business as usual with western governments such as the UK government, which has military links with the kingdom. Most importantly, though, those being abused and violated need to know they are not alone. That they are not just nameless, faceless individuals languishing in prison or facing torture and execution. They need to know that there are other people all over the world who will not stand by and remain silent.”

      Tim Alderman (2017)