In 1954 the Conservative government in the United Kingdom set up a Departmental Committee to look into aspects of British sex laws. The resulting report, officially titled, The Report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution (better known as the WOLFENDEN REPORT, after Lord Wolfenden, the chairman of the committee) was published in Britain on September 4, 1957 after a succession of well-known men, including Lord Montagu, Michael Pitt-Rivers and Peter Woldeblood, were convicted of homosexual offenses.
Disregarding the conventional ideas of the day, the committee recommended that “homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence”. All but James Adair were in favor of this and, contrary to some medical and psychiatric witnesses’ evidence at that time, found that “homosexuality cannot legitimately be regarded as a disease, because in many cases it is the only symptom and is compatible with full mental health in other respects.” The report added, “The law’s function is to preserve public order and decency, to protect the citizen from what is offensive or injurious, and to provide sufficient safeguards against exploitation and corruption of others … It is not, in our view, the function of the law to intervene in the private life of citizens, or to seek to enforce any particular pattern of behavior.” The recommended age of consent was 21 (the age of majority in the UK then).
The report also discussed the rise in street prostitution at the time, which it associated with “community instability” and “weakening of the family”. As a result there was a police crackdown on street prostitution following the report.