From Issue 3.2 - December 1996/January 1997
The long-awaited hearing of the Spanner case by the European Court of Human Rights took place on October 21st. After more than a year of fundraising and preparation, the actual court proceedings lasted a mere three hours.
The original case involved sixteen men in the U.K. who were arrested for practicing consensual SM after a three year police investigation, named Operation Spanner, uncovered videotapes showing SM activity.
U.K. judges ruled that consent was immaterial in cases of bodily harm, and the defendants were sentenced to prison terms of three to six years.
The European Court case follows a failed appeal to the Law Lords, the highest level of appeal in the U.K., who -- in a split decision -- let the original verdict stand in March 1993. The European case was brought by three of the original defendants, Roland Jaggard, Tony Brown, and Colin Laskey (who has since died, along with another defendant, Mr. Sebastien).
Countdown on Spanner has coordinated efforts to raise money for the appeal from SM communities around the world, with a large portion of funds coming from the Bay Area. A European Court verdict is binding on all countries who have signed its charter, including the U.K. A verdict in the case is not expected until June 1997.
The criminal case against Steve and Selina Houghton, a couple whose two children were removed from their home in January 1996 after the police were given a videotape of the parents practicing consensual SM, has come to a close. The videotape was stolen -- and shown to the couple's daughter -- by a relative who baby-sat the children.
After failing repeatedly to regain custody, the couple accepted a plea bargain in which Selina pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge and Steve pleaded guilty to a charge of endangering the welfare of a minor.
Formal sentencing will not occur until December, although the judge stated that the two would not receive jail terms. The resolution of the criminal case allows the couple to continue the battle to regain custody of their children. A representative of the child protection service has stated that the children, aged 7 and 12, would be better off with their parents, and were more likely to be harmed by their removal from their home and placement in foster care.
The Houghtons lost their jobs and were impoverished by legal bills stemming from the case. The Boudoir Noir Defense Fund coordinated efforts to collect donations to assist the couple, raising nearly $25,000.
The first Mr. and Ms. Santa Clara County Leather were selected on November 9. This new title replaces the Mr. and Ms. South Bay/San Jose Leather titles most recently held by Kevin Roche and Miranda von Stockhausen. Three contestants vied for the men's title, which was captured by Doug Johnson of Felton, CA. Sharon Klienman of Milpitas was unopposed for the women's title. Congratulation and best of luck to both new winners!
The Women's Leather Network in Los Angeles has announced that they
will initiate a new women's leather title next year -- Ms. Fallen
Angels Leather. The contest will be held on Saturday, January 11, 1997
at 8pm at the Faultline (4216 Melrose Ave. in Hollywood). A
"meet'n'greet" will take place the preceding Friday, also at 8pm at
the Faultline. The application deadline for contestants is December 1,
1996. For more information, contact P.O. Box 691593, W. Hollywood, CA
90069; phone 213-993-7235; e-mail WLNandBFN@aol.com.