In recent years Brighton’s George Montague has rose to fame and featured numerous in times in the mainstream media, George is campaigning for an apology for a “gross indecency charge“ he received in the 1950’s. George is affectionately known by his self proclaimed title “the oldest gay in the village“ and is always noticeable at public events by means of his mobility scooter. has been transformed into a float of sorts which demands the attention of passers by. George is often seen at gay pride events, posing for photo’s and talking passionately about his cause to the gay community. George 93, has now been together with his partner for over twenty years after meeting Somchai who was aged 28 at the time.
George is just one of nearly 50,000 men who were found guilty of crimes of this nature during this period. A period which the Daily Mail describes as a time when Britain was “gripped by a fear of homosexuality“. Homosexuality had been made illegal by the 1885 Criminal Amendment Act and famous gay icons Oscar Wilde and Alan Turing were convicted of been homosexuals under this law. George’s conviction led to him having to leave the scout movement as he was labelled a “paedophile“. George told me he was at the time a“ senior Commissioner running camps in 6 Southern Countries for severely physically disable boys. “
George likens his campaign to that of the one to pardon Alan Turing. Turing was eventually pardoned as were 47,000 other men convicted of “Gross indecency“. However, George’s was not, offences that were committed in public toilets known as “cottages“ and other public places are still deemed unlawful an offence of which you can still be prosecuted with today, under the label of indecent exposure.
George is adamant he wouldn’t accept a pardon, something he would have to apply for, as pardons were only applied to those who have past away. George want’s an apology.
said in a recent facebook video “that his only crime another man“. This is factually untrue, he was convicted of “gross indecency“ following a sexual encounter in a notorious cottage.
An offence you could still be convicted of today under the “public indecency“ laws. Something George supports he told me those guilty should face “punishment and heavily fined but not criminalisation. Anybody doing anything like that in public deserve to be punished and fined“ Which does make his calls for an apology a contradiction. considering he went to a toilet of his own free will to engage in sexual activity with another. the police rumbled George and an exposed penis was on display, which does slightly taint the innocent picture of persecution George likes to project.
Whilst it was wrong to criminalise homosexuality; Britain has made major moves in the last thirty years to become one of the most progressive societies with regard to the LGBT community in the world. The law is now equal in terms of law and social attitudes and we should be thankful of that in stop of living in the past and applying todays social attitudes to things that happened in the past.
We also need to realise that apologising for thins deemed “oppressive“ in the past sets a dangerous precedent for the future. If for example the age of consent is reduced to 14 or 15 as some European countries want, then all those convicted of sexual offences against those aged 14 or 15 will also be warranted an apology. Likewise, if we are to apologise to those who have committed sexual offences then we must apologise to those who were prosecuted under heresy laws or those punished for having an abortion; something society now deems acceptable but like homosexuality was seen as deeply abhorrent at the time.
I also believe quashing sexual offences that happen in public places is morally wrong, if you are having sex in public then you are potentially putting children at risk and its important as a progressive society we safeguard our children.
George is currently on holiday in Pattaya, Thailand. A place frequented by “sex offenders“. Pattaya “is one of the largest sex tourism destinations in the world, with a recent report highlighting 2000 known sex workers.
It’s time to leave the past where it is and be grateful that “public indecency“ laws which replaced “gross indecency“ aren’t applied retrospectively. We need to recognise our achievements as gay people in achieving equality and causing a change in society that has created a safe environment for gay men. We must also as a gay movement forgive and forget the injustices of the past and work towards addressing the real issues of the day. Such as the high rate of homelessness and mental health issues that affect the LGBT community. I wish George all the best and hope he finds the solace he craves. For those who are interested in George’s story can purchase his book from amazon.