In the UK in December 1990, a number of gay men were given prison
sentences, some suspended, and others fined for engaging in consensual
SM activity. This followed a police investigation called Operation
Spanner prompted by the chance finding of a videotape of SM
activities. The videotape showed a number of identifiable men engaging
in heavy SM activities including beatings, genital abrasions and lacerations,
although none of the men suffered injuries requiring medical attention.
The evidence against the men comprised the videotape
and their own statements. When questioned by the police, the men
were so confident that their activities were lawful (because they
had consented to them) that they freely admitted to taking part
in the activities on the video. Without these statements and the
videotape, the police would have had no evidence to present against
the men and would have found it impossible to bring any prosecutions.
For the most part, the men were convicted of the
standard offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. Their
defence, that they had all consented to the activities, was denied.
Some of the defendants appealed their convictions both to the Court
of Appeal and Law Lords in UK and to the European Court of Human
Rights in Strasbourg, but their convictions were upheld.