Sunday, 10 April 2011

Age of Consent - Sense and Independence

The judiciary has done its independent duty admirably. To those who expressed doubts to me and others, I trust that now the absolute and resolute character of the judiciary, which I have personally not doubted, is put beyond doubt. The decision on the age of consent is proof, if any was ever needed, which I do not believe it was, that Gibraltar's legal and judicial system delivers judgments based on jurisprudence and independence and not prejudices or  partialities. The cynics (and there have been many even on this blog, although I have not been able to publish their comments for legal reasons) should now be well and truly silenced.

Proof of judicial independence and impartiality is not, however, the issue. This, for me , is stating the obvious. The whole case raises more fundamental questions in the political rather than the legal sphere that need some thought and debate. One political debate revolves around the government using the courts to overcome politically sensitive debate and controversy, when the European jurisprudence is clear on an issue. This question arises because the litigation was brought to Court by the executive arm of government in the guise of the Chief Minister and the Attorney General. This is a matter for concern of itself but more so because there is no separation of powers between the executive arm of government and the legislative arm of government.

The whole case is a perfect example of the failure of this aspect of our system of government. Legislating on controversial but necessary laws (not only for reasons of good governance but also because of the requirements to enact European Union and European Human Rights compliant laws) becomes not just a party political issue. They become personal moral and popularity issues because our laws are essentially diktats of any given  Chief Minister at any given moment in history. If there was a true separation of powers between the executive and the legislature an element of dilution would exist that would permit for better legislation generally and specifically on unpopular and controversial subjects. Legislation often should and does not have a party political element. It is necessary for the purposes of delivering good governance. The separation of powers helps to deliver an ability to legislate more objectively.

The "age of consent' issue is not yet over. Aspects of laws have been declared to be incompatible with the fundamental rights contained in Chapter 1 of the 2006 Constitution. The Chief Justice has rightly directed in his judgment that " ... until such time as the legislature amend the offending provisions no prosecutions which offend the declarations may be brought." The overall effect of this statement and the declarations made is that consensual sexual activity, whether vaginal or anal,  in private between consenting persons over the age of 16 has been decriminalised.

Decriminalising these acts does not amount to the law giving positive permission to encourage such behaviour. What the law is doing is drawing a reasonable line, bearing in mind competing interests, for example the protection of  minors measured against prevalent moral behaviour in society at large.  In so doing the law is avoiding the practical issue of enforcing the unenforceable and also the need to prosecute young persons and criminalise any for the rest of their lives for consensual behaviour in private. It is easy to argue the opposite intellectually and objectively on moral grounds but those who do should put themselves in the place of parents of young boys and girls who may have faced the awful prospect of public prosecution and imprisonment when what all involved wished for the continuation of a stable relationship between, for example, parents of a child born of a 15 year old mother, Yes they do succeed. I know.

The debate politically is now more difficult, do the politicians row back and reverse a position that now reigns by increasing the age of consent for the sake of gaining popularity from amongst the religious pressure groups? I would hope not. I fully appreciate and understand the stance adopted by religious groups. Taken to an extreme, based on their morality and perspective, the law should crimialise all sexual activity outside marriage. That is the rule of most if not every religion. The law does not do so. One reason for not doing so is because there has to be a distinction drawn between morality and the law.

Morality is the primary responsibility of parents and religions. The criminal law has a tendency to step in where moral issues affect or undermine society as a whole or parts of society and to regulate general good order. I am a strong advocate of good personal moral behaviour. I am also a sinner like all, as Jesus Christ was at great pains to point out. Let each individual and each parent and each religious minister take responsibility for moral behaviour, that is their respective individual duty. Let the law step in when it becomes necessary for good order and the benefit of society at large. Our politicians need to think long and hard about the wider issues and debate and not narrow their arguments to pure religion and moralistic considerations.

All in all a great day for the judicature, jurisprudence and the rule of law, that it would be was never doubted by me. The other side of the coin is that it is a sad day for government and legislature and so democracy. Governments and legislatures have a duty to act maturely especially to avoid discrimination and unfair treatment of minorities (including heterosexual couples who enjoy anal sex) and when faced with unpopular decisions. The age of consent debate at a political level has now been usurped by a decision of a court of law, because to now increase the "age of consent" is to criminalise an act that, today, is not susceptible to prosecution.

Recourse to a judicial decision under the fundamental rights contained in chapter 1 of the 2006 Constitution should only have been necessary if someone's rights had been transgressed. It should  not have been used by the Government, which it has, as a substitute for political decision and a shield to hide from political responsibility and duty on an issue of law on which European jurisprudence is so clear.


  1. In Gibraltar, every but every decision taken by Govt is viewed in terms of votes gained or lost and this has been no different. Govt was unwilling to do the right thing here based on the personal moral views of various ministers.

    These very same ministers can now turn around to what they believe is an electorate stuck somewhere in the last century and claim that their hands are tide and have no choice but to equalise the age of consent, even though they do not agree.

    It may have cost the tax payer but embarcking on a juidical review was always going to be a win win situation for the GSD .. whatever the outcome.

  2. I personally believe it is up to the parents to teach children the difference between right and wrong and instil on them a sense of morality, to last them throughout their lives beyond their teenage years.
    Criminalising consensual sex between teenagers only serves to make a bad situation worse. I do agree with Felix Alvarez, however, when he suggested a 'near to age' clause for under 18's be introduced into the law, thus criminalising the 30 year old adult engaging in sex with an under-18 year old, regardless of the sex of either partner and sexual orientation.
    Whereas the misuse of drugs, alcohol and tobacco requires the law to ensure those that sell to children are punished for this, sexual activity is a completely different issue.
    However, those in favour of the consensual age being raised to 18, argue that an under-18 year old cannot vote, drink, smoke, drive or actually watch an x-rated film, and yet that child could legally have sex, so where do we go from here?
    I agree the Government should have had the courage of its convictions and taken a decision either way, but that could have cost it some votes.

