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John Frederick Wolfenden (1906-1985) was a public servant who forged a successful career in education working in public schools, the University of Reading and as director and principal librarian of the British Museum. Wolfenden was invited to chair the Joint Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution from 1954 to 1957. These were subjects of continuing controversy and debate but despite this the concluding report recommended that ‘homosexual behaviour between consenting adults be no longer a criminal offence’. Discussions about the legal and moral distinctions between public and private behaviour were a strong theme throughout the debate led by Wolfenden. It later emerged that Wolfenden’s own son was gay, however prior to his appointment as chairman of the report he had not publicly campaigned for reform. He was responsible for two further reports in his career and was created a life peer in 1974 with the title of Baron Wolfenden.
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