Operation Spanner

Operation Spanner was the name of an operation carried out by police in the United Kingdom city of Manchester in 1987, as a result of which a group of homosexual men were convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm for their involvement in consensual sadomasochism over a ten-year period.

The resulting House of Lords case (R v Brown, colloquially known as “the Spanner case”) ruled that consent was not a valid legal defence for wounding and actual bodily harm in the UK, except as a foreseeable incident of a lawful activity in which the person injured was participating, e.g. surgery.

Legal reform and review of the concern is ongoing and the convictions are controversial due to issues of whether a government or one’s self is justified to control one’s own body in private situations where the only harm is to consenting adults.