Dudgeon v. United Kingdom
Dudgeon v. United Kingdom was a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) case, similar to the U.S. cases of Bowers v. Hardwick and Lawrence v. Texas.
Jeffrey Dudgeon was a shipping clerk and gay activist in Belfast, Northern Ireland, when he was interrogated by the Royal Ulster Constabulary about his sexual activities. He filed a complaint with the European Commission of Human Rights, which declared his complaint admissible to the European Court of Human Rights. On 22 October 1981, the Court agreed with the commission that Northern Ireland's criminalisation of homosexual acts between consenting adults was a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, the ruling continued, "it was for countries to fix for themselves...any appropriate extension of the age of consent in relation to such conduct."
As a consequence, male homosexual sex was decriminalised in Northern Ireland in 1982. (Female homosexual behaviour was never criminal anywhere in the United Kingdom.) Male homosexual behaviour was previously decriminalised in England and Wales in 1967, and in Scotland in 1980. It remained illegal in the neighbouring Republic of Ireland, however - ironically, under the same nineteenth century British law struck down by the ECHR in Northern Ireland - until 1995, following the ECHR decision in Norris v. Ireland (1993), for which Dudgeon was the keystone precedent.
Dudgeon v. United Kingdom was cited by Justice Anthony Kennedy in his opinion in the aforementioned Lawrence decision of the Supreme Court of the United States.
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