12th December 2006
3 Years in prison for
owning a dangerous picture!...
Don't let this happen to you, nor
your family, nor your friends. Please sign the petition
the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Abandon plans to make it
a criminal offence to possess 'violent pornography'
This proposed law would create a Thought Crime making it illegal to
possess "sexual images" that, in the subjective opinion of members of
the Home Office, show activities "liable to cause serious injury or
death" even if the participants were consenting adult actors.
The petition was signed by 1800 people with the following
response from 10 Downing Street
Thank you for the
e-petition, dated 17 November 2006, about the Government's proposals
to make it illegal to possess a limited range of extreme pornographic
The proposals are aimed at tackling the circulation of extreme
pornography which would be likely to contravene the Obscene
Publications Act 1959 (OPA) if it were published within the UK. The
Government takes the view that criminalising the possession of extreme
pornographic images, the publication and distribution of which is
already illegal in this country under the OPA, is a necessary step.
With the development of modern technology the current law is no longer
able to control such material and this has created a gap which the
proposals are intended to fill. If such material is already being
published and distributed such action is illegal under the law at
present. The aim is not to bring additional material within the scope
of the law but to criminalise its possession as well as publication
The Government's response to the consultation, published last August,
states that the proposed new offence would have to meet two
thresholds. First it would apply only to pornographic material, by
which we mean material that has been solely or primarily produced for
the purpose of sexual arousal. This would be an objective test for the
jury in any prosecution.
The second threshold would also be an objective test for the jury in
respect of actual scenes or depictions which appear to be real acts.
We would aim to cover activity which can be clearly seen, leaves
little to the imagination, and is not hidden or disguised. By actual
scenes or depictions which appear to be real acts, we intend to catch
material which is genuinely violent or conveys a realistic impression
of fear, violence and harm.
Whilst I understand that you have many
reservations about the Government's proposals, they are not aimed at
any particular part of society. The consultation was not concerned
with the legal consensual material which already circulates and which
does not already breach the OPA. The fact that some extreme
pornographic material may in fact be consensual while appearing to be
otherwise, does not mean that it falls outside the criminal law.
A 5am Wake Up Call for
I've just fired off the email below to The Dark
Side and DVD World magazines, both national mags dedicated to horror and
adult movies. I was quite surprised that neither publication had made
reference to the 'Dangerous Pictures' act, given their views on
censorship, but if this doesn't get them sitting up and taking notice,
I have read your magazine religiously (if that's the right word) for
around 15 years now, being a lifelong fan of the cinema and with a
particular interest in horror movies.
I felt I must write to you to inform you of some new legislation which
is coming soon from the Home Office, which could have a serious and
direct effect upon the entire readership of this magazine and horror
fans all across the country. I am very surprised, given your strong
anti-censorship standpoint (with which I wholeheartedly agree), that you
have not given any space in the magazine to this before now, but whilst
many people will have heard of this new legislation, few will pay much
attention to it because they don't think it will affect them. We are now
looking at the most dangerous, excessive piece of censorship this
country has ever seen - one which could land you in prison for up to 3
years for nothing more than looking at a picture. Please allow me to
Just over a year ago, the government announced plans to outlaw the
possession of what it called "Extreme Pornography". Much like the way
the Bulger murder case was initially claimed to have come about because
of exposure to the 'Child's Play' movies, this all-new, typically
British type of knee-jerk legislation came about because of the death
of Jane Longhurst. Graham Coutts will stand trial to consider the
possibilities of murder or manslaughter. Graham Coutts was said to have
a fixation with violent and pornographic websites. Jane Longhurst's mother Liz, with
little understanding of the type of material in question, launched a
crusade against such websites, managing to assemble a petition of 50,000
signatures and gather support from several Labour MPs. Soon after this,
the government unveiled plans to outlaw the possession of extreme and
violent pornographic material, with penalties of up to 3 years in jail
for transgression, even though they admit themselves that they have no
proof that such material is in any way harmful. The possible problems
became evident straight away as the Home Office, in much the same way
they have with the Obscene Publications Act have failed to provide a
clear and concise list of things which are to be made illegal. The real
worry comes with their wording within the legislation:
The legislation will target material featuring :
(i) serious violence (where this means "acts that appear to be
life-threatening or are likely to result in serious, disabling injury" )
(ii) intercourse or oral sex with an animal
(iii) sexual interference with a human corpse
To count as illegal, the material must be:
(a) pornographic (where this means "solely or primarily produced for the
purpose of sexual arousal" i.e. two scenes could be visually
indistinguishable, but have different legal status if produced for
(c) real or appears to be a real act (this includes staged acts and is
defined as "conveying a realistic impression of fear, violence and harm"
The proposed maximum penalty is three years in prison, and your name
would also be placed on the sex offenders register.
Now on the surface, you may be thinking that this doesn't really have
any relevance to you if you don't go looking for really nasty porn on
the internet. Think again - these proposals are soon to be law as the
"Dangerous Pictures Act", and they won't be limited to material
downloaded from the internet. These definitions are so wooly, so
irrespective of the issue of consent within adult sexual relationships (
a very grave prospect for anyone into BDSM or bondage), and most
crucially to us, absolutely unconcerned with the facts of whether said
material is actually real or a work of fantasy! Which now probably puts
things into context for all fans of horror movies. Fancy going to jail
for up to 3 years because you own a copy of They Call Her One Eye,
Emanuelle in America or even Cannibal Ferox? Or being
placed on the sex offenders register because you have a DVD of SS
Girls, Sadomania, Salo or Night Train Murders? Next time you have an
imported DVD seized by customs, it may mean something more serious than
mere confiscation. In theory, you could even get arrested for owning a
BOOK about horror movies if some of the pictures were objectionable.
Simply because the Home Office are not prepared to tell us EXACTLY what
is to be outlawed, and are not prepared to distinguish between staged
acts and real acts , because, in their own words, this latter necessity
would "provide insurmountable hurdles to prosecution". This could quite
possibly affect tens of thousands of people, many of which will have
absolutely no interest whatsoever in violent internet porn.
I don't want this email to turn into a novel, so I'm going to leave
things here, but please, PLEASE let all your readers know about this and
the possible implications. You can find out much more about it on
excellent anti-censorship website which is well worth a look anyway),
there's also a petition going against it at:
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Violent-Porn/. If you value the freedoms
of living in a democratic society, where you don't have to worry about
getting your door booted in at 5am by the police because you've ordered
a DVD or visited a certain website, then it's crucial that you join the
fight against this.
Consulting the Predisposed
budgiebird on the SeeNoEvil
see full email on thread Lobbying: Email to CPLU 24th October
Email sent to the CLPU complaining about the
I am writing to express my dissatisfaction and concern over the way the
consultation regarding Extreme Pornography has been carried out. The
original consultation document appeared to be very biased in it's
wording, it gave the impression that it deliberately set out to be
misleading, a lot of the questions asked were leading questions designed
to get the response the author of the Document was looking for and it
failed to give a full range of options for some of it's questions.
Furthermore, the list of stakeholder organsations that were invited to
respond, was heavily biased, once again in a fairly obvious attempt to
get the result the author of the document was seeking.
- Over 70 of the organisations that were invited to respond,
comprised of Police forces, police organisations or Justices of the
- Over 30 Church organisations were invited to respond.
- 69 Womens Groups were on the list of organisations that the Home
Office asked to respond, including 13 Race Related Womens Groups.
- 18 Childrens organisations were contacted and invited to
Whilst I can understand the views of the police being sought in relation
to the problems which might be encountered in enforcing any new law, the
police and our Judges are appointed to do just that, enforce the law,
not get involved in making laws. Even then, was it really necessary to
send out individual requests for responses to each and every police
force in the land? Surely a few requests to the various umbrella police
organisations would have sufficed, or was it merely a matter of playing
the numbers games because it could be easily predicted that the police
will always be in favour of more laws which produce easy targets to
boost conviction rates?
Why were so many Church organisations consulted? Churches have no
expertise in law or psychology. Their responses were not needed because
one of the very few things that unite all religions is that abhorrence
of pornography in all it's forms. It is difficult not to come to the
conclusion that that was the reason why so many were included.
Why were so many Womens Groups included in the list of invitations sent
out by the Home Office? Once again, the only logical conclusion is that
their views on and opposition to pornography is well documented and well
known and they were an easy group of organisations to add to the list of
those who were certain to support the proposals.
I don't need to ask why so many Children's organisations were invited to
respond. The apparent fixation of the author's desire to attempt to
secure a misleading link in the reader's mind between the material he
would like to see made illegal and Child Porn (which is and should be
illegal), runs like a thread through the entire document.