    Anna Conda

  3. Good afternoon all

    Several issues spring to my mind after reading Robert's piece (BTW, this opinion piece is as good an article as any that you'd find in a respected broadsheet paper like the Telegraph or Times... well done).

    Firstly, without doubt, the way that the whole age of consent issue has been directed through Parliament reflects very badly on us as a people. Of course there should be a separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches our Government. It is unhealthy for our society that this should be allowed to continue. This contentious age of consent issue has been a prime example of this.

    Secondly, I don't think that the issue should have ended up on Chief Justice Dudley's desk in the first place; I am sure that he has better things to devote his time to. This is not because the issue is unworthy but more that anybody can see that it is clearly unfair that the age of consent is not equal between hetero and homosexuals. You don't need a Chief Justice to spend his time to tell you that!

    In any event, the issue to my mind is what age this should be set at. For me, 16 is too young for an individual to make an informed decision on this matter, with 18 a more appropriate age.

    Lastly, I don't have your many years of experience as a lawyer Robert. I understand your point of view but I would have thought that the lawful choice should always be the moral one also?

  4. This ruling is undoubtedly the correct one. I find the "Evangelicals" response rather disturbing; it is not for any sector of society to impose its morals on others. Anal sex has not been made compulsory.....those who have no wish to engage in this have nothing at all to worry about.

    Personally I find the "close to age" argument a bit patronising. We would effectively be telling over 16's that they can have sex.....but limiting their choice of partner. Surely is is up to them? The whole point of this ruling is to respect the rights of individuals....for freedom of choice in sexual partners....male or female. As long as there is consent, and all parties are over 16 it is entirely a matter for them.

    One question that I hope someone can answer is whether the absurdly narrow definition of "in private" still applies. As the law stood over 18 yr old men could have sex with other over 18's "in private" which meant that the mere presence of a third party made it an offence. With heterosexual or lesbian sex, any number of willing active participants could be involved as long as they were over 16. Has this been affected by the ruling? I see no sensible purpose for keeping it as it was....I am not suggesting people should be allowed to have sex in the middle of Main St, but the definition of "in private" needs to be radically altered.

  5. From the perspective of a 3rd year law student it seems incredible that the CM, a lawyer himself, has wasted tax payers money taking such an issue to court.
    There was ever only one possible/realistic outcome that could have come out from such a case.
    RV you are right, if the CM blamed pressure from such religious groups for failing to lower the age of consent for buggery, why then does he not feel the same pressure to criminalise pre marital sex for heterosexuals. If I were to be gay i would be extremely upset at the Govt for not standing up for my fundamental rights, ie equality before the law.

  6. Darren

    The ruling does deal with the issue of the meaning of "in private". It declares that the law that criminalises only homosexual conduct in public lavatories and in groups is not compatible with the fundamental rights in Chapter 1 of the 2006 Constitution.

  7. Great entry Robert.

    Perhaps the comment I made in your other piece would be better suited here:

    I don’t think it’s been said enough but Chief Justice Dudley should be commended for his decision in reducing the age of consent. It’s a shame that both many ministers and shadow ministers were reluctant to publically speak out on the matter and it reflects the (in my opinion) backwards and disappointing mentality that many Gibraltarians still have, but at least slowly but surely Gibraltar as a whole is coming to terms with the issue. Neither of the big party’s have to worry about losing votes to that percentage of our population who is STILL against the age of consent having been lowered, but at least the right thing has been done and Gibraltar is being brought up to speed with the rest of the modern world.

    Congratulations to the Chief Justice.

  8. The Govt has behaved like a child dragging his feet after becoming aware that they ought to do s/thing yet through their stubbornness refused to do it, and only doing it once they have had no other option but to do it.
    Why have they thought it was fine to discriminate against homosexuals without even any lawful/credible justification.
    Homosexuals have been insulted and degraded by the Govt when they should be protected as a minority by them.
    Religion has no room in the argument, if it did sexual relations outside wedlock should be criminalized for all. Govt should not pick and choose what laws it should back because there is a religious theory behind them.

  9. If the case was so clear why did the British government and the union Unite weigh in in support of the Gay lobby? I have not read the Chief Justice's ruling and I do not for a moment doubt his independence but I am concerned to read in the Chronicle that the Government withdrew its point on the medical evidence at the last moment. I recall that the Evangelical Alliance referred to a BMA report which said that boys of the age of 16 & 17 were more likely to contract AIDS than any other age group. How did the CJ deal with that? I take my hat off to GGR. So far they have acheived all their objectives but as Charlie Trico made clear the buggery case is just one more milestone. Next in the GGR's web page are gay addoption and marriage.

  10. Anonymous at 18:26

    The Chief Justice invited interested persons to apply to be joined. I do not know the reasons why the British Government or Unite weighed in. I assume that in the case of both of them it was to ensure that all the arguments were before the court. In the case of the British Government, I can deduce that an additional reason is that if the matter went all the way to the European Courts they may well have been the infracting party as the state government constitutionally charged with foreign affairs and compliance with international obligations.

  11. Excellent post Robert.

    I just wanted to say that I am glad Dudley made the right, and sensible, decision. It was a great moment for Gibraltar, even if it should have happened a long time ago.

