What was the impact of the Oscar Wilde case on attitudes to crime and punishment?
A negative view was held towards homosexuality going as far back as 1553 when ‘The Buggery Act’ came into place instructing that the act of buggery was a capital offence, it was thought of as a sin against nature and therefore should be banned from taking place in society. However, many people had a tolerant view to homosexuality in the idea that as long as it was behind closed doors then it could be ignore, but, anyone found to be committing this offence would be hung and this would continue for up to 300 years to come. The main thing that changed the opinions of homosexuality was the trial of Oscar Wilde, which also changed people’s opinions of crime and punishment in the process. Changes in punishment towards buggery began in 1861 with the ‘Offence Against the Person Act’ making the act of buggery no longer eligible for execution, but rather life imprisonment, or at a minimum 10 years. Following this was The Labouchere Amendment to the Criminal Law Amendment Act which made ‘gross indecency’ illegal in the UK but did not give a precise definition of ‘gross indecency’ therefore making it a rather vague offence that could be related to a vast amount of crimes. The penalty for this was 2 years maximum of hard labour, something that would wear down the criminal’s body and moral. On the 26th April 1895 in the old Bailey, Oscar Wilde was tried for the crime of 25 acts of gross indecency. Wilde took the stand and the jury deliberated the evidence for over 3 hours but released Wilde on bail on May 7th. Three weeks later Wilde was tried for the second time in front of the liberal government. The case and evidence was deliberated for 3 hours and eventually Wilde was sentenced to the maximum of 2 years hard labour in Pentonville prison followed by Reading prison 6 months later. The hard labour weakened Wilde and began to show the true image of hard labour in prison providing a fairly...
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