Dudgeon v The United Kingdom: ECHR 22 Oct 1981

ECHR (Plenary Court) Legislation in Northern Ireland that criminalised homosexual behaviour which was lawful in the rest of the UK.
Held: There was a violation of article 8, but it was not necessary to determine the complaint under article 14, The court acknowledged the necessity in a democratic society for some degree of control to be exercised over homosexual conduct, especially to provide safeguards against the exploitation and corruption of those who are especially vulnerable because they are young. Nevertheless, laws making certain homosexual acts criminal in any event were contrary to the Convention.
Sexual conduct is ‘an essentially private manifestation of the human personality’.
A person’s sexual life was ‘a most intimate aspect’ of private life within the convention. The more intimate the aspects of private life which are being interfered with, the more serious must be the reasons for doing so before the interference can be legitimate.
Judge Matscher, in a dissenting opinion, considered the complaint under article 14, saying: ‘The diversity of internal legislation in a federal state can never, in itself, constitute discrimination, and it is unnecessary to justify it. To claim the contrary would be to mistake totally the very essence of federalism.’


R Ryssdal P


7525/76, [1981] 4 EHRR 149, [1981] ECHR 5


Worldlii, Bailii


European Convention on Huma Rights 8 14


Human Rights

Cited by:

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CitedCampbell v Mirror Group Newspapers Ltd (MGN) (No 1) HL 6-May-2004
The claimant appealed against the denial of her claim that the defendant had infringed her right to respect for her private life. She was a model who had proclaimed publicly that she did not take drugs, but the defendant had published a story . .
See AlsoDudgeon v The United Kingdom ECHR 24-Feb-1983
ECHR Judgment (Just satisfaction) Non-pecuniary damage – finding of violation sufficient; Costs and expenses award – Convention proceedings. . .
CitedRegina v G (Secretary of State for the Home Department intervening) HL 18-Jun-2008
The defendant was fifteen. He was convicted of statutory rape of a 13 year old girl, believing her to be 15. He appealed saying that as an offence of strict liability he had been denied a right to a fair trial, and also that the offence charged was . .
CitedMosley v News Group Newspapers Ltd QBD 24-Jul-2008
The defendant published a film showing the claimant involved in sex acts with prostitutes. It characterised them as ‘Nazi’ style. He was the son of a fascist leader, and a chairman of an international sporting body. He denied any nazi element, and . .
CitedPearce v Mayfield School CA 31-Jul-2001
The claimant teacher was a lesbian. She complained that her school in failed to protect her against abuse from pupils for her lesbianism. She appealed against a decision that the acts of the pupils did not amount to discrimination, and that the . .
CitedGoodwin v The United Kingdom ECHR 11-Jul-2002
The claimant was a post operative male to female trans-sexual. She claimed that her human rights were infringed when she was still treated as a man for National Insurance contributions purposes, where she continued to make payments after the age at . .
CitedAJA and Others v Commissioner of Police for The Metropolis and Others CA 5-Nov-2013
The Court was asked whether the Investigatory Powers Tribunal had the power to investigate whether police officers acrting as undercover agents, and having sexual relations with those they were themselves investigating had infringed the human rights . .
CitedA and B, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Health SC 14-Jun-2017
The court was asked: ‘Was it unlawful for the Secretary of State for Health, the respondent, who had power to make provisions for the functioning of the National Health Service in England, to have failed to make a provision which would have enabled . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Human Rights, Crime

Updated: 13 August 2022; Ref: scu.164894