Sexual Offences Act 1967

Prior to 1967 the acts of ‘sodomy’ and ‘gross indecency’ between men were criminal offences across the UK. Following recommendations that were originally made in the Wolfenden Report of 1957 – and which took ten years to bring into being – the Sexual Offences Act 1967 partially decriminalised consensual same-sex relations between men who were over 21, in England and Wales and if they took place in private space. The legislation resulted from a private member’s bill that Welsh MP Leo Abse successfully introduced into Parliament (having failed on previous occasions).

The Act did not apply to the Army, the Air Force or the Navy (where homosexual offences remained unlawful under the Army Act 1955, Air Force Act 1955 and Naval Discipline Act 1957).

Similar legislation partially decriminalised same-sex relations between men in Scotland in 1981 and in Northern Ireland in 1982, the latter a result of a ruling in the European Court of Human Rights.

The British Government finally lifted its ban on homosexuality in the armed forces following two rulings in the European court of Human Rights in 2000.