So how many psychologists were asked to respond? Answer... one. That's
right, in a Consultation that revolves around the effects that
pornography has or does not have upon the human mind, just one
Psyschologists organisation was invited to respond. I think that one
fact alone, just about sums up how biased this whole consultation has
been right from the very beginning.
The impression which is left is that the Government did not want to seek
views which differed from it's own, instead it merely wished to invite
organisations to comment that were predisposed to support the
governments view. There was no attempt to seek a broad range of views
from different sections of the community.
To budgiebird on the SeeNoEvil
see full email on thread Lobbying: Email to CPLU 24th October
Thank you for your email dated 24th October sent to the CLPU
consultations email account about the above consultation and the way in
which it has been taken forward.
In particular you express concern about the range of organisations
involved in the consultation and you express the view that the
consultation paper was misleading in its content.
It may be helpful if I explain some background to the consultation,
which, as is indicated in the original consultation paper, is aimed at
tackling the circulation of extreme pornography which would be likely to
contravene the Obscene Publication Act 1959 if it were published within
the UK. It set out the Government’s position and proposals in this
difficult area and asked for views. In view of the nature of the
material, we were mainly concerned to seek views from law enforcement in
drawing up the proposals which is why it was sent to all police forces,
although most of our consultations would be sent to all forces as a
matter of course. We were also aware that the proposals in the
consultation document aroused strong feelings on both sides of the
debate about the availability of pornographic material and the purpose
of consulting was to elicit as wide a range of views and opinions as
possible. That is why the original paper was therefore also sent to a
wide range of organisations including religious organisations, women’s
groups, industry representatives, children’s organisations,
representatives of the BDSM community and pro and anti-censorship
groups. The consultation also received wide publicity when it was
published and was available online and in hard-copy to anyone who
requested a copy.
I understand that you still have many reservations about the
Governments’ proposals. The proposals themselves are not aimed at any
particular part of society and, whilst we acknowledge that groups such
as the BDSM community and others, have an interest in particular types
of pornographic material, the consultation is not concerned with the
legal consensual material which already circulates within that community
and which does not already breach the Obscene Publications Act 1959. The
fact that some extreme pornographic material may in fact be consensual
while appearing to be otherwise, does not mean that it falls outside the
criminal law. Nor are the proposals intended to inhibit legal consensual
role play within the BDSM community.
I also understand that you are concerned about the way the Home Office
proposals were presented within the original consultation (which was
published in August 2005); you contend that the consultation was
prejudged and that the questions were misleading. We do not agree. It
was open for any respondent to challenge the premise set out in the
consultation - indeed that is one of the main points of consultation. I
accept that, in reviewing any document after such a length of time, it
is possible to envisage ways in which it could be presented differently
but, in respect of the questions asked, respondents were able to respond
to the questions in any way they liked, and nor did they have to use the
reply document supplied. Many respondents replied in whatever manner was
easiest and suitable for them, both to oppose and support the proposals,
and there was no inhibition evident in the replies we received.
The reference to legislation on indecent photographs of children was
provided to illustrate that there was a precedent for creation of a
simple possession offence. It is acknowledged in paragraph 26 “that the
arguments are less clear cut in respect of violent and abusive adult
I also note your interpretation of the research in this area described
in the consultation document, but cannot agree with your view that there
is ‘no evidence ………that watching pornography is harmful’. Our
consultation document acknowledges the fact that there is a large amount
of research in this area. The paper goes on to comment that there has
been difficulty in interpreting the findings of such research and that
this has made it difficult to get a clear picture and understanding of
the possible harmful effects of pornography, and in particular extreme
pornography. It is not clear cut in the way that you suggest.
Regarding the issue of protecting children, as well as the proposals
seeking to inhibit the production of illegal, obscene material, we have
an ongoing dialogue with the IT industry about internet safety. An
increasing number of suppliers and retailers already provide filtering
software as part of their home PC packages. In addition, similar
functions are built into some other products, including search engines,
operating systems and some ISP connectivity settings. The Home
Secretary’s Task Force on Child Protection on the Internet has also
initiated work to develop a standard for such software products, which
would lead to a kitemark standard being awarded for products that meet
certain child safety specifications.
With regard to your concerns on about the proposed sentence, the three
year sentence proposed in respect of the possession of extreme
pornography is a maximum sentence and, as with any other offence, there
would clearly be a wide range of sentencing options below that.
Finally, in respect of your concern about the applicability of the Human
Rights legislation, as we outlined in the consultation paper, we have
considered whether there are any implications for our obligations under
the European Convention on Human Rights. Our view is that both our
domestic courts and the Strasbourg court will find our proposal
compatible with Article 10 (freedom of expression) or Article 8 (private
life) if that is raised.
Request For Explicit
Thanks to Franco who wrote the
following letter to his MP
Ban of Possession of Extreme Pornographic Material
Not one to waste time, I thought I would hence send you my further
questions on this subject; these being not so much on the absolute
nature of the law but regarding specific detail of it. There are serious
issues remaining in the definition of the crime in question.
Precise Definition needed for the term ‘Explicit’
First I would like to draw your attention to the nature of the
definition ‘explicit’ used to define material to be banned from
possession. The Home Office response paper merely explains it as ‘not
disguised or pixellated’.
However, is the above point referring to explicit pornography, or
explicit violence? In order for the ban to apply to a picture, need the
depiction be explicitly pornographic (with exposed genitalia) or
explicitly violent (with graphic detail of the impact of violence)?
These two variables obviously would alter the nature of the law
The definition of ‘explicitly pornographic’ would require pornographic
nudity. Meanwhile the definition of ‘explicitly violent’ would mean very
marginal material which by many might not be understood as pornographic
at all, but merely violent in the manner of a mainstream movie, might
fall under the ban.
On the other hand would the term ‘explicit’ actually define violence
which government wishes to differentiate from implied violence, such as
the threatened use of a weapon? Such implied violence, through
threatened use of a weapon, is generally described as ‘gun-play’ or
‘knife-play’ among fetishists relevant to this matter. However, the
uninitiated might indeed understand it as ‘violence endangering life or
likely to cause serious, lasting injury’, even though no actual
violence, other than the threat of it, takes place. Would the
brandishing of a knife or gun, an act of implied violence, in a sexual
context fall under this law?
My personal judgement would be that in order for the definition to have
- the pornography would need to be explicit (exposed genitalia,
during or in consequence of the violent act)
- the violence would need to be graphic (not disguised)
- the violence would need to be executed (not implied/threatened)
- All three of these conditions would need to be fulfilled for the
term ‘explicit’ to apply.
The above paragraph states how I currently interpret the proposed
law. I do not understand the law to be banning any acts which involve
people with covered genitalia, disguised violence, or implied acts of
violence such as the threatened use of a gun or knife.
In your response please state your agreement to the above assertion,
else clarify the nature of your legal intentions specifically.
Boundaries of the Definition of Asphyxiation
If, as I believe and have pointed out in my previous letter, the
asphyxiation fetish is the main target of this law, then the question of
what precisely signifies asphyxiation soon arises. Staged scenes where
an actor/actress are choloroformed in a pornographic context; is this a
form of asphyxiation? Very widespread are scenes of oral sex where the
provider of oral sex chokes on the penis or dildo hitting the back of
his/her throat. Would this be understood to be asphyxiation?
Obscene Publications Act
There have been repeated claims in the media by various MPs that this
law merely ‘closes a loophole’ by simply outlawing possession of
material already banned under the existing Obscene Publications Act
(OPA). This is simply not the case. The OPA does not specifically ban
any type of pornography. It simply states that it is forbidden to
publish any material which has the possibility to ‘deprave and corrupt’
a fraction of its audience. To establish this the ‘common law test’ is
applied, which effectively means that each decision has to be applied
individually to any material brought before the court. The OPA does not
ban outright any form of pornography by name. Therefore the claims, made
by several labour MP’s, including ministers, are simply incorrect, if
Minister Coaker’s misleading Statement
It also hasn’t escaped my notice that minister Vernon Coaker, when
presenting this issue on the radio (30 August, BBC Radio 4, World at
One), simply claimed the majority of respondents (people and
organizations) to the consultation had supported the government
proposals. This is in fact the opposite of the truth. Evidently the
public were misled. How a minister of the crown can do this is, quite
frankly, beyond me. Is there going to be an apology or at least a public
retraction made regarding this evident untruth?
Exception of Material rated by BBFC
The announcement that material which would fall under the definitions
set out by the law, but which has already been rated by the BBFC, seems
bemusing. If the government is convinced of the dangerousness of this
material why allow it, if it has been rated by the BBFC? If anything it
would mean that the staff at the BBFC, whom the government appears to
judge experts in this field, disagree with the government on the very
principle which was the cause for this law. In short, this is an inbuilt
contradiction into the law itself. Either the ban is necessary or it
isn’t. The law itself, or previous contrary decisions by the BBFC cannot
be correct simultaneously.