    I agree with Paco in that it was a waste of Dudley's time and it ideally should not have even reached his desk, and I otherwise completely agree with 18:17.

  12. Robert, you miss my point. I am just saying if it was so clear that the age of consent had to be reduced it seems odd to me that the UK govt and the biggest trades union should have bothered to brief expensive lawyers to attend. I suggest that the people in the know both in Whitehall and Transport house did not think that equalisation was such a foregone conclusion. I am all for equality but I would like to know how medical evidence that 16 and 17 year olds who were apparently said to be in the high risk group was dealt with by the court. How can I get a copy of the ruling?

  13. Anonymous at 18:44

    I do not miss your point you choose not to see the point.

    On medical issues, the Court directed that medical evidence would need to be called. Thereafter the Chief Minister and the Attorney General chose not to proceed with that ground and abandoned it.

  14. If the Chief minister and the AG did not call medical evidence it suggests to me that they were not that keen in winning the case bacause apart from any medical evidence of the dangers of buggery I cannot see any reasonable objection to equalisation. If that is what happened then I agree that the government wasted the court's time.

  15. Anonymous at 18:52

    I do not believe that your conclusion follows.

  16. L.E.F. says,

    This post brings up a wide and varied number of issues to debate but I will focus on the farce our Parliament is and how we the public have to witness and finance this charade.

    This proposed amendement to a criminal bill by Mr Feetham was put to the house as a private members bill because Mr Caruana's Government could not sponsor such an amendment on so called moral grounds.

    The only time morality has been an issue in Parliament. What a joke .As if there have not been more important isues when MPs should have exercised their conscience on moral grounds.

    How come no MP'S conscience were moved with Joanna Hernandez case as an example. How come no MP's conscience is moved with the inequality our Morrocan brothers face in Gibraltar.

    What conscience are we talking about? The conscience of greed and power I suppose.

    The law had to be changed to conform to EU legislation on the grounds of inequality. We had to act as a mature democracy and decide how to solve the issue. We still do.

    Instead we got the type of reaction which is so typical from both GSD and GSLP. Instead of leadership and solving a problem within our democratic means we were presented with this lack of respect to the electorate from both Government and Opposition.

    As always if the GSD says black then GSLP say white. If GSLP say yes GSD says no.

    Our elected members cannot even sort themselves out to debate and discuss such a matter. They are both responsible for this extra cost involving the courts when the matter has to be finalised in Parliament.

    Neither of them can see the merits of their opponents view. What a way to be governed if decisions are made solely on the basis of never agreeing with your rival's view.

    Poor us Llanitos.

    We all knew that this saga was going nowhere, including the opposition who played along , instead of voting yes like responsible MP's.

    Both parties played to the gallery without assuming the respect that our Parliament and we as people deserve.

    To make matters worst of the 17 MP'S only 12 turned up to vote.

    5 MP'S did not think this vote important enough to attend.

    Of those 12 MP'S present the 5 Opposition members voted no along with Caruana,Vinet,Del Agua.

    Feetham,Reyes,Montiel,Netto voted yes .

    There was no collective interest on either side to tackle the issue at hand . This is what we must change. This us and them which blinds us to the issues we have to face united as a people.

    Im my opinion I again have to applaud Mr Feetham for being the only responsible MP able to recognize an inequality and trying to solve the problem.

    Vote change lets break the block vote mentality

  17. L.E.F, I wasn't aware of all that, very insightful, thank you.

  18. Excellent post Robert!

    All well argued... particularly on the subject of the independence of the Judiciary!

    As for the issue at hand, I am just especially pleased, that finally, in Gibraltar, sex between consenting adults, whatever their sexual persuasion, has now been decriminalised.

    Thank you for an excellently written, thoughtful article!

  19. Robert, I noted various writers' praise for Chief Justice Dudley's decision on the age of consent issue.

    I must say though, that above all, the absolute credit is due to Minister for Justice Daniel Feetham who in the fist instance presented and fought the matter in Parliament...

    Personally I am proud to have witnessed a Gibraltar Minister presenting an issue that was so clearly controversial, which so much clout and pragmatism.

    Perhaps all that propaganda about all GSD ministers been 'yes' men is a little dead in the woods after all.....

  20. Boys aged 16 & 17 are hardly adults. Cybernest you appear to have lost the plot. In Gibraltar, buggery between consenting adult men over 18 was decriminalised in 1993.

  21. At the risk of sounding patronising, Robert, that was your best post to date. Succinct, painstakingly, factually informed and with all the hallmarks of a sound and objective mind. Primo Pita needs to buy himself some new sheepdogs. Us Llanito 'sheep' are far more wiley than he gives us credit for. Our bleats are more in unison and we are seeing how high-handed manipulations, masquerading as morality, are causing many to turn their backs on them. [No pun intended!] Please keep us on our toes young man. You are hitting all the right notes.

    El Primo mayor de Seneca.

  22. Danny Feetham deserves all the credit, but in doing so, it shows up the awful way this Government has handled this issue.
    The question to be asked, is why Danny had to do this in the first place, with his own Chief Minister voting against him, knowing full well that a court of law would prove against His decision.
    Therefore, a cynic might say that this was orchestrated from the beginning, that Caruana knew this had to be implemented but that he would lose support among the pious christian voters that prayed for him during the last election, when the GSD & the GSLP were neck & neck.
    A cynic might also agree with Him, that the best man for the job would be the dispensable Justice Minister who, in case it all went wrong, the GSD can easily disassociate themselves from him, and remind the core elite, of his roots and how he's not really one of them at all.
    A cynic can also see through this whole charade, and instead of congratulating Danny, feel sorry for him for being hand picked as the sacrificial lamb!

