Dr Cameron Giles

From Clarence to Lawrance: A Criminal Law Perspective on Marriage and Relationship Status and the Law on “Deceptive Sex”.


The well-known judgment of the Court for Crown Cases Reserved in 1888 held that Charles Clarence could not be convicted for an offence relating to the act of transmitting gonorrhoea to his wife, in part owing to the marital rape exemption of that time. Clarence would shape the criminal law for the next century, continuing to have an impact until the decision in Dica in 2004. More recently, the Court of Appeal in Lawrance, in 2020, held that deception regarding fertility was not capable of vitiating consent to sexual activity. With these two cases as its start and end point, this paper examines the role of marital and relationships status in the development of the criminal law relating to allegations of deceptive sex. It highlights how marital and relationship status, as well as broader concepts such as domestic intimacies and changing perspectives on sex and sexuality, shape the construction of criminal liability and continue to play a role in the approach taken in contemporary “deceptive sex” cases.


Cameron Giles is a Lecturer in Law and Course Director for LLB Law with Criminology at London South Bank University. He holds an LL.M from the University of York and an M.Law from Northumbria University, where he has recently completed a PhD on HIV transmission offences. Cameron teaches and researches issues of Criminal Law, particularly sexual offences and sentencing and has published in The Journal of Criminal Law, The Journal of Bodies, Sexualities, and Masculinities, and Information and Communications Technology Law.