Shaw v DPP [1962] AC 220

Conspiracy to Corrupt Public Morals – Prostitution – Public Morals – Court’s Ability to Create New Offence


The defendant created magazines, which contained personal adverts for prostitutes. This included their personal contact details, photographs and descriptions of their services. The solicitation of prostitution was now illegal by virtue of the Street Offences Act 1959. The defendant also received money from the prostitutes for the directory; thus, he was living on the earnings of prostitutes. The defendant was convicted of conspiracy to corrupt public morals, as well as acting contrary to s30 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 (living on the earnings of prostitution) and s2 of the Obscene Publications act 1959 (publishing an obscene article).


The defendant appealed the conviction of conspiracy to corrupt public morals, arguing that this was not a charge recognised by the law of England. The issue for the Court was whether there was a charge of conspiracy to corrupt public morals and if the court had the discretion to create such an offence.


The appeal was dismissed and the conviction was upheld. The Court found the defendant’s decision to feature prostitute adverts in his magazines as dangerous to the welfare of society and it was their duty to protect the public majority’s morals, as well as safety and order. This meant that the Court was able to create offences in order to adapt to changing standards in life and in regard to the values and morals of society. Thus, this case created the new offence of conspiracy to corrupt public morals and established that an offence that was not written in criminal statute could be recognised as a legal charge.