Are swinger clubs in Britain legal?

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Digging deeper into legalities of swinging

By Aphrodite

Whilst at first glance, it may seem that swinger clubs and parties are perfectly legal in Britain, a little deeper digging reveals Acts of Parliament that can easily be used to prosecute the owners of clubs and others hosting swinger parties.

Most people assume that swinger clubs are completely legal in 21st century Britain. They certainly should be in a modern, liberated democracy. In Holland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, France and Spain there is absolutely no question about it. When people in those countries attend a swinger party in a swinger club they are attending a legal event in a legal establishment.

In Britain, the water is actually quite murky. There is certainly no act of Parliament that directly defines swinging as being illegal. There are none that define a swinger party as being an illegal event. Neither are there any that specifically forbid the setting up of premises for the purpose of holding such events. So if neither swinging itself nor the setting up of swinging clubs is unlawful, how can there possibly be any question about the legality of swinger clubs and parties?

Disorderly Houses Act of 1751.

Well first of all, let us turn our attention to a very old act of parliament which is still on the statute books: the Disorderly Houses Act of 1751. The purpose of this act is stated as being; for the better preventing Thefts and Robberies, and for regulating places of public entertainment, and punishing persons keeping disorderly houses.?

If that all sounds very archaic and quite irrelevant to the topic of this article, think again. In fact, the Disorderly House Act was used as recently as 2006 against people holding S&M parties. It was more famously used in the mid 1990s against Club Whiplash.
The charge of keeping a disorderly house can be applied to both men and women. In order to break the law you simply need to be in charge of an area where activities take place which can deprave or corrupt.

In the cases described above, the depravity referred to the sado-masochistic activities that went on in the house but it can also be defined so as to include situations where More than two couples are engaged in sexual intercourse in the same room.
In the case of Club Whiplash a two week trial resulted in a not-guilty verdict because it was decided that members of the public could not be depraved or corrupted by what went on as they were private members of the club. It is the private members get-out that owners of swinger party venues will most often gleefully quote as evidence that they are running a perfectly legal activity.

However, if there is a swingers club which might be conceivably used by a member of the public then the owners or managers of the club are still at risk. Even when, as in the Whiplash case, the members are NOT paying any kind of fee.

2008 Update - Act Repealed

Since writing the above, the Disorderly Houses Act of 1751 has been repealed (in 2008).

Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982, SCHEDULE 3

More worrying for the owners of swinger clubs these days is the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982, SCHEDULE 3 whereby any regular gathering for the purposes of sexual entertainment can find itself subject to the requirements this act.

It requires that meetings must take place in an approved place and to be in accordance with a licence issued by the Licensing Officer. Sexual acts that anyone present are able to watch and participate in could be defined as entertainment.

So is there anything to stop a swinger club from applying for the necessary, Sexual entertainment licence? Well in theory, no there isn't but getting one granted when the express activity of the club is made clear might be a different story. In any case it will cost money and would have to be the premises owner who makes the application. In reality few, if any swinger club is likely to be in a position to overcome these obstacles, although there have been two clubs that were successful in obtaining licences. One was La Chambre in Sheffield and the other was Caesers in Basal Common, near Coventry. Both are now closed down after existing for many years.

The vast majority of swinger clubs have either never realised they need to apply for a licence, or decided that the chances of the law being used against them was too small to worry about. They may well be right but there are always influential people in every local community who might sometimes use their power and influence to bring the weight of the law down upon those they disapprove of.

Sexual Offences Act 2003 and Brothel Keeping

Finally, in addition to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 requirements, swinger clubs need to be concerned about the risk of employing sex-workers. Many do, simply to add to the always limited numbers of single females voluntarily attending events. By employing more than one sex worker the club automatically makes itself vulnerable to the; Sexual Offences Act 2003. The act makes it an offence for: A person to keep, or to manage, or act or assist in the management of, a brothel to which people resort for practices involving prostitution (whether or not also for other practices).

Keeping the employment of sex workers a secret is not so easy as it might sound because the workers inevitably demand substantial fees from the club who then have to pass this additional overhead onto those attending the event. Naturally, couples and single females are most unlikely to pay the premium fee required to cover the costs and the clubs are forced to levy it solely against single males. This can easily be established if a complaint is made and an investigation follows.

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