Legally accurate… when England & Wales ≠ UK

It has been a while since I posted on here. Life took over, as did study. I’m currently waiting for the results of my first law module, but today received the texts for the first half of the second one. Being the excited student that I am, I started to read, I read the Module Guide, and then started into the main course manual.

England Scotland Wales Northern Ireland

A guide to the United Kingdom: England (Red), Scotland (Blue), Wales (Green), and Northern Ireland (Yellow) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a student of law, I have been encouraged in the past to ensure that I am accurate, that I am correct, and therefore, I was rather surprised when I came across this sentence in the course text.

In the UK, a homosexual act between adult males in private has not been an offence since 1967.

What was most surprising is that on the following page I read that sometimes it is necessary to refer to the UK, England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland as:

This is because England and Wales (together), Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own legal systems, and often it is necessary to refer to the system individually in order to be legally correct.

Well, quite! Unfortunately, the authors did not abide by their own standard when making the statement regarding homosexual offences. I have sent an email to the course team suggesting that it really ought to read:

In England and Wales, a homosexual act between adult males in private has not been an offence since 1967.

This is because Scotland and Northern Ireland took until the 1980s to catch up with England and Wales. The law in Scotland was changed by section 80 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980. And, following the judgment in the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Dudgeon The United Kingdom (7525/76) [1981] ECHR 5 (22 October 1981), the law was amended in Northern Ireland by the Homosexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 1982 No. 1536 (N.I. 19). Only at the end of October 2012 was I at a dinner celebrating thirty years since decriminalisation of homosexuality in Northern Ireland, hosted by the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association (NIGRA).

To make the statement that it is necessary to be accurate and not to have been so on the previous page seems distinctly unfortunate, and I hope that those responsible for the course texts will fix this in future presentations of the module and that, hopefully, it will be pointed out to current students with a corrigendum.

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