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Later in the eighteenth century, waves of prosecutions can be identified in the 1750s and 1770s.The nineteenth century continued this tradition, with the raid on the White Swan public house in Vere Street in 1810.
The last person sentenced to death at the Old Bailey for Sodomy was John Spencer, found guilty in July 1860, following three separate trials. Up until 1816 those convicted of attempted sodomy were frequently sentenced to stand in the pillory, where they were often subjected to merciless pelting from a hostile populace.Throughout the eighteenth century and up until 1861, all penetrative homosexual acts committed by men were punishable by death.Following this date, hanging was replaced by life imprisonment, and after the passage of the Labouchere Amendment in 1885, by up to two years’ incarceration.Sex between men remained illegal in parts of the United Kingdom until 1982.The rules of evidence, however, ensured that relatively few men were actually found guilty of sodomy. For most of this period, to prove sodomy one needed at least two eyewitnesses and evidence of both penetration and ejaculation.As a result most trials in the Proceedings are for the lesser offence of "assault with sodomitical intent" rather than for sodomy itself.
As the penalties for sodomy were reduced, however, the level of proof needed to gain a conviction was lowered, and following 1885 the definition of illegal sexual activity was widened to include “gross indecency” between men.From the 1780s the Proceedings largely cease to report the details associated with the prosecution of sodomy.Forms of behaviour that in the 1720s were lovingly retailed to an appreciative audience were increasingly restricted to the bald phrase, "was indicted for b-g-y", or "was indicted for an unnatural crime", in the more prudish atmosphere of the nineteenth century.Accounts of trials for rape and bestiality were similarly truncated from the 1790s.The illegal nature of homosexual sex, however, ensured that the threat of a charge of sodomy or “sodomitical assault” was frequently used as the basis for extortion.As a result, while trials for sodomy itself gradually fall silent, fraud and extortion cases continued to retail at length detailed accounts of alleged sexual encounters between men.