    Anna Conda

  23. Robert, have you considered the logical consequences of what you have written? You say that because the Chief Justice made a decision which you approved of it shows that the judiciary is admirable and independent. The inescapable corollary of that is that if the court had decided otherwise it would not have been independent but prejudiced and partial.

  24. Charles

    I was waiting for your reaction. I believe that your logic is flawed and your comment mischievous in your inimitable style. I do not make my statemetn because the judiciary has come to a decision with which I approve. I have clearly stated in my first paragraph that I have never personally doubted the impartiality and independence of the judiciary. In fact I have always staunchly defended that fact in many pieces and comments that I have published on this blog.

    I say it because

    (1) of the cynics and doubters that I refer to in my first paragraph who were highly sceptical that this could be the result in Gibraltar;
    (2) of European jurisprudence that, in my view, is clear on the subject;
    (3) because, on my reading of the judgment, it is well argued in order to come to its conclusion.

    I am entitled to a subjective view in any event.

    If the opposite view had and could have been supported by argument in a judgment the impatialllity and independence of the court would equally have been maintained. I repeat the basis of my statement is that there were many cynics and doubters, as stated in 1 above. My piece is intended as a reply to those cynics and doubters. If I did not make this clear, I apologise.

  25. Robert, if you are going to tar people who raise legitimate concerns as mischievous then your much vaunted claim to champion democracy requires further careful scrutiny. After all I thought you ascribed the tactics of ad hominem attacks on those who do not agree, to the GSD! Certainly those are the tactics of dictatorial regimes most recently the Political Correct regime! Moreover, you confuse a strong desire for the application of logic and straight thinking in public affairs with mischief making. That is, with respect, a reflection on you and those who think like you. I will continue to tell it as I think it is in this and every other venue even if this does not involve joining the band wagon of back slappers and toadies! :)

  26. Charles

    I think you take my mischief comment too seriously! It was intended simply to indicate that you wished to get me into trouble with the judiciary! I made a great effort in my piece to understand and give credence to the religious view.

    You are free to tell it as you think it is.You will also see that I never shy away from publishing your views, unlike others. I respect them but it seems that we disagree on this one.

  27. I am ritually accused of mischief making when promoting causes that do not meet with the approval of the free loaders and old boy net workers who ride the band wagon, so, I assure you that I know exactly where you are coming from, Bob. What I do not understand is your suggestion that I want to get you into trouble with the judiciary. We are grown men and we are not talking about "the head master"! I appreciate that there is a condition known as "judgitis" which has been defined as " a haughty manner coupled with a god-like self-image" - surely you are not suggesting that any of our judges suffer from this such as to be capable of causing trouble for you for speaking your mind.

  28. Guiri says;

    Good piece, RVLLW.

    The issue ought never to have got to Court. Once it did, the result was more or less inevitable. For the Court to have decided other than how it did would have caused concern, given the Chief Minister's clear stance on the issue and the Constitution's less than ideal protection of the Judge's position. That the Chief Justice made the right decision is worthy of acknowledgement.

  29. Charles

    I take your comment in the spirit that I believe it is made :)

    You know very well that I respect you whilst not always agreeing with you.

  30. I have 1 question only. What did the Judge say about the danger of AIDS to young men of 16 to 18? I think that everyone is so caught up in their little worlds that the people most at risk have been forgotten. Well done the Evangelical Alliance for standing out. If the government don't have the guts to appeal Charles Gomez should take this matter to the highest court. I am prepared to contribute to a fund to revoke this court order and Iam sure that many thousands of Gibraltarians wil join me.

  31. Anonymous at 19:21

    what has AIDS got to do with the legal issue? It is an illness that has to be prevented by sex education. It strikes at any age and its strikes heterosexuals as well as homosexuals. It may be more prevalent amongst homosexuals but I repeat it is not age related. You put forward an argument that is irrelevant to the issue. You are scaremongering ... sad really to resort to this.

  32. Robert you say earlier the legal position was clear, why did the opposition vote against the reduction to 16 of the age of consent for homosexuals when it came before parliament last year?

  33. Thank you Robert, it's really great to see a politician speak out on the matter in such an open, sensible and fair way.

    I wish more of them in Gibraltar would have the courage to follow suit.

    I'm a GSLP voter who would only consider voting for the GSD if Caruana were to step down, but I think as others have already mentioned Feetham should be commended for the role he has played in all of this.

    Truly one of the very few ministers who has earned both his pay and his votes from the last election in my opinion.

  34. Anonymous at 21:43

    I am not a member of the opposition so I do not know but surely the question is why did the government not use its majority to pass a law proposed by one of its own members, a Minister and so a part of the Executive ... where did the principle of collective responsibility disappear to? Why was Feetham forced by the GSD government to present the Bill as a Private Members Bill? Your attempt to shift responsibility is puerile. It is the Government that has the duty, responsibility and obligation to govern, not that of the opposition.

  35. AIDS not age related? The BMA says that it is and that the most vulnerable age group is 16 & 17 which is the age group which the Age of Consent case was all about.

  36. Anonymous at 22:01

    And where does the BMA say that?

  37. Devils Advocate..

    Dear Robert,

    It was a pleasure to finally to meet you in person and highlight the interest I obtain from reading/contributing topics, within your forum.

    Perhaps one day I can join for a more in depth chat?

    I'll get the rounds!


