Knuller v DPP [1973] AC 435

Conspiracy to Corrupt Public Morals – Homosexual Practices – Shaw v DPP followed – Courts no longer Create New Criminal Offences


The defendant was the director of a company, which published regular magazines for distribution. Inside the magazines, there was a page that had columns to advertise homosexual practices. It was concluded that this information encouraged males to meet up and engage in homosexual activity. The defendant was convicted for conspiracy to corrupt public morals.


The defendant appealed his conviction for conspiracy to corrupt public morals. This was on the issue of whether there was an offence of conspiracy to corrupt public morals recognized by the law of England and if he could be convicted of such an offence.


The appeal was dismissed and the conviction was upheld. The law does recognise conspiracy to corrupt public morals as an offence, as this was created by Shaw v DPPand this was to be followed. This case established that the courts has a duty to protect society’s morals and can enforce their own decisions. Lord Reid commented that he did not agree with the Shaw v DPPverdict and he had dissented in that case, but he also did not wish to reconsider this decision now. He stated that while decisions are not always binding on other courts, there is a need for certainty in the law that means not every disagreeable decision should be reversed. The courts now have no power to create new criminal offences and can only be created by Parliament.