A comparative Argument of Proportionality
On a more practical level, here is an example, highlighted on the
internet recently, of what I see as a lack of proportion.
On July 23 2001 Crawley Magistrates Court sentenced Nadine Trewin to
a two-year community rehabilitation order and banned her from keeping
animals for five years; this because Mrs Trewin intentionally killed her
pet cat by placing it in her microwave.
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that microwaving the
animal did not produce a jail sentence. Yet the offence of possessing a
picture of bestiality with that same animal could, according to the
proposed law, lead to a jail sentence of up to three years. Clearly
there is a problem with proportionality which would, were this law to be
implemented, make a mockery of legal justice. The maximum sentence of 3
years therefore still appears grossly disproportionate.
So far, this government has very thin credentials on matters of civil
liberties. When faced with a choice, it appears to prefer
interventionism and prohibition to a more liberal ‘laisser faire’. Can
the government point to any subject matter, apart from political
opposition, which it deems abhorrent, yet which it is categorically
going to permit due to a principled belief in freedom of expression and
freedom of speech?
I await your reply.
The Melon Farmers' Forum
Just got another letter back from Home Office, signed 'Vernon' to my
MP, who`s passed it on to me...
The first point of interest is:
government's response to the consultation states that the proposed
new offence would have to meet two thresholds:
First it would apply only to pornographic (underlined) material, by
which we mean material that has been solely or primarily produced to
for the purpose of sexual arousal. This we believe would eliminate
works of art, news and documentary programmes and works classified
by the BBFC (other than R18, etc...). This would be an objective
test for the jury.
The second would be an objective test for the jury in respect of
actual scenes or depictions which appear to be real acts. We would
aim to cover activity which can be clearly seen, leaves little to
the imagination, and is not hidden or disguised. By actual scenes or
depictions which appear to real acts, we intend to catch material
which is genuinely violent or conveys a realistic impression of
fear, violence and harm.
then it goes on to say;
By serious violence we mean violence which appears to be life
threatening or likely to result in serious disabling injury. The
threshold level is necessary since the intention is to target
material which is already illegal to publish under the Obscene
Publications Act 1959.
What follows is an interesting line: it states that I mentioned BDSM,
spanking, bondage and rape material in particular.
This covers a very broad range of activity and while not
specifically mentioned in the Government response, such material
will fall under the new offence only if it falls within the
threshold I have outlined above.
The detail is still being considered but it is likely that
some depictions of rape will be covered; material featuring spanking
is unlikely to be caught, unless the injuries caused are life
Next it acknowledges that I wish to know exactly what is prohibited
and goes on to say:
The government accepts the importance of achieving clarity
with regard to the types of material which are to be covered by the
legislation and we will consider giving non-statutory guidance on
the type of activity or injury which we consider would fall within
these categories. This will be developed alongside the proposals for
Now all this seems to suggest shifting ground... Coaker speaks of a
threshold defined by two points, pornography and serious violence. What
happened to `explicit`?
My next worry is in this sentence conveys a realistic impression of
fear, violence and harm... this seems outside of the threshold of
pornographic, explicit and seriously violent...
Once again we get the quotation that what is sought to be banned is
already outlawed by the OPA... my latest letter challenged this, it will
be interesting to see what reply I receive...
Anyhow, we have - at least to some degree - a ministerial sentence which
states that bdsm, bondage and spanking material only is effected if it
falls within the threshold (pornographic and seriously violent).
But when it comes to rape, he chickens out. Here things are still
being considered and it is likely to result in a ban. So something
substantial will still be changing in the legislation. At current
definition rape would have to be deemed legal. If Coaker wishes to bring
rape within the ban, then he will be introducing pieces he has neither
consulted on nor mentioned in his government response.
What are children's charities doing lobbying around consensual adult pornography?
We need to remember that the "individual"
responses include that of Professor Julian Petley, the only "expert" to
comment who really is an expert - i.e. published in refereed academic
journals on regulation/censorship. Petley thinks the proposal is
The remarks about "arguments advanced" are bollox. All rational
arguments seem to be against the proposed legislation. Kevin Kirk's
excellent article on Inquisition 21st Century clearly reveals the
self-serving agenda of many of the organizations responding.
The reference to children's charities is particularly intriguing.
What are children's charities doing engaging in political lobbying
around consensual adult pornography? Consider that the Child Poverty
Action group has been denied charitable status precisely because its
work is adjudged "political". Perhaps a complaint to the Charities
Commission might be in order
Thanks to Franco who followed up his previous letter wither further very pertinent questions
First please let me thank you for your letter to Eric Martlew MP.
I do indeed believe that the achievement of precise definitions is of
paramount importance to the entire undertaking. As you know, I object to
the entire idea of this law. Yet, your government being resolved to
seeing it passed, I feel it a duty to continue to question the detail
and highlight discrepancies where I see them.
Omission of ‘explicit’ from Definition
Your reply stated only two definitions: pornographic and serious
violence. However, your official response to the consultation included a
third: explicit. You will recall that my last letter dealt in some depth
with that very definition. Has the official position changed and
‘explicit’ is now to be disregarded as one of the definitions?
Profound Disagreement regarding Objectivity of Test for Jury
In your reply you state that both the definition of ‘pornographic’ and
‘seriously violent’ provided objective tests. I would dispute this
vehemently; this not, because I’m seeking to be contrary or semantic.
But definitions such as ‘pornographic’ are inherently subjective. Tracey
Emin’s artwork for example springs to mind, or recent Saatchi art
exhibitions. The words pornographic were used frequently used by the
media to describe these. If your definition (produced solely or
primarily for sexual arousal) provides some guidance, it is still
controversial in a law which criminalises not the producer but the
consumer, as it requires the consumer to know the producer’s intention.
Also it could be argued that the initial purpose for the pictures of the
prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib would essentially fall within this law as
the producers (i.e. the abusers) evidently made these pictures for their
own pornographic purposes.
Wordings such as ‘seriously violent’ could be put to those in support or
in opposition of boxing and I think you would agree that wildly varying
responses would be forthcoming. Also in the debate regarding computer
games ‘violence’ is an incredibly controversial subject which virtually
every individual interprets differently. The debate regarding the
smacking of children by their parents only adds further fuel to the
controversy surrounding the word ‘violence’.
Regarding the above I would insist that ‘pornographic’ and ‘violent’ are
in fact among the most subjective and emotive words in the English
language. I therefore make it clear that I categorically disagree with
you on this matter.
Relation of new Terminology to Existing Definitions
Your reply also included the term: ‘material which is genuinely violent
or conveys impression of fear, violence and harm’. This seems entirely
How precisely does this interact with the definitions of ‘pornographic’,
‘explicit’ and ‘seriously violent’? Is this an additional definition
which can capture material not effected by the other three definitions?
The introduction of this new term seems to jar with the intended clarity
in definition. After all, ‘impression of fear’ is heading into extremely
tenuous territory for a legal definition. Inclusion of such wordings
into the law could eventually introduce pornographic material of very
little violence, or possibly none at all, due to an actor or actress
feigning distress for dramatic purposes.
So please explain the exact role of this new terminology.
Your mention of ‘some depictions of rape’ being covered by this new
legislation seems to hint at shifting grounds. As serious violence is
defined as effectively life threatening, rape would as such fall outside
your definitions. Your intention to include some rape imagery therefore
suggests that you intend some substantial changes to the legislation
which so far have not been disclosed. I would urge that the nature of
these changes is revealed forthwith.
Element of Intent required
The definition of serious violence as threatening to life or causing
possible disabling injury has been cause for some concern with people
interested in bondage. Among the more advanced rope artists suspension
bondage is quite widespread. This entails suspending the model with
ropes. I stress this doesn’t involve hanging her by the neck. However,
the fear is that it could be argued that, should the suspension fail,
the model might injure herself and that therefore the depiction of
suspension bondage could fall under the law.
Personally, I feel that this is not the way this law is intended. As I
would understand your intention being to outlaw depictions of actual,
intentional, severe harm, as opposed to possible, unintended harm.
Perhaps the above suggestion is a good example of the current distrust
felt by many toward the government’s intentions. The fear remains that
the law could be ‘bent’ sufficiently in the courts by prosecuting
lawyers to allow sexual activity which entails an arguable risk to be
‘violence threatening to life or likely to cause serious, lasting
If it seems impossible to exclude every conceivable unintended
possibility, it may be wise to include an element of intent into the
wording of the law regarding the definition of ‘serious violence’. (e.g.
‘violence intended to be threatening to life, etc.’ )
Threat to the Obscene Publications Act so far no addressed
In my initial submission to the government consultation I raised an
argument which I believe was not addressed in the government response.