  38. Devils Advocate

    A pleasure ... I am at the Royal Calpe with Philip most evenings but Fridays are the best :)

  39. Sorry but in your desire to have a go at the Government you miss the obvious. The Government was completely divided on the issue both in principle and on the legal issue. Caruana has always said he was against the lowering of the age of consent for homosexuals as a matter of principle due to religious reasons. He also said that the legal position was not clear enough to require the Government to act. Four government Ministers said that as a matter of principle homosexuals should be treated equally and that the legal position was sufficiently clear to require the reduction. The Opposition stood for election in 2003 and 2007 saying that they believed in equality for homosexuals. At the first opportunity of putting their money where their mouth is, they voted against the reduction. What is the more hypocritical position that of Caruana or the Opposition? It's the Opposition who constantly claim that the Government are not meeting their manifesto commitments and the first chance they get to meet one of theirs they renage on their commitment. I admire this blog and it's author but it is objectivity is gradually becoming skewered because of your obsession at lashing out at carauna.

  40. The GSD KNEW the new legislation would be passed, any half decent lawyer could have told you that.

    Caruana just didn't have what it takes to just go ahead and do it hence the need for Feetham.

    Think about it essentially they left it up to Dudley to decide, it was a WIN WIN situation.

    By each fighting "tooth and nail" for different rulings the GSD have ensured that they keep all their voters happy.


  41. Robert surely if the law was clear as you say, there was also an obligation on the official opposition to vote in favour of a reduction to 16 when they got a chance. Are you saying the Opposition have no obligation in this regard?

  42. Anonymous at 22:09 and 22:14

    You both presume too much. I do not defend the stance taken by the opposition but I do not consider that your argument in the comment that I reply to is a defence of the government.

  43. K would do you mean by "the GSD KNEW the new legislation would be passed"? Pisha you are a year out of zinc with the rest of us. There is no new legislation. And your friends in the Opposition, what about them? No seas fanatico rey.

  44. Kaelan there are four lawyers on the opposition benches all of which voted against the bill last year. I don't know whether they are half decent but your recent comments have tended to boomerang on you lol.

  45. Devils Advocate..

    I think its a shame that such a controversial topic has arisen within this delicate political time frame.

    Why this topic has emerged during this time frame makes me wonder?

    Perhaps if this topic was to be considered post election it could be that moral views would dominate the discussions/results.

    As it stands it appears that both parties in order to relinquish this hot topic have decided to go along with a more clinical stance and hide behind the legal veil.

    Such topics if debated appropiately can be used as tools for showing parties true moral values.

  46. L.E.F. says,

    To anon 21:43

    We can only speculate unless an opposition member explains their reasons for the undemocratic stance taken by so called Socialists and Liberals.

    Are not these parties foundations based on equality? Apparently not on this issue.

    My opinion is that even though the opposition acknowledged the discrimination in law they were not prepared to do the Governments dirty work for them.

    They put party interest before responsibility.

    Once again the opposition did not rise to the democratic challenges that Gibraltar faces.

    The Government is ultimately responsible and they could and should have voted yes . They have always passed whatever law they felt like. Why not this one?

    Full responsibility lies on the GSD government for the bill not being voted in . However the GSLP/LIBERALS washed their hands when for once they could have influenced a vote.

    Vote Change we deserve much more from our elected representatives.

  47. What I meant by new legislation was the new changes crusaded for within the aforementioned legislation by the Gay Rights Gibraltar group.

    Anon 22:33

    I was well aware of this and did not agree with the oppositions stance on this particular occasion.

    No boomerang affect at all, merely calling them as I see them, as per usual :)


  48. As a GSLP supporter I am genuinely dissapointed that the aforementioned GSLP ministers did not vote for a reduction in the age of consent considering their manifesto promises.

    However, the sad reality is that Caruana has to get out of office, even if it means voting for the lesser of two evils.

  49. Anon 22:09
    If caruana voted against for religious reasons, his religion also says that any sort of premaital sex is forbidden, so why doesn't he propose to ban pre marital sex outright. Once religion comes into politics it becomes a dangerous game.

    Ask any lawyer (and I mean any lawyer) and they will tell u having a different age of consent is contrary to EU law. No doubt about it

  50. Kaelan,

    I think you and a couple of others are watching too many of those hollywood box office hits...

    You guys have somehow managed to turn this modern day legislative-judicial procedure into a Michael Douglas style drama.

    When it is Caruana who makes all the decisions, you say all the other Ministers are just Yes men, and when you have one in this case Feetham presenting a private bill and showing a strong sense of responsibility, you somehow find a sinister twist to the whole event.

    Gibraltar's major religion is Catholic. It is more than credible to assume that many in Parliament within the party would genuinely reject the proposal.

    What i do find amusing is how for the sake of party rivalry and not principle, the GSLP didn't support the motion. And EVEN MORE SURPRISING was the 'LIBERAL' PARTY'S lack of support! Are these the people we are going to 'vote for a change'? The ones who are more interested 'en llevar la contraria' than when correct, come in together with Government and vote for the Constitutional 'inevitability' if you like?

    Nevertheless, the motion took its course and Justice prevailed.

    Can't we just see the good in the fact that we have today a society whereby Government/a member of.. whatever you want, DID in fact present the case, and the rest followed? Without a dark twist perhaps? - Just... the case?

    I think its a triumph for Gibraltar and its evolution as a society and its so sad to see the cynicism and witch hunts wherever and whenever possible to discredit good deeds by our Government, who certainly do not always get it right, but credit where credit is due. -

    We should cut the minuti talk and hail this as a great day, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, for our current Legislative and Judicial system and then of course for homosexuals who no longer live in a jurisdiction 'less equal' than do heterosexuals.

