In 1961 a test case ended up in the House of Lords. The case was called Shaw v Director of Public Prosecutions and it has since become as famous to law students as Donohue v Stevenson or Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Company.

It goes a little something like this…

Mr Shaw was a publisher, a bit like The Friday Project is. The only difference is that, while we publish good wholesome books*, Shaw published a book called ‘The Ladies Directory’.

It was, as you’ve probably worked out, a kind of Yellow Pages of prostitutes for discerning gentlemen who preferred to let their fingers do the walking.

So concerned were the Lords that Shaw’s book would encourage the proles to start paying for sex that they created a new common law offence – that of ‘conspiracy to corrupt public morals’. The offence – incidentally – carries a theoretically unlimited penalty, and was later used against Felix Dennis et al in the infamous Oz trial. However, since the 70s it has rarely been used, mainly because there are no public morals left to corrupt.

These are, after all, the modern public morals that brought us Chantelle (and then invited her to present a British Book Award – more on this later) and Preston (a musician of such negative charisma that, under his stewardship, ‘Ordinary Boys’ becomes a gross exaggeration).…

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