However, it seems imperative that the issue is taken seriously. The
problem is a follows:
The fragile interpretation of the Obscene Publications Act is that
publishers are required to judge if a fraction of their audience could
be depraved or corrupted. It assumes a certain part of the adult
audience at least to be impressionable, naïve, possibly influenced by
such material. It therefore places the requirement of legal competency
on the publisher. The individual is deemed effectively incompetent and
therefore in need of legal/censorial protection by the state from any
untoward materials of the publisher.
However, this legislation bestows the idea of legal competency on each
adult individual in judging pornographic material for himself. Else the
individual can not be punished with imprisonment. The premise of the
individual being impressionable and naïve, requiring protection is
Ergo, it contradicts the underlying argument of the current
interpretation of the OPA. It seems therefore inevitable that the OPA
will have to be radically reinterpreted in the courts. This however will
fall completely outside the influence of your department. It is
foreseeable that a much more liberal interpretation of the OPA will
follow, resulting in the publication of more and stronger pornography,
Another possibility is the effective collapse of the OPA by it falling
into effective disuse due to the contradiction inherent to this law. I
stress that, in my view, this is a significant problem.
To expose the current conventions of the OPA to such fatal contradiction
for the addition of a highly controversial piece of legislation seems at
best courageous, at worst reckless.
Prime Minister’s Comments
There is a need to explain how the Prime Minister’s comments of 5 Sept
06, merely six days after the announcement of this legislation, square
with government intention to ban possession of a type of pornography.
‘It is not for the State to tell people that they cannot choose a
different lifestyle, for example in issues to do with sexuality. All
that has changed and rightly.’
The above quote is taken from a government website at (www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page10037.asp).
It is therefore a matter of undeniable, official record.
An individual’s use of pornography is undoubtedly a question of
sexuality. The prime minister’s statement therefore seems to be in
complete contradiction to the actions of your department. How is the
public supposed to interpret this?
Reassurance concerning Safety of Opposition
Another concern has been repeatedly voiced by some opposing this
legislation. There is a fear of recrimination should this law pass, that
those who have democratically opposed this legislation would find their
names passed on to police as prime suspects of being in breech of it.
Therefore some feel deterred from further active opposition fearing that
else they might eventually find their houses raided in the middle of the
night, with all the publicity of local media brought to bear.
Naturally we all would be seeking reassurance that this would not be the
case and that active opposition to this legislation will not suffice as
reason for police investigation.
Point of Order
The decision having been reached to present the law to parliament at
some point in the future, there should now be a fairly clear idea of
what the law, in plain English, would ban. It is understood that the
exact legal wording of the statute is still a work in process.
Therefore this is not a question of complex legal phrasing, merely a
demand for a final official position of what is actually to be outlawed.
We should now be at the stage where the Home Office at least knows this.
Your response to my question on rape alone suggests the basic parameters
of the law are still in flux, which might further broaden the scope of
This is extremely worrying as it begs the question what the government
actually announced on 30 August 2006. An aspiration? Or the intention to
outlaw specific material?
The series of questions for clarification I alone so far have sent you
seem to suggest that there indeed remain substantial gaps within the
intellectual fabric of this legislation. This before the question of
compatibility of human rights law is even broached.
I would like to make clear that I present these thoughts without
hostility. I have remained constructive throughout as I believe befits
civil opposition. The point above is not raised emotively or from a
position of argumentative opportunism. But the nature of the law itself
still being in flux at this point is cause for concern.
I await your reply.
Legislation Being Prepared
Counsel" would be the barristers and lawyers employed by the government,
who would have to frame their censorious repressive desires into legally
Thanks to Franco who posted about the reply on
Just received reply from Home Office to my last two letters...
it seems they are now trying to close down the debate...
Below are the paragraphs of interest. and my comments...
In your letters you raise a number of issues where you have concerns
over the governmen's response to the consultation. I should note that
the response set out policy rather than being couched in terms suitable
for legislation. While it states the principles, it will be for
parliamentary counsel to draft legislation.
I understand your wish to know exactly what will be prohibited. The
government accepts the importance of achieving clarity with regard to
the types of material which are to be covered by the legislation and
will consider giving non-statutory guidance on the type of activity or
injury which we consider would fall within the categories I have
outlined. This, along with clarification of police powers in this area,
will be developed alongside the proposals for legislation.
Regarding the OPA, they totally missed the point(intentionally?):
with regard to your comments on the OPA 1959, the threashold has been
set at a high level to ensure that it will only catch material, which
would be subject to prosecution if the police were aware of its
publication or distribution. AS you note, the OPA does contain a general
test of obscenity which juries apply in each case. However, the law
enforcement authorities have considerable knowledge of the type of
material which juries find to be obscene, they have fully been involved
in the consultation process and there is no wish to go beyond the scope
of the Act.
I also note your comments about the proposal to exempt material
classified by the BBFC. You may be aware that the BBFC asked us to
consider the option to ensure that those who buy pornographic material
given an R18 classification were not concerned that the material they
held was in breach of any proposed legislation. It is also the case the
under the Video Recordings Act 1984 the BBFC would not classify material
which may breach the OPA 1959.
so no matter if the exemption of BBC material is illogical I guess...
With regard to your comments on `proportionality`, sentencing is a
matter for the courts. The three year sentence proposed in respect of
the possession of extreme pornography is a maximum sentence and, as with
any other offence, there would clearly be a wide range of sentencing
options below that.
So what would the 3 year maximum be used for? hmmm...
Finally, I can assure you that opposing this legislation in a
peaceful, democratic and lawful fashion would in no way serve as grounds
for police investigation or any other such action.
The letter is interesting by its omissions as well as by what it says...
so no comment on Blair`s speech where he states that the government
should stay out of personal sexuality...
The legislation now is subject to 'parliamentary counsel', so
essentially they no longer want to answer questions...
Generally there now is a move to close things down... I don't see the
tone of this letter and my Labour MP's unwillingness to be helpful as
coincidence... they're getting on with it and they're shutting shop to
the outside world... next stop: announcement of detailed legislation...
it seems how they arrive there is not to be revealed...
When the Policy Unit Doesn't Know the Policy
Thanks to Franco who
continues his discussion with the Home Office
Thank you for your letter dated 20 October 206.
I refer to the following statement made in your letter: I should note
that the response set out the policy rather than being couched in terms
suitable for legislation. While it states the principles, it will be for
the ‘Parliamentary Counsel’ to draft legislation.
The above statement obviously refers to my detailed questioning of your
policy. A policy which so far has been shown not to stand up to detailed
scrutiny. However, as long as the Home Office Policy Unit remains
unclear on policy, then policy must continue to be questioned,
scrutinised and probed.
I cannot stress strongly enough the fact that so far, your department
has not been able to provide a definition that satisfies even your own
In a letter dated 20 September 2006 Vernon Coaker states that: …it is
likely that some depictions of rape will be covered. This however
does not fit with your own definition of ‘serious violence’ (likely to
cause death or serious, lasting injury). Rape doesn’t threaten life or
cause serious, lasting injury.
It is therefore not the lack of legal precision but the simple inability
to describe your own policy that is cause for concern. The questions
‘what are you intent on banning?’ should be something answerable by your
department. An intent to ban is a matter of policy. You are the Home
Office Policy Unit. Deferring to the Parliamentary Counsel does simply
Personally, I cannot help but suspect that your statement is more an
attempt to close down debate and to deter any further opposing
correspondence being sent to your office.
In fact, given that my two letters, to which your latest correspondence
was a response, were of considerable length and contained many arguments
and questions, your reply seems somewhat brief. Curtailed by what I ask;
a wish to be rid of such scrutiny? I understand entirely that letters
such as this one are an inconvenient irritation to government
departments. I would stress that I in turn find it an irritant having to
write these letters. I would have other things to do and unlike
yourselves I‘m not paid for the privilege. Yet I see it as my civic duty
to oppose, to scrutinise, to demand explanation on this proposal and
where necessary, make your department answerable to the lawful,
democratic opposition to this policy.
A proposed law’s intended content is a matter of policy, its legal
wording a matter of Parliamentary Counsel. I am inquiring about the
intended content of the law. I am therefore inquiring on policy. You are
the Home Office Policy Unit. What is the law’s intended content?
Parliamentary Counsel is to draft law according to policy, not make
policy. You therefore must be in possession of working definitions which
you can provide to Parliamentary Counsel. So, what has Parliamentary
Counsel been instructed to furnish a legal text for?
Are they working purely from the definition provided by the government’s
consultation response? Or have further definitions and instructions been
added? Or are they to decide on policy themselves, where the gaps in
policy are evident? In short, please provide me with the same
instructions you have forwarded, or will forward to Parliamentary
As we all know by now the definitions published so far simply do not
We in opposition are convinced that there are alternative definitions in
use in your department.
