Assuming that the Home Office has already decided that they will go ahead with their noxious legislation then it is time to consider the next move. As the next step is parliamentary debate then it seems logical to start
sounding out of our MPs. I wonder how many of them have close friends or family who are secret downloaders who could be liable for prison. Quite a few I would have thought.
My local MP is actually David Lepper, one of the architects of this nasty idea. Strangely I first came across his name in connection with Liberty in Brighton. How easily politicians succumb to a jerking knee!
Thanks to Michael who has started the ball rolling with his submission.
Dear Mr Murphy
I am writing to you with some rather grave concerns regarding fundamental flaws in the proposed legislation to criminalise 'extreme' pornography, and the activities of a certain group called 'Mediawatch'.
Firstly the proposed legislation, which is, until the end of this week, still at the consultation stage. As I'm sure you are aware, the legislation plans to criminalise the viewing and possession of so called 'extreme' pornography, punishing
transgressors with prison sentences of up to 3 years. Whilst I must stress that the material the government are seeking to legislate against is absolutely not to my own taste, one must appreciate the need for tolerance of other people's individual
tastes and sexual orientation, and if they are not doing any harm to anyone, surely any legislation which would seek to criminalise them has absolutely no place in a democratic society. Pornographic material involving paedophilia, or for that matter
any material where people are being exploited or hurt against their will, absolutely should be banned. However, the vast range of material which is proposed to be included within this legislation (including safe practices between consenting adults
such as bondage) will almost certainly cause a great number of people to unwittingly fall foul of the law. Given the way in which a PC stores files, even someone who has accidentally visited an illegal website could potentially be criminalised,
prosecuted and imprisoned.
As to the legislation itself, it is stupefyingly vague and riddled with irregularities. If the legislation itself cannot define in no uncertain terms what type of material is to be included, how on earth can the average person be expected to judge
for themselves? It would appear that judging would take place on the basis of personal taste, which as we are all aware differs greatly from person to person, leaving much scope for inconsistency within the law. The legislation, at least in it's
current state, does not even seem to have any understanding whatsoever of the term 'consent', nor does it seem able or willing to make the distinction between fantasy and reality in relation to the type of material it seeks to outlaw.
Looking ahead to a time when this legislation may become law, what will inevitably start to happen is that people who have never before committed a crime would quite literally be criminalised overnight. The numbers could quite easily run into tens of
thousands, and if you think that this is an over-estimation, imagine how many loving couples regularly enjoy activities in the privacy of their own homes which could be affected by this legislation. Three years imprisonment would certainly lead to
divorce, the loss of homes, destruction of family units and even suicides. If the issue of extreme pornography is such a threat to this country, then surely more effort should be made to eliminate it at source rather than simply making the viewing of
it a crime? I can also envisage a huge influx of court cases involving people claiming to have had their basic human rights violated by being arrested simply for viewing this material. In a democratic society, where all minority groups must be seen
to be treated fairly and equally, legislation simply cannot be concocted to single out certain groups for persecution. This is almost certainly what will happen. Thousands of otherwise innocent people will be negatively affected by this legislation
as it stands at the moment - there is no getting away from this.
I think that some very fundamental issues are raised by pressing for this legislation which require a much closer look at the people who are pushing for it and their motives for doing so. This legislation came about because of the murder of June
Longhurst by a man who was supposedly hooked on violent internet pornography, and one must feel the deepest sympathy for the grieving relatives she left behind. However, as the only evidence which links her murder to the issue of violent pornography
are the hysterical headlines of sensation hungry journalists, this is hardly the basis upon which to be making far-reaching decisions involving the law. The main pressure to ban violent pornography seems to have come from newspapers and a pressure
group called Mediawatch UK, and I have grave concerns regarding the true motives of both, but more especially the latter, who appear, in no uncertain terms, to have hijacked this campaign for their own ends.
