Shaw v Director of Public Prosecutions: HL 4 May 1961

Offence of Conspiracy to corrupt public morals

The defendant appealed against his convictions for conspiracy to corrupt public morals, and for living from the earnings of prostitution. He said that first was not an offence known to common law. After it became unlawful for a prostitute to ply her trade on the streets, the defendant had published a ‘Ladies Directory’ with contact details for prostitutes in London.
Held: Conspiracy to corrupt public morals is a crime known to the law of England. (Lord Reid dissenting).
Viscount Simonds discussed the offence under the 1956 Act: ‘a person who is paid for goods or services out of the earnings of prostitution does not necessarily commit an offence under the Act, yet a person does not necessarily escape from its provisions by receiving payment for the goods or services that he supplies to a prostitute. The argument that such a person lives on his own earnings, not on hers, is inconclusive. To give effect to it would be to exclude from the operation of the Act the very persons, the tout, the bully or protector, whom it was designed to catch . . a person may fairly be said to be living in whole or in part on the earnings of prostitution if he is paid by prostitutes for goods or services supplied by him to them for the purpose of their prostitution which he would not supply but for the fact that they were prostitutes.’
The courts had: ‘a residual power, where no statute has yet intervened to supersede the common law, to superintend those offences which are prejudicial to the public welfare. Such occasions will be rare, for Parliament has not been slow to legislate when attention has been sufficiently aroused. But gaps remain and will always remain since no one can foresee every way in which the wickedness of man may disrupt the order of society.’
Lord Reid dissenting said that it was not open to the courts to create a new offence.

Viscount Simonds, Lord Reid, Lord Tucker, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, Lord Hodson
[1962] AC 220, [1961] UKHL 1, [1961] 2 All ER 446, (1961) 45 Cr App R 113
Sexual Offences Act 1956 30, Obscene Publications Act 1959 2
England and Wales
CitedPearce v Brooks 1866
The contract was one for the hire of an ornamental brougham to a prostitute which was supplied with knowledge that it would be used ‘as part of her display’. She returned it in a damaged condition, and refused to make any payments under the contract . .
CitedCalvert v Mayes CCA 1954
The defendant said that he was not living in part from the earnings of prostitutes. He let out properties used by the tenants for the sale of sexual services to American Servicemen, and also took payments direct from those servicemen.
Held: . .
CitedRegina v Silver CCC 1955
Judge Maude ruled that it was not an offence for landlords and their agents to let flats to prostitutes at what were described as exorbitant rents and by the learned Judge as ‘prostitute rents’ knowing that they would be used for the purpose
of . .

Cited by:
Re-ConsideredRegina v Knuller (Publishing, Printing and Promotions) Ltd; Knuller etc v Director of Public Prosecutions HL 1972
The defendants were charged after pasting up in telephone booths advertisements for homosexual services. They published a magazine with similar advertisements. The House was asked to confirm the existence of an offence of outraging public decency. . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Crime, Constitutional

Updated: 10 November 2021; Ref: scu.186955