The decision to proceed was self-evidently based on a political bias as
it was contrary to the weight of argument provided in the consultation
If the opposing camp could muster academics of law, media and
psychology, even expert argument from a QC, then the majority of those
in support of this folly are organisations that are opposed to all
pornography per se. So be it. Government is not obliged to heed
But on the decision having been reached I would have thought there would
be an interest in the problems opposition foresaw in the imposition of
the policy as currently laid out. Should government agree with
opposition or not, there is some wisdom to be drawn from its ranks. As
it stands, the policy is flawed.
The policy is clearly not yet fully developed and contains
inconsistencies and contradictions people such as I have been trying to
bring to your attention.
The fact that the new law undermines the OPA (insistence on individual’s
competency negates the duty of publisher to scrutinise if his material
depraves and corrupts) remains unanswered . The fact that exemption of
BBFC material contains flawed logic (as it implies that material can be
illegal on principle, but rendered legal by BBFC – else exemption is not
necessary), which calls into question the reason for the entire policy,
still remains. The above points are hardly matters for parliamentary
legal experts, but matters of policy. They are also not the only flaws
to be contained within the policy.
The intention behind this policy is confused and unclear. It is
ambiguous if it wants to ban material such as rape or not, cannot define
a dividing line between legal and illegal adult pornography and flails
helplessly at producing some kind of consistent underlying principle.
Ministers misrepresent it on the radio and the prime minister
contradicts its very sentiment in his official statements. All the above
is a matter of policy, not legal wording. To defer to Parliamentary
Counsel simply does not suffice.
Although I agree with the notion the government announcement of 30
August 06 cannot be a legal text within itself, I repeat my question
what the government respond actually announced?
If the precision on what is to be banned is entirely subject to
Parliamentary Counsel then you, as the Home Office Policy Unit, do
currently not know what it is you have decided ought to be banned. Seen
in this light your reference to Parliamentary Counsel seems ill advised.
In fact it might be of considerable interest to the media if government
has announced a policy it is currently ignorant of and will remain so
until it is further defined by Parliamentary Counsel. The policy of
introducing any new offence must by definition entail knowledge of what
the offence is to be.
Further, I note that your letter contained no reply to my reference to
the Prime Minister’s comments of 5 September 06 which contradicted the
very notion of this law.
Once again this referred to a contradiction in publicly stated policy.
Yours is the Policy Unit of the Home Office.
I stress that the Home Office’s view on this whole matter has been
entirely partisan. The bias shown in the text of the consultation itself
was quite blatant. This approach seems to have continued throughout.
This is not least expressed in the organisations which were invited by
government to contribute to the consultation. I believe official
complaints have already been received regarding this very matter.
Therefore, mine is not a lone voice.
I have readily engaged and contributed on this matter – the first time I
have ever seen necessary to do - as I fear the government is about to
commit tragic mistake which will lead to injustice on a scale I think it
does not foresee.
Your latest correspondence provides a clear impression that no further
correspondence is welcomed and that all further proceedings prior to
this going to parliament,- where it will be subject to party politics
and the influence of the whips. This is of deep concern.
The prisoner figures alone that this legislation might generate are so
far unclear and is likely to figure in the thousands at least. Something
I would have thought the Home Office, given recent developments, would
take some interest in.
Finally, I would like to ask if the ordering of a retrial affects the
progress of this proposed legislation. As we all know the Coutts/Longhurst
case was openly linked to this policy by its authors. Government still
acknowledges this link by holding back from publication of any
consultation responses which refer to the Coutts case.
Therefore I would like to ask will, according to government, the retrial
of the Coutts case have any effect on the further progression of this
legislation? For example, is it on hold until the Coutts case has been
Or is government now to state that there is no link between the Coutts
case and the proposal of this legislation? If so, what light does this
cast upon the relevance of the Longhurst petition which was considered
Given that everyone is keen to know how and when things will progress, I
would much appreciate clarification on this matter.
I trust as the Home Office Policy Unit you are obliged to keep
democratic, political opposition to policy informed. I await your swift
When the Policy Unit Won't Tell the Policy
Thanks to Franco who
transcribed his reply from the Home Office on SeeNoEvil
I understand that you continue to have concerns about Government policy
in this area and seek more information about proposed legislation.
I also note your comments about rape material and your view that 'rape
does not threaten life or cause serious, lasting injury'. We disagree.
With regard to Mr Coaker's answer of 20 September about the depictions
of rape which may be covered by the legislation, our position remains
the same - some depictions of rape will be covered if they meet the
thresholds outlined in the Government's response.
I also note you wish to see the instructions sent from the Home Office
to parliamentary counsel. I am afraid that I am not in a position to
send you sich material which is in the form of legal advice from the
Home Office lawyers. This information is being withheld under sections
35(1)(a) and 42(1) of the Freedom of Information Act. The former allows
us to withhold information relating to the formulation and development
of government policy and the latter that subject to legal professional
[further justifications for withholding information not reprinted].
As I indicated in my last reply, the Government will consider giving
non-statutory guidance on the types of activity or injury which we
consider will fall within the categories outlined in the previous
replies you have received.
In your letter you also appear to believe that the Home Office is using
alternative definitions to that given in the Government response to the
consultation. This is not the case.
With regard to the Obscene Publications Act 1959 (OPA), the new
legislation does not, as you suggest, negate the duty of a publisher to
scrutinise material before it is published. The proposals include an
increase in maximum penalties, from three years imprisonment for
publication and distribution offences under the OPA and therefore
publishers need very much to be aware of the risks of publishing obscene
I also understand that you are concerned about the way the Home Office
proposals were presented within the original consultation (whish was
published in August 2005) and the list of organisations which were asked
to respond, which you appear to describe as partisan. We do not agree.
It was open for any respondent to challenge the premise set out in the
consultation - indeed that is one of the main points of the
consultation. I accept that, in reviewing any document after such a
length of time, it is possible to envisage ways in which it could be
presented differently but, in respect of the questions asked,
respondents were able to answer to the questions in any way they liked.
Many respondents replied in whatever manner was easiest and suitable for
them, both to oppose and support the proposals, and there was no
inhibition evident in the replies received.
With regard to the list of organisations to which the document was sent,
it may be helpful if I reiterate some background to the consultation. As
was indicated in the original consultation paper and explained by Mr
Coaker in a previous reply to you, the proposal is aimed at tackling the
circulation of extreme pornography which would be likely to contravene
the Obscene Publication Act 1959 if it were published within the UK. It
set out the Government's position and proposals in this difficult area
and asked for views. In view of the nature of the material, we were
mainly concerned to seek views from law enforcement in drawing up
proposals which is why it was sent to all police forces, although most
of our consultations would be sent to all forces as a matter of course.
We were also aware that the proposals in the consultation document would
arouse strong feelings on both sides of the debate about the
availability of pornographic material and the purpose of consulting
religious organisations, women's groups, industry representatives,
children's organisations, representatives of the BDSM community and pro
and anti-censorship groups. The consultation also received wide
publicity when it was published and was available online and in
hard-copy to anyone who requested a copy.
We acknowledge that questions about 'pornography' and whether the
possession of material should be an offence do raise strong feelings. It
is hardly surprising that, when such strong feelings are held, we have
received complaints - both from those who feel the proposals do not go
far enough and from those who feel there should be no new legislation in
this area - when people have disagreed with the proposals.
We have also noted your views about the comments made by the Prime
Minister on 5th September. However this legislation is not aimed at any
particular lifestyle or sexuality as you appear to suggest. While we
acknowledge that groups such as the BDSM community and others, have an
interest in particular types of pornographic material, the consultation
is not concerned with the legal consensual material which already
circulates within the community and which does not already breach the
Obscene Publications Act 1959. Nor are the proposals intended to inhibit
legal consensual role play within the BDSM community.
With regard to the retrial of Mr Coutts, that is a matter for the Courts
and one which we will keep under review. Whilst the Coutts case
highlighted problems in the law, it is not the case that the legislation
to tackle the possession of material of illegal material is simply
dependent on that case.
Thanks to Simon (Dark Angel) who wrote the following letter to his MP,
You may recall I wrote to you in February of this year expressing
concerns about the Governments proposed new pornography laws. I am to
contacting you again as I see that the government has, as I feared ,
decided to forge ahead with its proposals, despite the vast majority of
people who responded not being in favour of this.
Whilst I am aware the scope of the material has been narrowed to images
that appear life threatening, or involve scenes of necrophilia, I am
still strongly opposed to these new laws on the following grounds…
Firstly, these laws are being drawn up solely on grounds of taste. It
has been pointed out to the government that this material, though
distasteful, is in fact staged by consenting adults. So it’s not as if
anyone is being genuinely harmed.