For example, John Beyer, on the Mediawatch website, has already stated that he feels that the list of material covered by this legislation is far too limited and should be extended to include material classified 18R by the BBFC. He states that
"The penalty appropriate for these new offences should be a minimum of three years imprisonment with heavy fines and confiscation of assets...". This could easily extend the number of 'overnight criminals' caught up in it's wake by a few
million if it does get extended to include 18R rated pornography. What could possibly be the justification for this? As for the heavy fines and confiscation of assets, who exactly will this money benefit? It can't possibly be the victim's families
when the crime in question has no victim. How can any organisation such as Mediawatch that claims to be acting for the greater good possibly justify wanting to send innocent people to prison because their private bedroom activities do not fall into a
category that is morally acceptable by their standards? The proposed legislation is obviously already being seen by Mediawatch as 'the thin end of the wedge', and if they are successful this time, then pressure for further censorship will inevitably
follow. And if they are successful in helping introduce laws which actively discriminate against certain kinds of sexual orientation, what could follow; pressure to legislate against certain religions? Or races?
Anyone who enjoys the freedom of living in a democracy must find the implications of this absolutely horrifying. Where will it end? Being that they contain "realistic scenes of sexual violence, staged or otherwise", could people be sent to
prison for up to 3 years for owning DVDs of critically acclaimed and BBFC certified movies such as 'A History of Violence', 'Irreversible', 'Salo' or even the Oscar winning drama 'The Accused'? It obviously doesn't matter to Mr. Beyer, who apparently
thinks nothing of flying in the face of the BBFC, who despite having over eighty years experience of classifying films, are clearly not up to the task in his opinion. A supposedly non-political organisation such as Mediawatch, run by such a small
number and narrow representation of the general public should never have been allowed to have so much influence in matters of government. Mediawatch UK should be more stringently regulated, and like the BBFC itself, should be made to be more
publically accountable to the whole spectrum of the UK's population seeing that it so clearly exerts such an influence.
I have no doubt that Mediawatch, as an organisation, were founded upon a decent set of principles, with the greater good of the general public at heart. However, it would appear that this is no longer the case when such a vast number of the general
public could be very seriously and negatively affected by legislation brought about by their actions. As an organisation, Mediawatch have every right to campaign to have something banned if its members find it offensive. However, they DO NOT have the
right, as a non-political organisation, to determine government legislation, attempt to undermine a government-accountable body such as the BBFC, and more importantly, they absolutely DO NOT have the right to decide amongst themselves what sentence
should be imposed upon those who would fall foul of this new legislation. Sexual preferences, government legislation concerning such matters and the sentencing imposed by courts upon transgressors of the law are no business whatsoever of an
organisation which concerns itself primarily with maintaining standards within the media. If Mediawatch UK were going about their business appropriately they would be seeing to it that minority groups of all kinds are not offended or misrepresented
by anything the media in general is doing. They most certainly should not be actively encouraging the persecution of certain groups of people simply because they do not agree with their way of life. There is a word for this type of behaviour - it's
called facism. Whether it masquerades behind a mask of religion, morality or anything else, it is no different in essence to the policies of extremist groups like the BNP, which have no place in a democratic society.
Which is why I propose that the activities of Mediawatch UK be brought under control, through legislation if necessary, so that they are more accountable to the general public AS A WHOLE. For a non-political organisation, they are exerting far too
much influence in matters of government, and with high ranking members with views as extreme as John Beyer, they are a very real threat to freedom of speech, equality and civil liberties in this country.
In short, if the aforementioned legislation comes into effect, it will send out a number of clear messages to the vast majority of this country's population:
1. That we are no longer living in a democracy.
2. That it is perfectly acceptable to legislate against certain minority groups on the whims of a very small number of people with unacceptably extreme political views.
3. That a higher prison sentence for viewing violent pornographic material than actually committing an act of violence yourself is legally right and morally acceptable.
4. That media-fuelled witch hunts founded on intolerance are also perfectly acceptable.
5. That this Government can no longer decide it's own policies, but instead must rely on pressure from dubious non-political organisations to help create the country's legislation.
6. That crime, terrorism, binge drinking, violence, drugs, teenage pregnancy, the struggling NHS, the woefully inadequate transport system, ridiculously expensive house prices, the pensions crisis, the recent economic downturn, compensation culture,
benefit fraud and bullying in schools are nowhere near as important to this Government as creating overnight criminals of a huge number of otherwise innocent people.
7. That this Government have no qualms about wasting enormous amounts of public money.
8. That religious bigotry and intolerance is alive and well in 21st century Britain.
Are these really the messages that you want to be sending out to people?