The prosecution of Gay’s the Word bookshop – and what happened next

Written by Hester Swift, Foreign and International Law Librarian |
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40 years ago this month, customs officers raided Gay’s the Word Bookshop in Bloomsbury, London. They seized more than 140 titles and charged the shop’s staff and directors with conspiring to import ‘indecent or obscene’ publications. To mark the anniversary of the raid, Senate House Library has launched Seized Books! An online exhibition, examining the censorship of LGBTQ+ literature and its cultural impact.

The charges were eventually withdrawn, but Gay’s the Word and HM Customs and Excise then brought a test case to clarify the law on importation of obscene material. 

Hester Swift of IALS Library has written a blog telling this story: Seized Books! Explore what happened after the prosecution was dropped.

Hester Swift

Hester Swift is the Foreign and International Law Librarian here at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.