Similarly, there is no evidence to suggest that viewing such material
has a corrupting effect on the viewer. The government even acknowledged
this in its own consultation document and if you look at countries in
mainland Europe, such as Holland, Spain and Denmark, where this material
is perfectly legal and can be purchased openly from high street outlets,
you’ll see that they do not have a greater rate of sexual offences than
countries where this
material is restricted.
Most alarmingly, as the new laws make no distinction between images that
are faked and images that are real, the police have no requirement to
prove that the images are genuine or if consent was involved. People can
simply be jailed for pictures that look “real enough”.
This to me is an absolutely horrendous state of affairs, as restrictive
laws are supposed to be based on evidence of harm. This really does beg
the question to be asked, why the government has decided to go ahead
with this, when it is so clearly out of step with the rest of the
People could also be jailed for photographing their own sexual antics.
Not for the acts themselves, but for the pictures they took of them, how
ridiculous is that?
Also, as they are essentially creating a crime of context by targeting
only violent pornography, can they guarantee that other material will
not be lumped in with it? Police, customs and the various law
enforcement agencies have never been known for their film or art critic
abilities. Should I fear a boot in the door if I choose to legally
import a horror film featuring “sexual violence” or “necrophilia”?
The government is clearly playing to the puritan gallery, it has side
stepped the issues raised in its consultation and failed to give proper
justification for these laws.
Whilst many members of the public may be in favour of some sort of
controls on “extreme” material, nobody in their right mind would want to
see people prosecuted for viewing material staged between consenting
The BBC explored this issue when they first reported this, and it seemed
the vast majority of people were more opposed to the new laws than the
violent pornography the government sought to outlaw. I can back this up
with the following URL, please take time to read this article as well as
the public responses underneath, which are more crucial…
I trust you will therefore oppose these restrictive laws if and when
they are debated in parliament as they clearly infringe too far on
people’s civil liberties and would undoubtedly fall foul of human rights
laws. In any case, these are not what I would expect to see being
introduced into a supposed free country that prides itself on being a
“just” and “tolerant” society as they have all the makings of a modern
I look forward to your reply, if you wish to discuss any of the issues
I’ve raised here in more detail then do please get into contact with me.
P.S. Here’s a couple of newspaper articles on the subject, that also
show these proposals don’t have the publics support (be sure to read the
peoples responses underneath)
Clarification and Procedure
I write further to your recent email regarding your concerns over the
Governments Consultation on the Possesion of Extreme Pornographic
Thank you for contacting me on this important matter. I have read the
governments response to the consultation and it is clear that there are
still many areas which need to be clarified.
This issue has not been brought into parliament and, as such, it is not
yet clear what form the bill will take should it be introduced. However,
if a bill, such as this, did enter the House of Commons there are many
procedures it would have to pass before it became law, including both in
the House of Commons and House of Lords, and it would undergo detailed
scrutiny by committees.
Please be assured that I will take your comments into consideration
should the Government attempt to legislate on this matter in the future.
Mark Simmonds MP
Please get interfering government ministers out of our bedrooms
Observer by Carol Sarler
The proposal to legislate against violent pornography is not only
unworkable, but fundamentally intrusive, putting government where we
least want it - in our bedrooms.
Whatever turns you on takes yet another kicking as Home Office
minister Vernon Coaker denounces violent pornography as 'abhorrent',
with which we might mostly agree and therefore, by direct consequence,
proposes a law allowing those who indulge to be imprisoned for up to
three years, with which we might mostly not.
His declaration has been hailed as a victory for Liz Longhurst, who has
campaigned for such a move since her daughter, Jane, was strangled
during sex in 2003 by her lover, Graham Coutts, a man much taken with
violent internet pornography sites.
Mrs Longhurst's passion is as understandable as it is forgivable. The
only understanding that one might afford the Home Office, however, is
that it proves itself once more unable to pass by an opportunity for
vote-grabbing legislation based on little more than the politics of
'obvious, innit?' - it's horrid, ergo, we ban it.
Actually, it's not obvious at all. For a start, nobody has offered proof
beyond the circumstantial that there is any cause and effect to lay at
the feet of these websites. The Home Office itself acknowledges that
there is no definitive evidence about the impact of the material, either
on the population at large or on those predisposed to peculiar behaviour.
Mrs Longhurst has said: If the furniture of peoples' minds is
polluted with this stuff, they can become very dangerous. Yet she
then admits: I don't think we can ever prove that 100%.
A year ago, when legislation on this matter was first mooted, I wrote on
these pages: It is equally likely that the weirdo is drawn to the
internet images because he's a weirdo. I even wonder, sometimes,
whether the wretched images help keep the sad bastards sated and, thus,
the rest of us out of harm's way.
Nevertheless, flying in the face of all useful reason, the unstoppable
train of crowd-pleasing lurches on. It knows well which buttons to push:
the favourite all along has been the desire to bring violent pornography
'in line with' child pornography, for all the world as if there is a
tangential connection. There isn't. No children, by definition, can
consent to play a part in pornography, therefore legal protection for
them is clearly required. Some adults, however, may consent to their
role in pornography; only where they do not, where coercion of any form
is applied, do they need similar protection.
But then, they already have it. It may not be as rigorously applied as
we would wish; still, the production, distribution and possession for
gain in this unsavoury industry is legally verboten in this as in many
We already know the difference between the producers within a market and
the consumers of it. What is new about the announcement last week is the
bundling of the two together to make a criminal of the man or woman who
downloads grisly material in the privacy of their own home, to absorb
within the privacy of their own mind.
What shall we do with the frisky couple who record an evening of
consensual bondage and then replay it another night? Shall we add to
their sentence if they invite the neighbours around to watch it? Will
their fake pain be allowed - but real pain not? What, then, for my
friend Kate who positively relishes pain, in a way that I cannot
understand but do accept; will her penalty for a recording of her choice
of consensual sex pull a sentence harsher still?
For some reason, we tolerate a government greatly given to the creation
of new laws. Many (most?) of them have proved to be unworkable, but if
they are designed to clean up our streets, you might be generous enough
to say that they tried. This proposed law, however, is not only equally
unworkable, but is fundamentally intrusive, putting government where we
least want it - in our bedrooms - and is designed less to clean up our
streets than our minds. For that, we might come to prefer that they
hadn't even tried in the first place.
Realistic Depiction of an MP
Dear Mike Hancock (Lib Dem MP)
It is with regret that I find I have to write to you again as I note
that this Government is going ahead with its plans to create a "Thought
Crime" by making possession of "violent porn" a criminal offence.
This decision is based their interpretation of the results of a deeply
flawed "consultation" document which drew entirely fallacious
comparisons with Child Pornography and which made claims that since the
proposers of the law found such imagery "abhorrent", it should be banned
to protect the rest of us.
This document was not only criticised by members of the Spanner Trust,
but also by Rabinder Singh QC (a leading Human Rights lawyer), the BBFC
and Channel 4 Television amongst others.
The definitions of what the Home Office claim to be "violent porn" are
entirely subjective and the only way they will be tested is when some
poor soul is hauled in front of their court to have their reputation
destroyed even if (or when!) they are found to be not guilty.
This law is a pernicious attempt to control what individuals in this
country are permitted to see, based on nothing more than the personal
opinions of members of the Government and that is a breach of basic
Human Rights and I urge you to impart this to your Parliamentary
Colleagues and suggest that they the implications of this law before
people are locked up for looking at "dangerous pictures".
From Mike Hancock (Lib Dem MP)
for your email and as you are (obviously!) aware we had a detailed email
exchange about this at the time of the consultation so you know where I
come from on this.
I have to say today we have a rather terse press release from the Home
Office which says: "Under new laws announced by Home Office Minister
Vernon Coaker, it will be illegal to possess pornographic images
depicting scenes of extreme sexual violence. This would include, for
example, material featuring violence that appears to be life
So it is difficult today to know still exactly what the Home Office is
proposing and what the exact form of the legislations will be.
While as you know I (and am sure many Liberal Democrats) share your free
speech concerns, we do differ over whether nothing should be made
illegal or if you like everything (i.e. all adult pornography however
extreme) should be legal which is I think basically your viewpoint but
not mine and as I said last time I can conceive of material -
particularly realistic life-threatening violence in a sexual context
that I would want to outlaw.
