Guest Author: Douglas O’Keeffe
Following our background historical feature in Alphatribe 14, we are honoured to include the following interview from Roland who was at the centre and a victim of the most famous gay leather/BDSM case and injustice of all time, The Spanner Case.
Basically a group of gay men in the UK were arrested, tried and imprisoned for their fetish play. This was only the 90’s. We hope you enjoy this second part of our focus on one of the greatest travesties and shameful acts of institutional homophobia in our recent fetish history.
After 11 years, and 63 interviews to date, Inside Leather History; A Fireside Chat, I was honored to conduct its definitive interview with Operation Spanner principal litigant Roland Jaggard.
After nearly a year of planning, Fireside Chat co-producer, and host, Douglas O’Keeffe traveled to the London suburbs for two days of filming. “Researching, writing, preparing, and planning the interview was one of my greatest challenges,” said Douglas. “This interview had to be absolutely through and handled with the softest of kid gloves.” Karl Hayden from Dublin, and Matt Spike from London, joined Douglas to film the interview. “Understandably, Roland wanted my assurance that anyone coming to his home was vetted. In Karl and Matt I knew I had the best people with me. Roland even specifically instructed all of us not to dress in full Leathers when coming to his home so as not to draw any attention.” So in late July 2019, on the hottest day ever recorded in the U.K., Mr. Roland Jaggard welcomed the Fireside Chats at his door.
Though numerous print articles have been written about Operation Spanner and its principals, Roland hadn’t done many interviews about his experience. “Locating Roland, and contacting him, was challenging,” Douglas explained, “I wrote him a very specific and very gentle email with the help of an English teacher friend who reviewed it for grammar and verbiage.”
“When I approached him for an interview, Roland first asked to see some of my previous interviews,” Douglas said, “He was impressed by my delicate handling of the subjects so he agreed! I was immensely honored! Feeling comfortable working with me, Roland agreed to a substantive and thorough interview with the intent of using the interview to tell the tale then put it to bed.”
Operation Spanner, a police investigation initiated by the British Obscene Publications Squad, resulted in the British House of Lords (R v Brown) case and subsequent prosecution of 16 defendants for assault occasioning bodily harm and unlawful wounding related to consensual, private, sadomasochistic sex acts. Defendants Laskey, Jaggard, and Brown appealed the judgment to the European Court of Human Rights but lost the appeal in a landmark fifteen to zero decision.
“Operation Spanner was devastating for its defendants,” Douglas explains. “Their lives were shattered and many of the defendants lost everything; professional livelyhoods, loved ones, and comfortable homes. The investigation and subsequent legal cases were a terrible witch hunt!” Today Operation Spanner is a watershed teaching tool in annals of British legal education.
In his home, Roland shared with Douglas intimate details of his experience. “His home was raided by the police,” Douglas explained. “The police removed video tapes, cameras, photos, and other personal items from his home. Everything was entered into evidence. While searching his home the police even questioned him about a collection of board games discovered in the house. They accused Roland of using them in pornographic acts!” Over time Roland was forced to legally apply for the return of his items, but some things were never returned.
Roland was imprisoned for two years. During his imprisonment he kept a log and assisted other inmates with forms and academics. “During the interview Roland shared his prison log with me,” Douglas said. “He also shared Spanner related photos and newspaper articles. I was so privileged to view everything.”
“We filmed Roland’s interview for two days and have a total of about three and a half hours worth of video data. That much data will require a lot of time to edit.” Douglas said. “The technology of filming requires frequent breaks for the cameras to cool and for the replacement of data cards. That added a lot of time to the project.” Once editing is complete, and pending Roland’s ultimate approval, Douglas intends to share the full video on the Fireside Chats YouTube channel.
Roland Jaggard’s Operation Spanner interview sheds light upon the human element of the case often lost in most of the published accounts. “Visiting Roland’s home, enjoying his company, and hearing his story firsthand was a complete privilege,” Douglas said. “I only hope the final product will do him justice.” •