Sexual Offences Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 9th June 2003.

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Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative 7:00 pm, 9th June 2003

My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 166, I shall also speak to Amendment No. 166A.

When the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, and I discussed this matter in Committee, he said that it was a matter of deciding where the line should be drawn. Yes, that probably is the question, and I think the line should be drawn in a rather different place from where the Government have chosen to draw it. I am sorry to have to trespass on the noble and learned Lord's sensitivities—he was extremely successful in avoiding indelicate language in the course of the debate on the last amendment. I suspect this amendment may prove more difficult.

I think we are all agreed that none of us wishes to decriminalise the existing offences with animals. That is, as I understand it, the way in which the noble and learned Lord has drafted the clause in this part of the Bill. It seems to me, however, that we ought, when having what I suspect will be a very rare opportunity to consider this particular offence, to think about where we should properly draw its boundaries. Amendment No. 166A addresses what is a fairly common and well-attested variety of sexual activity with animals, and that is felching. I do not know how far the classical education of the noble Lord goes—certainly when researching this particular offence I began to understand why classics is a popular subject at university—but he will perhaps be aware that Messalina won a competition with a prostitute for suffocating stoats. She won with 25 stoats in 24 hours. I do not believe that anyone takes it to quite that extent now, but certainly the use of gerbils appears to be popular, and snakes and other animals. As I understand it, it is both a male and female practice.

It seems to me that if we are going to outlaw what one might call conventional penetration of a human by an animal, that is, of using a large animal's penis to do the penetration, one should similarly outlaw the use of a whole smaller animal to undertake the penetration. I do not see the difference in the quality of the offence. If one is outrageous to public decency in the public imagination, then it seems that the other one should be too.

Amendment No. 166 addresses the question of sex with a dead animal. Again, I do not see the quantitative difference between one and the other, particularly when you have well-known sexual practices on the borderline such as avisodomy, which is the practice of breaking a hen's neck at the moment before penetration so that you benefit from the spasms that the animal undergoes afterwards. That, as the Government have drafted the Bill, would seem to be legal, since the animal is certainly clinically dead once its neck has been broken, even if it continues to move.

If we are to have this as an offence, it might at least have logical boundaries. That is, if one is interfering with an animal in a way which would be considered full-on sex, as it were, then that is not to be allowed. As I understand it, neither the noble Lord nor I are proposing that masturbating an animal should be an offence, or using an animal in the process of masturbation. It is the only example of bestiality that I have ever personally observed, and I cannot say that it was a pleasant sight.

Leaving that aside, we ought to have boundaries which are drawn in a reasonably logical place and which reflect the current practice of bestiality, rather than something which perhaps has been drawn from a civil service cushioned from coming across these matters on a day-to-day basis. I beg to move.