    Ni mas Ni menos.

  51. Interesting view Devils Advocate. Perhaps as you say in a different time frame this subject could have been debated under a moral framework.Then again the age on consent proposed is now in line with that in the UK defeating the need for local debate. Being a colony has its advantages under these circumstances dont you think?

  52. We seem to have the GSD psychants out to try to discredit the opposition again. To Anon 00:33 Como puedes defender al GSD saying que "Feetham presenting a private bill and showing a strong sense of responsibility" does that mean that the GSD lacks responsibility??
    I was under the impression that it was the GSD that is in Government.
    On that note I will then say that since Feetham has been the only one to show responsibility and not the GSD as a Government I will not vote for them as I did before because they are in government and they are not responsible enough as anon 00;33 has confirmed. It seems to me that we should only vote for Feetham. (Not!!)

  53. We finally have equalisation of the age of consent, which is undoubtedly the correct outcome under law and under our Constitution. Now as a community we can have the debate over where to pin that age of consent (16 or 18 seem to be the most popular choices). THIS is the real debate. Over the matter of equalisation there should never have been a need to engage in such a long-drawn, expensive and ultimately pointless process.

  54. Anonymous 10:19

    Your argument is a feeble attempt to turn reality on its head. I for one am not certainly a GSD fan but I am happy to see that differences of opinion within a party exist when dealing with sensitive issues and that there is enough guts to take it forward even if the leader of the party is against the idea.

    Should Caruana mix politics and religion? I would hope not but the reality speaks for itself. Saying that though, there was an opportunity, in this instance, for the GSLP to have it's voice heard, and shape a law. They didn't rise to the occasion, and whatever it was that they were planning has at best not come to fruition and at worst backfired on them terribly.

    Ni GSD. Ni GSLP. Patata the whole lot of them.

  55. Siti Zen 00:33

    Don't be naive these people are geniuses.

    They are well aware that every action has a RE-ACTION.

    They never act in haste or without foreseeing the "ripple effect" their actions may have.

    Every little detail is thought of, every move carefully planned out. Think of it like a chess game but with higher stakes.

    Just because I don't agree with Caruana's vision does not mean I cannot acknowledge he has a truly great mind.

    Piensa un poko, things are not always what they seem.

    Ps - I voted for Feetham last time, what a waste of talent, I believe he will never amount to his true potential whilst in the GSD.


  56. To Anonymous at 22.19 - Just because a Member of Parliament takes an initiative, why do you assume it means or i meant that the other members don't have any? Are you not jumping the gun a little?

    Let me tell you Private Members Bills are very normal practice in Parliaments in London and several Commonwealth countries. They are not to be 'frowned upon' or taken as a a sign that other Members of Parliament are by comparison less responsible, less caring or less involved. I am sorry you see it that way.

    K - If the GSD are such geniuses, chess game, every move planned, never act in haste and every little detail thought of, how come you aint voting for them?

  57. Siti Zen

    Private Members Bills are normal practice if a person is a Member of Parliament not if someone is a Minister, which is what Daniel Feetham is. Ministers who are members of the Council of Ministers, and all Ministers in Gibraltar are, have "collective responsibility" so the fact that a Minister presents a Bill and is defeated is a brach of "collective responsibility" and in the UK would lead to resignation of a government and a General Election ... but Gibraltar is different ... where is democracy?

  58. Ziti Zan 19:48

    I stated Caruana and Feetham were geniuses NOT the GSD. I would never ever in a million years state such a thing as reality is far from it!!

    And the answer to your question would be....
    I TRUST the GSLP/LIBS more than what I trust the GSD. Plus they also have their fair share of great minds. : )

    PS- Any Chief Minister who is open to an Andorra type "solution" is a liability in my eyes!


  59. LW-RV

    One question, if the procedure in the UK is that Private Members Bills are introduced by MP`s who aren`t govt ministers why did Mininster Feetham avail himself of this procedure and was it correct for him to do so.

  60. Anonymous at 22:31

    It is a breach in y view of the principle of collective responsibility of a government.

  61. This topic has been thouroughly debated in most European countries including the UK. The result locally resembles that undertaken by these countries.
    If we are to think that any serious thought has been placed into this item for consideration and the outcome attributed to local debate we are fools at heart.This topic whether viewed upon from a moral, legal, parental, political perspective will always be open to debate.
    Hence in a nut shell adopt the age of consent in accordance with most EU countries.

  62. Anon 22:33

    Tu Che!

  63. Dear Robert,

    A joke I have found regarding age of consent.

    A policeman was patrolling near midnight at a local parking spot overlooking a golf course. He drove by a car and saw a couple inside with the dome light on. Inside there was a young man in the driver's seat reading a computer magazine and a young lady in the back seat calmly knitting.

    He stopped to investigate.

    He walked up to the driver's window and knocked. The young man looked up, obligingly cranked the window down, and said, "Yes, Officer?"

    "What are you doing?" the policeman asked.

    "What does it look like?" answered the young man. "I'm reading this magazine."

    Pointing towards the young lady in the back seat, the officer then asked, "And what is she doing?"

    The young man looked over his shoulder and replied, "I think she's knitting a sweater."

    Confused, the officer asked, "How old are you, young man?" "I'm nineteen," he replied.

    "And how old is she?" asked the officer.

    The young man looked at his watch and said,

    "Well, in about twelve minutes she'll be sixteen."

  64. Devils Advocate..

    Thought you might find that funny.


