Sexual acts between men were illegal until 1967. After this date there continued to be a lot of social stigma attached to being gay or engaging in sexual activities with a person of the same sex. This stigma led many gay and bisexual men to go ‘cruising’, looking for anonymous sex with strangers in public places such as toilets and parks.
Being located next to Liverpool’s first ‘gay quarter’ around Queen Square, St. John’s Gardens established itself as a cruising ground as early as the 1940s as a quiet, close and convenient place for men to meet for sex with each other.
In November 1995 Gordon Miller, a 37 year old business man visiting Liverpool was found murdered in the park. Though he had a girlfriend and was not known to be gay it was suspected at the time that the attack might have been homophobic in nature. Two men were arrested but the Crown Prosecution Service dropped charges against them in September 1996.
During the 2007 Homotopia Festival, 2000 pansies were planted in St. John’s Gardens in memory of victims of hate crime.