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Objectives and Activities

X v United Kingdom (decision), 3 March 1978 [ECtHR]

Case no 7525/76

2. The applicant has also complained ot the existence in Northern Ireland of the common law offences of conspiracy to corrupt public morals and conspiracy to outrage public decency. He has submitted that in Northern Ireland these offences have a potentially wider scope in relation to homosexual conduct than in England and Wales. He has suggested that they make advocacy of changes in homosexual laws potentially criminal, that explicit association in groups, clubs or societies by homosexual persons could be indictable and that counselling activities, befriending agencies and the like, so far as relating to homosexual persons, are of uncertain legal status .

The respondent Government have suggested that the relevance of these offences to the present application is not clear and that activities such as those mentioned in the domestic authorities cited by the applicant [Shaw v Director ot Public Prosecutions, ( 1961) 2 AII ER 446 and Knuller Ltd. v Director of Public Prosecutions, [19721 2 AII ER 888] do not fall within the scope of Article 8, paragraph 1.

The Commission notes that the only Articles of the Convention invoked by the applicant in the present application are Article 8, paragraph 1, insofar as it guarantees the right to respect for private life and Article 14 which he invokes in conjunction therewith. However the applicant has not shown how the existence of these offences, which appear by their very nature to concern public activity, could be said to have affected his private life The Commission accordingly finds no appearance of a violation of these provisions in this respect .

However in view of the applicant's submissions concerning the scope of these offences, the Commission has considered ex officio whether this part of the application discloses any appearance of a violation of the applicant's right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Article 10, or of his right to freedom of association with others, as guaranteed by Article 11 .

The Commission first observes, as a general matter, that the applicant's suggestion that the scope of these offences is wider in Northern Ireland, in view of the homosexuality laws there, than it is in England and Wales is unsubstantiated by reference to any authority. The case of Knuller, to which the applicant has referred, appears to contradict this suggestion. The Commission notes that that case involved charges of conspiracy to corrupt public morals and outrage public decency arising from the publication in England of advertisements inviting males to take part in homosexual activity. A majority of the House of Lords held that although homosexual acts between consenting adult males in private were no longer, by virtue of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, criminal offences, it was open to a jury to say that to assist or encourage persons to take part in such acts might be to corrupt them. Similarly it does not appear to have been suggested that the legality of the acts which the advertisements invited persons to participate in negatived the possibility that the advertisements would outrage public decency.

The Commission therefore finds no reason to suppose, from the material submitted to it, that the applicant's suggestion is correct.

The Commission finds no indication whatsoever that the scope of these offences is such that they could render illegal advocacy of changes in homosexual laws and thus restrict the applicant's freedom of expression. Furthermore whilst the applicant suggests that "explicit association" in groups, clubs or societies by homosexuals could be illegal and that counselling activities, befriending agencies and the like are of uncertain legal status, the Commission finds that the material submitted does not disclose that the scope of the offences is in fact such that their mere existence could restrict the exercise of the applicant's freedom of association in a manner contrary to Article 11 .

It follows, in the Commission's opinion, that this part of the application is manifestly ill-founded and must be considered inadmissible under Article 27, paragraph 2 of the Convention.

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Threat to democracy Threat to national security and public order Threat to national security, public order and territorial integrity Threat to national security and public safety Threat to public order Threat to public order and public safety Threat to public order and rights of freedoms of others Threat to religious neutrality, public order and territorial integrity Threat to rights and freedoms of others Legitimacy of seeking legal and constitutional change Inadmissible objects and activities Breach of constitutional or criminal law Threat to public health and morals