Although I was a lawyer, I commit a crime by loving my partner

A couple holding hands

How life has changed for people like me (Picture: Getty)

I met my partner in 1967 when I first moved to London to study for the Bar.

We were in a blissful relationship for 52 years prior to his untimely death.

Homosexuality was decriminalized just before our relationship began, but as a couple we were still breaking the law because I was 22 and he was 19.

For sex to be legal, it had to be private, between consensual parties, and both had to be over the age of 21.

That didn’t deter us and we continued like this for the next two years until he celebrated his 21st birthday.

While we could be prosecuted, my law firms have been aware of my sexuality since my early school days, not least because I would take my partner to every social occasion.

He was received with warmth and affection.

Back then, legal practice was very different.

It was a very small profession, less than two thousand of us lawyers across the country.

We were all passing, mostly white, public school educated men with moderately conservative views.

And nobody came out.

While that was the official state of affairs over the radar, the reality was very different.

That’s because I was in a group of educated, decent, kind men (there weren’t any women among us then) who were comfortable with their own sexuality and untroubled by another life choice. So you just kept on living and working, while everything seemed to feel good.

Then section 28 came along.

This pernicious excess of Thatcherism, which banned the “promotion of homosexuality” in schools in 1988, seemed to unleash the explosion of lurking homophobia that had previously kept many supposedly straight men in check.

Jokes about “dorky boys” and flabby wrists became commonplace in our dressing rooms (where we donned our official robes) across the country, and because nobody—absolutely nobody—had come out by then, we were shamefully silent.

But many of us assumed it didn’t matter what locker room culture threw at us and thought it wouldn’t affect our career advancement opportunities.

How wrong we were.


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My job was going well, I knew I deserved to climb to the bottom rung of the judges’ ladder by being appointed assistant clerk.

However, I was summoned to the then Lord Chancellor’s officers to learn that Lord Chancellor Baron Hailsham would never appoint me, a gay man, to be a judge at any level.

I left the meeting dejected, but was pleased to be advised that although I appeared unfit to sit as a judge, I could still be considered for Silk.

After more years of endless paperwork and lawsuits as a junior barrister, I envisioned the more sedate life of a QC.

With fewer but larger cases, I looked forward to the financial security that eludes most juniors, especially those working in the publicly funded sector.

Wrong again!

Although I undoubtedly had a practice worthy of Seiden by this point, I was blocked by an influential senior judge whose “over my dead body” attitude towards officials was prevalent.

It was now 1993. Lord MacKay, then Lord Chancellor, had absolutely no idea what was going on behind his back and has always treated me courteously and fairly.

At the time, I could have continued the ever-demanding life of a junior — lagging behind with paperwork, juggling court journals, and being shamed by selfish judges if I was a minute late.

Luckily I had an ally. In the 90’s I acted for many Welsh local authorities in their never-ending disputes with the Tory Government and was often spearheaded by Derry Irvine, then Shadow Lord Chancellor.

He heard what was going on and decided to take on the establishment.

A seasoned tactician, he sought and obtained permission from John Smith, then leader of the Labor Party, and presented an ultimatum to the officials who blocked my appointment.

‘Since we all agree that this man deserves silk and since he is being blocked by improper prejudice, either he gets silk this year or the opposition leader will make a problem of it!’

Those were strong, powerful words and I’m glad they worked.

My letter of appointment arrived, without irony, on April 1, 1993.

Since then I’ve enjoyed a varied and fruitful life, doing the work I love at a level I enjoy and with the financial security that comes with it.

How has life changed for people like me! Instead of being whispered, diverse sexuality is not only tolerated but celebrated.

The introduction of civil partnership by the Labor government and then same-sex marriage by David Cameron’s Conservatives changed the landscape.

An aspiring gay lawyer no longer has to hide his feelings and even feel compelled to join in the ridicule of his peers.

We have openly gay senior judges, MPs, government ministers and the Inner Temple is hosting a dinner on June 25th to celebrate the LGBTQ+ legal community.

So life today is very different than it was in the 1960s when I was a young man. Still, I caution against feeling too complacent.

There are very real concerns that the same stigma that marked a gay man or woman in my youth is now being felt by members of the trans community.

Although we are now more aware and accepting than an earlier generation, our trans peers may feel that they have not yet gained the dignity and respect previously denied to other previously marginalized groups.

We must learn from the mistakes of the past, otherwise we will repeat them in the future.

Do you have a story you would like to share? Contact us by email at jess.austin@metro.co.uk.

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Metro.co.uk celebrates 50 years of pride

This year we are celebrating 50 years of Pride so it only seems fitting that Metro.co.uk goes above and beyond in our ongoing LGBTQ+ support with a wealth of content that not only celebrates all things Pride, but also share stories, take time to reflect and raise awareness for the community this Pride month.

MORE: Find all of Metro.co.uk’s Pride coverage here

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During Pride Month, which runs June 1-30, Metro.co.uk will also support Kyiv Pride, a Ukrainian charity forced to work harder than ever to defend the rights of the LGBTQ+ community in times of conflict protection. To learn more about their work and what you can do to support them, click here.

https://metro.co.uk/2022/06/06/even-though-i-was-a-lawyer-i-commit-a-crime-by-loving-my-partner-16763777/ Although I was a lawyer, I commit a crime by loving my partner

Justin Scacco

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