Cardinal O’Brien ‘might be guilty of criminal act’

Cardinal Keith O'Brien. Picture: Getty
Cardinal Keith O'Brien. Picture: Getty
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CARDINAL O’Brien committed a criminal act under Scots law if allegations made about him are correct, the chairman of a gay lobby group said yesterday.

Terry Smith, chairman of Direct Action, said that if, as has been reported, Cardinal O’Brien made “inappropriate” advances on a 20-year-old seminarian in 1980 he was breaking the law, as the age of consent for homosexual acts at that time was 21.

Prior to 1980 any homosexual acts were illegal under Scots law. The introduction of the Criminal Justice Act 1980 which was pushed through by the late Robin Cook, decriminalised gay sex in Scotland among consenting adults in private but set the age of consent at 21.

Mr Smith said that in the early 1980s the Crown Office prosecuted people for “attempting to procure the commission of a homosexual act”. Yesterday, he said: “For anyone to approach a person under the age of 21 with a view to any sexual practice would be an attempt to procure the commission of a homosexual act contrary to the 1980 act.”

He said that it would depend when in 1980 the incident had taken place: “If it was prior to the act it was an offence of common law and if it was after the 1980 act came in he would have committed “an attempt to procure the commission of a homosexual act” which was a statutory offence. Up until 1995 any approach to anyone under the age of 21 would be illegal.

“It is rather difficult to say as I was the first one to criticise these laws as ludicrous at the time, but nevertheless he must have well known that, at the time, he was behaving in such a manner that they were unlawful.”

Yesterday, after reports that an individual had demanded a police investigation into Cardinal O’Brien’s behaviour a spokesman for Lothian & Borders Police said: “Police will treat any report of crime from a potential victim or witness sensitively and professionally and they can be assured that we will carry out a thorough and robust investigation.

“No individuals have come forward to report having been the victim of or having witnessed any criminal behaviour on the part of Cardinal O’Brien, and as such there is no criminal investigation being carried out.”