  65. Robert yet again your underlying motivation of criticising the Government leads you to make erroneous comments. Every member of our Parliament is subject to the principle of Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet responsibility. There are no backbenchers on either side. On your reasoning it would be impossible to present a Private Members Bill despite the fact that Parlaimentary procedure allows it. This issue was not subject to collective responsibility because the Government did not have a collective position and one of it's members took the step of introducing a Bill. Because there was no collective position it allowed a free vote as is democratic. Your better line of attack is that the Government should have had a collective position in favour of a reduction of the age of consent for homosexuals but they are probably as divided as the community on this.

  66. Anonymous at 23:48

    You apply wrong motives and you either fail to understand or choose to misstate the principle of collective responsibility.

  67. There cannot be collective responsibility on an issue where there is no collective policy. You may choose to criticise on the grounds that there should have been because constitutionally the age of consent for homosexuals had to be reduced but even the Opposition misinterpreted the law. Their position was that the law did not require the reduction and that the community had to be consulted on where the age of consent should be set.

  68. Anonymous at 23:45

    Disingenuous argument ... Cabinet i.e Council of Ministers has collective responsibility full stop ... only backbenchers can promote Private Members Bills!!!!

  69. Siti Zen

    Cos I don't TRUST the GSD thats why :)

    Ps - I only stated Caruana was a genius not the others! Don't be silly now :)


  70. On what evidence did the CJ base his finding that buggery and sexual intercorse are the same? Without such a finding the court could not have stated that both acts must be treated the same. Was this evidence tested in cross examination? In the last few days I have spoken to many people on this subject and have been surprised that although most posters on Llanito World support equalisation everyone that I have spoken to says that they cannot understand how buggery and sexual intercourse are the same. Many are calling for a referendum. What happens if the majority vote against equalisation? Does that create a constitutional crisis with the UK and Europe? And my final question is, if we vote against and London and Brussels are offeended SO WHAT? VIVA GIBRALTAR LIBRE!

  71. I have just had a thought and that is that the debate about sex and buggery is, of course all about "private members". RV you are a comical genius!

  72. Anon 08:11:

    So what?

    So Gibraltar gets dragged back into the dark ages, that’s what.

    If the rest of the modern world is able to appreciate that homosexuals and heterosexuals shouldn’t be discriminated on the basis of the manner in which they choose to have sexual intercourse, why shouldn’t Gibraltar be able to do the same? I for one give the majority of our people the benefit of doubt on this issue in that we are a progressive and tolerant society who should automatically accept a reform like this, and the removal of discrimination that goes hand in hand with it.

    As Robert correctly pointed out every form of intercourse presents a risk of serious harm if improper protection is used, it’s our duty as parents to properly guide and instruct our youth as to how to take care of themselves.

    I accept and respect that certain members of our society might not accept that this issue is ‘right’, however, if one is to view this matter whilst taking religious beliefs into consideration, than those same religious beliefs have to be applied across the board. i.e. no pre-marital sex, etc as others have already pointed out.

    Either you fully commit yourself to those beliefs, or you be pragmatic and accept that it is your responsibility as a fellow human being to be considerate of the beliefs and the basic human rights of others, and that it is not your automatic right to pick and choose elements of your chosen doctrine of belief to impose on others.

  73. We keep hearing that the GSLP voted against the private members bill, in fact, you could be forgiven for thinking this was all the GSLP's fault, the way some people carry on.

    I think the GSLP took a stance against the way the Government was trying to juggle a legal obligation on the one hand and the votes of its core elite who happen to be staunch catholics, and totally against this move.

    I think the GSLP refused to be part of the Government's electoral strategising and voted against to show, not that they didn't agree with the issue at hand, they have stated they intend to pass this law in any case with a wider consultation of society as far as deciding on the actual age of consent for all, instead their protest vote was aimed at the antics of the GSD.

  74. As one of the anons has already stated I fail to understand why the age of consent is 16 and not 18.

    16 year olds cannot watch certain films, get into certain clubs, drive cars yet are able to legally engage in acts of a sexual nature that could have lifelong repercussions.

    Have we gone nuts?


  75. Robert has to be congratulated on his courage. Although many of the people writing here support equalisation of buggery most people in Gibraltar do not and this is going to be a vote loser for Robert, and he knows it but his refusal to allow this to tailor his statements is worthy of respect.

  76. Kaelan, I do not know what you are so upset about. Unless I am suffering from amnesia, I am pretty sure that the age of consent for hetrosexual females and males and also lesbians, is and has been 16 for many many many years. The age of consent for homosexuals was 18 and has now been equalised at 16 which makes us all fair and equal.

    to anon 20.34

    Your comment is a complete travesty! Unbelievable !!!!

  77. Anon 21:24

    Just because the law indicates that the age of consent should be 16 does not mean we should blindly adhere to such stated legislation.

    The Gay rights Group crusaded for change within the law and succeeded a law that had incidentally been in place for many years.

    This is my opinion and one I believe many will agree with.

    Please spare some time to see beyond the "red tape" as it seems it will do you an awful lot of good :)


  78. off-topic completely, the results of the ballot today are in.
    It seems the ggca have voted against the reforms, 380 NO votes to 200 YES votes!

  79. @KJ

    Did you read my post @21.24 before answering it?

    1. Where did I mention "red tape".
    2. Thank you for your concern, but I do not need you to tell me what is good for me!
    3. I do not know why you attack, when I was not attacking you at all?
    4. All I did was, I believe, state fact.
    5. The issue of whether 16 or 18 or 21 or 42 is irrelevant to the fact that whatever age is deemed to be appropiate should be the same for all.

  80. Anon 22:58

    Of course I read it.

