Labour MP to host Daily Mail podcast about last men hanged for gay sex in Britain

The Daily Mail has announced a podcast series exploring the stories of James Pratt and John Smith, the last men to be hanged in Britain for homosexuality. 

Hosted by gay veteran Labour MP Chris Bryant over three episodes, The Tragedy of James & John will tell the story of the pair, who were hanged for sodomy in 1835. The offence was punishable by death in the UK until 1861, when the maximum sentence was reduced to life imprisonment. 

According to the Daily Mail, England had “the most shameful record in Europe” when it came to sentencing people to death for homosexuality, with Germany’s last case being in 1537, Spain’s in 1647 and France’s 103 years later. 

In England, between 1806 and 1835, 404 men were reportedly sentenced to death for gay sex acts.

The podcast series will draw from archive material, including court records and workhouse registers, to tell the story of Pratt, aged 32 at the time of his death, and Smith, thought to be aged between 34 and 42, with former shadow culture secretary Bryant saying the “tale of prejudice and judicial murder [will] stir your heart”.

Jamie East, the head of podcasts at DMG Media, which owns the newspaper title, said: “Chris tells this tragic story with such verve and empathy. This may not be what you expect from the Daily Mail but we are extremely proud to elevate this awful miscarriage of justice.”

Pratt and Smith were among those posthumously pardoned under “Turing’s Law”, which sought to remove convictions of those criminalised by anti-gay laws that were no longer on the statute books.

Announcing the move in 2016, justice minister Sam Gyimah said: “It is hugely important that we pardon people convicted of historical sexual offences who would be innocent of any crime today. Through pardons and the existing disregard process we will… put right these wrongs.”

A spokesperson for Stonewall described the move as significant. “It’s as important to the whole lesbian, gay, bi and trans community, as it is for the gay and bi men affected. The more equality enshrined into our law books, the stronger our equality becomes, and the stronger we as a community become,” they explained.

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