Northern Ireland’s Sex Scandal that Wasn’t

When four men were accused of an act of ‘gross indecency’ in 1950s Belfast, just three were put on trial. Despite efforts by the unionist government to protect a member of a prominent local family, not everyone was willing to be complicit in a cover-up.

Linenhall Street, with Belfast City Hall in the background, c.1955. Photo by Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

In December 1952 a man named Cecil Robins – also known as Robin and described, cryptically, as a ‘fashion supervisor’ – appeared in court in Lisburn, a town on the periphery of Belfast. Robins was charged with ‘acts of gross indecency’ involving a 19-year-old soldier at a house in the town the previous February. That soldier, and another, had already been tried by a military court and convicted of ‘offences of an indecent character’ in May. Robins pleaded guilty and was imprisoned for four months.

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