    Your comments make no sense. Please try again :)

    Ps - do you even know what "to see beyond the red tape" means?


  81. L.E.F. says

    Many comments posted are confusing the issue about equality and morality.

    We have to realize that equality means we are all equal in front of the law. It cannot be right that a 16 or 17 year old homosexual couple can be prosecuted for a certain sexual activity and a 16 or 17 year old heterosexual couple performing the same act is not committing an offence.

    There was a flaw in the system and that is why the court decided it was wrong. There can be no compromise on an individuals equal rights as a member of society.

    Now we come to the moral issues in deciding what is the best age to set by law. Here we are all entitled to have differing views but above all must also be prepared to respect opposing views.

    We are all Llanitos wanting the best for Gibraltar, we just see things differently. I understand that this is a sensitive subject and there are strong feelings all round. At least we are able to debate here thanks to Mr Vasquez's blog and should try and see things sensibly and maturely even though we might not agree.

    There is a problem to be solved and everyone is entitled to his opinion.

    If we are to increase the age to 17 or 18 for everyone we have to be realistic in the practicalities of enforcing such a law.

    We could end up with a law which would be meaningless because it is not enforceable.

    This way however everyone could be a winner.
    Increase age to 18 to keep the moralists happy and then never prosecute anyone.

    The only problem is that we would just be continuing the farce initiated in our name in Parliament by both Government and Opposition and just be fooling ourselves.

    Vote Change

  82. Could an argument be based on the fact that the youth of today are more than aware of differences in sexual inclinations. Hence the stratedgy of standardising the age of consent to 16.
    If I remember correctly admission of homosexuality was taboo within Gibraltar. Nowadays we have Gay rights groups etc fighting for equality. Also youths are freely expressive of the sexual inclinations. There is no fear of admission with regards ones sexual inclinations. That is to say the youth are tolerable in differences in sexual inclinations.
    It appears that its the older generations that may have difficulty grasping this concept. Hence the reluctance to acknowledge adjustments in the age of consent especially with regards homosexual sex.

  83. Talking about voting.

    A little birdie tells me:
    Govt./union proposed (done) deal has been defeated. 380 against 200 for.

    that is without all civil servants, lets not forget that non-unionized employees have been left out.

  84. Buggery is not the same as heterosexual intercourse. There is no reason why they should be treated the same. We have entered a dark age of unreason where facts, realities, health, morality, childhood and the wisdom of ages do not matter. We need a referendum now not to raise the age of consent for heterosexuals to 18 but to proclaim the fact that buggery is not the same as heterosexual intercourse and there is no reason why they should be treated the same. Let us break the shackles of cynical political correctness.

  85. robert, maybe not a piece on the unions, but perhaps CIR's reaction to the GGCA rejecting the reforms and whether the Government should enforce it or not!

  86. Keep it simple:

    Age 18 for voting,drinking, smoking, full driver's license, hetro/homosexual/lesbian sex, serve in a conflict, etc, etc,etc....
    Is that so difficult or unreasonable?
    Why has all of this gay age of consent cost the taxpayer so much in legal actions etc... Bloody waste of my taxes and bloody waste of the courts time!!!

  87. Damian

    Simplicity in these circumstances causes complications. It is a fact of life that human beings are sexually active and are bilogically prepared to be sexually active well before the age of 18. Even the Roman catolic Church acknowledges this. Canon Law permits marriage at 14 fro women and 16 for men. Crimnalising sexula ctivity at too early an age simpl;y does not recognise social or human behaviour. The result is prosec ution and possible imprsonment of a large sector of our youth. Tghis is a totally unwanted consequence of what you are suggesting. There are those who say but depending on the circumstances perhaps prosecution should not follow. Decisions to prosecute cannot be so subjective or arbitrary. It is also a hypcrisy to suggest this. If there is a law it must be upheld and enforced equally and fairly.

    Simplicty in this issue gives rise to the law of unintended and unwanted consequences.

    What is required is moral education and standards. That is the duty of parents, educators and religious ministers not of the State.

  88. LW-RV

    Given that we`ve been turning a blind eye on the age of consent which has seen girls as young as 14 and 15 getting pregnant with no prosecutions following, whatever the age is set at I dont think we will see any difference in the manner of enforcement to be quite honest.

    What I find most staggering is that in 2011 Cannon Law should still continue to permit GIRLS - becuase thats what they are - of 14 to be married !! Unbelievable !!

    To my mind even, whilst acknowledging the behaviour of youngsters in this age bracket, at 16 they are still not capable or prepared
    psychologically to find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy, not to mention what effect this would have on a proper education which any sane parent would want their child to have.

  89. Shame we haven't got a "Civil Service Reform" thread started. Im not involved or affected by this at this time, but am a mere observer, and it does look like a very interesting / controversial debate. it does seem to be an issue which could lose the GSD many points come the elction, and it appears to be one which is unmasking much of what we know has been happening in Gib the last few years.

    Any chance of a Civil Service commentary RV-LLW? As always, looking fwd to your thoughts and comments.

  90. I agree a debate on this topic is required. Consider viewpoint this evening no representatives of either Unions were present to debate the issues. Its evident that these guys may have a fear in articulating arguments, especially when confronting a true Unionist like Mr Netto.
    The fact that there has been a rejection with regards the ballot demonstrates how detached these paid Union officials are from their members.
    Its about time these Union representatives/puppets cut their strings and dance to the tune of their members; who in turn pay for their salaries.

  91. This is the link to Cardinal Basil Hume's Statement on homosexuality which is a very human and enlightened view. I commend that Roman Catholics read it: