Vagrancy Act 1838

Vagrancy Act 1838

Vagrancy Act 1838

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The Vagrancy Act 1838 (1 & 2 Vict. c. 38) was an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom, signed into law on July 29, 1838. It amended the Vagrancy Act 1824, providing that any person discharged from custody pending an appeal against a conviction under that Act who did not then reappear to prosecute the appeal could be recommitted. It also provided that the penalty established by that Act for exposing indecent prints in a street or highway would extend to those who exposed the same material in any part of a shop or house.The British Almanac of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, for the year 1839. The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, London, 1839.

This latter part of the Act was to prove significant in a number of prosecutions of artists for allegedly exhibiting obscene works of art, even when those exhibitions took place in a private space such as an art gallery. One of the most notorious successful prosecutions of an artist under the act was in 1929 when thirteen paintings by D. H. Lawrence at the Warren Gallery, London, were seized by the police. A ban was placed on the paintings being shown in England, which is technically still in force, although they were shown again in London in December 2003.See Danielle Demetriou, 'Obscene art of D. H. Lawrence goes on show after 70-year ban', in The Independent (London daily newspaper), 4 December 2003.

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