At the moment, as we discussed, distribution of material that goes
beyond an R-18 rating is illegal but not its possession. And there is a
case to made that if society has deemed that some material should be if
you like "illegal" and not be distributed than its possession, given
that we essentially cannot control its distribution on the internet,
should be made illegal. And the Home Office have said that what they
propose to outlaw is possession of material that goes beyond R-18
There remain for me two hurdles. The first is whether the Government
succeeds in defining what it what it wants to outlaw in terms of extreme
material. They also, as we discussed before, need to define how
realistic it needs to be and how they define the journalistic and
artistic defences to showing it. As you I think from your email, are
aware, Channel Four pointed out in their submission that they have shown
some quite extreme material in a journalistic/documentary context which
has been deemed to be within the broadcast/Ofcom guideline which are
obviously more stringent than those for R-18 videos. I guess given they
are now coming forward with these laws the Government think they can
frame these definitions legally. But as we said before it is a difficult
definition to draw up and as I say I cannot and I suspect many of my Lib
Dem colleagues cannot come to a definitive conclusion until we see
exactly what is proposed.
The second problem is that people who "accidentally" come across such
material should not be prosecuted and this again is quite a tough one -
one could foresee someone downloading a video off the internet and only
once it is downloaded would someone know it is illegal and then it is
difficult to differentiate between whether they kept it for a long time
and then deleted or deleted it immediately. And indeed how long do they
have to keep it for it to be an offence? And I am not sure that could be
reliably ascertained forensically from a computer.
As you point out Rabinder Singh QC has also said that in his opinion
there is quite a large question mark over whether these laws will be
compatible with human rights laws and although he has come to an opinion
that they probably won't be, I guess you can't come to a clear opinion
until the exact form of the legislation is known. Obviously the
Government will either need to frame something that is within the Human
Rights legislation or it will be open to challenge and indeed a
prosecution could be (ultimately) successfully defended by recourse to
the Human Rights laws. It is perhaps disappointing that we don't have a
written constitution like America but these laws are, at least at the
moment, the ultimate and essentially only legal defence of free speech
and human rights against laws that go too far.
While we don't fully agree on this issue, thanks once again for getting
in touch and I hope that helps again in outlining where I am coming from
and I suspect that we will continue to have an exchange of views as we
learn more of exactly what the Government proposes!
Dear Mike Hancock (Lib Dem MP)
I appreciate the points you have made, however I do not feel you have
quite understood my position. It is not that I necessarily consider that
"all adult pornography however extreme should be legal" but that this
proposed law is based on entirely subjective opinions of what is
"acceptable" or "abhorrent".
Where the Home Office says "it will be illegal to possess pornographic
images depicting scenes of extreme sexual violence. This would include,
for example, material featuring violence that appears to be life
threatening" the important word is "appears".
I cannot believe anyone could consider it reasonable that, if someone
were to take a pornographic photograph involving consenting actors that
"appears to be life threatening" they would not be jailed for the act
involved, but they would be jailed for possessing the photograph! This
would be a nonsensical situation.
These proposals are a retrograde step in that they would extend the law
into an area it has never gone before, ie making it illegal to possess
pictures of acts which are not, in themselves, illegal! This is, of
course, entirely different to the case of child pornography where the
images portray illegal acts with non-consenting subjects (a fact that
the Home Office's biased consultation completely failed to mention).
You say that "Obviously the Government will either need to frame
something that is within the Human Rights legislation or it will be open
to challenge and indeed a prosecution could be (ultimately) successfully
defended by recourse to the Human Rights laws" and I agree that is true,
but in the mean time some poor soul will have had their life and their
reputation destroyed along with all the attendant stress of being hauled
through the courts and being tried in the media and that, in my opinion,
is no way to ascertain the validity of a law.
I would also remind you that, of course, Graham Coutts, the murderer of
Jane Longhurst (except that may now become "man-slaughterer" as his case
is going to appeal) had been engaging in breath-play games and drawing
nooses on photographs of women long before the internet was available,
so it seems that "violent pornography" is simply being used as a
scapegoat and this is just an excuse to increase censorship.
On that matter, you say that "there is a case to made that if society
has deemed that some material should be if you like "illegal" and not be
distributed than its possession, given that we essentially cannot
control its distribution on the internet, should be made illegal",
however I cannot agree with this.
For a long time in this country it was illegal to distribute a picture
of an erect penis or to show sexual acts, yet, even then, it was not a
criminal offence to possess such material. The law in that situation has
now, at last, been relaxed (without the country turning into raging sex
maniacs!) yet these proposals want to make you a criminal simply for
*looking* at something that someone else doesn't like.
This is not just ludicrous, it is a very dangerous precedent because it
goes beyond "protecting the public" and into the realms of State
Censorship where you can be locked up for possessing something that the
State doesn't want you to have. Countries such as China have laws like
this. I wouldn't expect them in this country.
Finally, you say "I guess given they are now coming forward with these
laws the Government think they can frame these definitions legally", but
from my point of view, this is just a desperate attempt by a failing
government to grab some positive headlines and make look as if they are
"doing something" in order to placate Middle England.
The fact that innocent people who simply have different sexual tastes
from the norm may end up being jailed seems unimportant to them.
We may disagree on whether or not "extreme material" should be
restricted, however I hope we can agree that, whatever the case, these
proposals are most certainly not the way to go and I urge you and your
Parliamentary colleagues to consider the dangers that the represent and
fight to ensure that they never reach the statute books.
Don't Watch This, Don't Watch That... Oh, Don't Watch This Either
Liz Longhurst can't really be blamed. Backed by MPs and a 50,000 name
petition, she's just won her court battle to get a ban on the violent
porn which she believes had a hand in the murder of her daughter. Any of
us would be likely to seek the same in our rage and grief - whatever we
fiercely defend now, we'd be very likely to try and pulverise it out of
existence if it killed someone we loved. It might be more Buddhist to
forgive, of course, but when it's something abstract like porn which
society doesn't especially smile upon anyway, then the moral imperative
isn't there. The assumption is that porn, unlike, say, cars (which kill
people relatively often), serves no positive purpose. So it can go, and
it's better all round. No argument.
The campaign has led to the government announcing plans to make the
possession of violent porn an offence, carrying a penalty of three
years' imprisonment. This apparently 'closes a legal loophole'. But
where 'offensive material' is concerned, there's a whole scarf of
possible loopholes, depending on where your line of squeamishness is.
The material gobbled up by Graham Coutts allegedly inspired him to
strangle Jane Longhurst, and we'd totally buy that in part, it did - of
course, you need a disturbed mind to begin with, but extreme porn is
more likely to trigger the latent murderous urge than extreme
mountain-biking. We can't be sure what the material consisted of,
exactly, but we'd probably be shocked by it. It's probably stuff that's
way beyond what we can stomach, despite priding ourselves somewhat on
our dauntlessness in the face of gruesome things. We don't like sexual
violence all that much, thanks, and we probably wouldn't want to go
drinking with people who film it for a living.
And yet once again we find ourselves trotting out the same tired
anti-censorship drivel to ourselves, because we sort of have to. It's
bothering that the government are seeking to draw firm lines across
porn, tidy up the legislation, and decide what makes its watchers
dangerous and what just makes them a bit horny. Once you get into
'extreme' territory, lines start to get inevitably blurry - one person's
extreme is another person's gentle pursuit. A couple of nanoseconds
online throw up a whole dossier of evidence against puppy-burning,
skull-fucking, child-eating Marilyn Manson, who genuinely frightens and
angers thousands of people. You might not be able to watch his naked
sacrilegious cavortings in polite company, but it's not really horrific
- it's just the somewhat provocative work of a clever bloke with a
strong visual sense and a rather childish love of swearing. Not that you
can compare the video for 'The Fight Song' with whatever Graham Coutts
was watching, but for some people the line of tolerance is so far back
from both, they might as well be cut from the same heaving slab of evil.
(Not to go too far down this road, but 'The Exorcist' and 'A Clockwork
Orange' were both banned until a very few years ago.) Trusting a
government to be able to draw sensible boundaries is difficult,
especially when you suspect they'd pretty much ban all porn if they
could. (They'd have a fine example in their US counterparts, who are
busily sending the FBI into public libraries to rip the throbbing,
tumescent menace out at the root.)
The thing with porn is that plenty of perfectly well-adjusted people use
it in order to healthily and normally and peaceably wank themselves into
stupors. It's a legitimate thing for a person to do in a free society.
Some people are built to need nastier, more dubious material to get them
going - some of them may not be very pleasant company, but that doesn't
remove their right to look at what they choose. Even though they might
go on to commit a crime, which may or may not have anything to do with
what they've been looking at - you have to let people look at porn just
as you have to let people drive cars. The activity is not inherently
dangerous. Porn serves a need, otherwise it wouldn't exist, and whatever
issues its existence raises it can't be denied that it makes many people
But despite the well-documented problems with sexual dysfunction and
repression which the lack of an outlet can cause or perpetuate, the
government is never going to consider for a breathless second that porn
(in essence at least) must be protected as a valuable resource. As with
drugs, it's just a lot easier and cleaner to Not Go There, and file porn
away as one of those irrational little evolutionary blips that serve no
purpose whatsoever. Like vestigial tails. (We're sure there's some porn
on that, but you can look it up yourself, you craven degenerates.) It's
something people consume because they simply don't know any better, not
because it serves a basic requirement in their lives. Trouble is that if
that simple equation were acknowledged:
porn = release + (maybe a fag),
a few difficult theoreticals might follow...
Such as 'If violent porn led to violent crime in this one case, how do
you know there weren't a thousand other potential murderers who never
fulfilled that potential, because they were sufficiently mollified by
the same material?' And then, y'know, you'd have to start on about the
same principle when it comes to child porn, and what the rate of
correlation is between watching and doing, and how many people convicted
of possessing child porn used it to work out their grim fantasies and
that was that, and then maybe tentatively think about some kind of safe
scheme where you could provide already existing material to paedophiles,
like a methadone programme, and... Or maybe you'd be forced to
acknowledge some banal truths about psychology, and how people have
inbuilt limits, and how some of them could live in a nice house with no
telly or Internet and they'd still kill because of something they
thought, not observed.
Yeah, fuck it. It's too complicated. Ban all of it. Put it all in the
Oxford Street branch of Ann Summers and petrol-bomb the fucker. That way
there'll be no more sex crime, or at the very least no more hilarious
See no evil: The government should stay out of the bedroom - and the
By Frank Fisher
From The Guardian
News that the UK government is set to legislate against the possession
of violent pornography, with simple possession punishable by a three
year jail term, indicates that not only are we in the dying hours of the
Silly Season, but also that we're in the dying hours of reason in this
increasingly irrational nation.
Of all the arrogant, idiotic, kneejerk, populist measures this ignorant
and increasingly inept government has proposed, this has to be the
worst. Ill-conceived, illiberal, impractical and totally unenforceable -
so why propose it?
A stammering and reticent Vernon Coaker, undersecretary of state at the
Home Office and head honcho while the grown-ups are away, gave the game
away on Radio 4's World at One. What did the government hope to
achieve with this measure? What motivated it? The hapless Coaker
explained that the government apparently wanted nothing at all - it was
doing what a dozen special interest groups asked it to do.
Seriously. When asked "Why?" his repeated response was:What we're
saying is that women's groups and police forces who responded to us
found it unacceptable ... they said there was a need for the law to be
updated and for possession to be made an offence. In other words,
Don't blame us guv, we're just doing as we're told.
We pay these people a great deal of money to weigh up arguments and
legislate when necessary - who guessed that all reason goes out the
window when a couple of mouthy NGOs and a grieving mother come knocking?
Croaker claimed in his BBC interview that most people who responded to
the government consultation on this issue were in favour of a ban - in
fact, that's quite untrue. The vast majority of responding individuals
opposed it - support for a ban came from churches, women's groups,
charities and police. But let's leave aside for a moment the ugly image
of UK legislation being imposed by proven fantasists, unelected
do-gooders and the cops, and look at what this would actually mean.
The new offence claims to fill a "loophole", in that production and
distribution of violent porn is already illegal - not so. The Obscene
Publications Act contains nothing outlawing such material in those
terms, merely outlawing all materials that "corrupt" - and as any lawyer
knows, juries have disagreed on what that constitutes for decades. No,
this isn't a loophole, this creates a whole new category of carefully
defined criminality - and what's criminal? Well, any image that is
pornographic, and involves violence that appears realistic and would
result in death or serious or disabling results. Something like this
would appear to fit the bill.
That's from Hitch's Frenzy, probably his most gruesome and
sexually explicit killing, but of course the Master had dozens. Aware of
this, no doubt following consultation responses from the diligent Melon
Farmers group among others, the government suggests it will be a defence
to say that you are in possession of material previously passed by the
BBFC - but how would you know? Are we expected to research the
provenance of every online image? Moreover, if rated material is exempt,
what's the point of a ban?
The worst still from Frenzy is easily the equal of any Necrobabes
gore. Are we really supposed to accept that quality snuff from Hitch and
Dario Argento is not going to affect potential killers, but modern East
European slashers will? This is a curious modification of the "would you
let your wife and servants read this book" argument, it seems. If we,
good middleclass people, watch it in the cinema at 24 frames per second
this imagery is benign; but on a PC in a bedsit, in still form, it will
turn you into a maniac.
If fact, the Government acknowledges that nothing will turn you into a
maniac - their own consultation document accepts that there is no
evidence that violent porn creates criminal reactions in viewers. They
accept that in an evidence-based legislative process, this law shouldn't
see the light of day.
How crazy is this? They know there is no reason for the legislation; the
minister launching the policy can't even bring himself to explain why we
need it, they know that no other country in the developed world treats
its citizens' liberties in such cavalier fashion, and yet they're
proposing to legislate anyway. We can all sympathise with a mother who
has lost her daughter in gruesome circumstances, but this sympathy
should not be the basis of such disproportionate and illiberal law. Is
this government really so shot of ideas that it has to accept this
Of course, the crazier fringe of feminism doesn't see the need for
evidence - the anti-porn wallahs at the Child and Woman Abuse Studies
Unit quite openly state that the government is right to argue that it
does not need proof that images of torture and degradation are
corrupting and may affect behaviour. Opinion appears to be enough.
The excellent Backlash site has a great deal of debunking material that
addresses such bigotry, and also calculates the number of people who
could face prison, should this daffy legislation pass - four million
members of the BDSM and Goth communities. Presumably these minorities'
rights don't matter to the government. Vernon Coaker was touring the
news media yesterday to claim that the majority of British people
abhorred such material, that they found it disgusting; friend Coaker,
couldn't you once - and perhaps still - have said the same about public
attitudes to homosexuality?
If universal human rights mean anything at all, they mean minorities get
their rights too - and tampering with those rights is permissible only
with damn good evidence that what you are doing has a wider social
benefit. If the government really wants to start locking up vampire
fetishists and auto-asphyxiators, it had better start making a case. It
needs to explain definitions used, it needs to explain how enforcement
will operate, it needs to explain who will benefit from this ban, and
more than anything it needs to offer up some proof of its ludicrous
There are already some who reckon this legislation is simply puff, that
it will vanish without trace very soon - it's plausible, since the
likelihood of this standing up in the Lords and at Strasbourg is
minimal. But there are others who see a wider concern - and reckon such
legislation is part of a broad campaign to regulate and control the
internet. This too is plausible. Calls have been made in the past, at
European Commission level, for all EU internet users to be identified
and registered, and for all online traffic to be monitored. It's easy to
see how a government could introduce a violent porn ban, find it
impossible to police, and follow this up with a suggestion that the wild
wild internet needs to be tamed - perhaps using ID cards carrying a
Paranoia aside, it's also worth noting that the arguments being put
forward against violent porn are identical to those many put forward
against its vanilla cousin. Can we trust the pressure groups to be happy
with just one victory? Remember folks, first they came for the
Please Mr Blair,
we don't need any more laws that can't be enforced
The Government seem to be capturing little support
for their proposals at the moment. If they can't rely on support from
the Daily Mail...who can they rely on?
From the Daily Mail by
columnist Tom Utley
Kindly transcribed on
A man in his early thirties is tortured to death by one of the most
agonising deaths ever dreamt up by a sick mind. A woman of 19 is tied up
and burned alive. Another has her breasts cut off before being rolled to
death on a bed of red-hot coals..
Because of a technological breakthrough, all these images are freely
available to children and adults all over the world. Indeed, they have
been publicly accessible for many centuries since the breakthrough I
have in mind was the ancient discovery of long-lasting pigments that
could be applied to wood, plaster or canvas.
All you need to do if you want to see images of the sort I have
described, is walk into any Christian church or gallery of Renaissance
I mention Christian iconography only to highlight the extreme difficulty
ministers will encounter when they come to draft the new law they
promised this week, under which offenders will face up to three years in
prison if they look at 'violent and extreme' pornography on the
How will the Government's lawyers define exactly what they mean- and
where will they draw the line?
For example, I can't think of anything much more extreme than skinning a
man alive. Would Tony Blair have sent Michelangelo to prison for
depicting the flaying of St Bartholomew, in hideous detail, in his Last
Judgement in the Sistine Chapel?
Well, of course he wouldn't. But can the Prime Minister explain the
exact legal difference between Michelangelo's sublime masterpiece and a
cleverly mocked-up film or still photograph on the internet, purporting
to show a random young woman being flayed alive?
Is it just the medium that matters-fresco as opposed to photography or
computer graphics (which incidentally get more realistic every week)? Is
it the difference of intention between the artist and the pornographer -
the one to inspire, the other to titillate? Or is it just the shear
quality of Michelangelo, set aside the vileness of porn?
Whatever the answer, these will be mighty difficult questions for juries
to decide. Of course, common sense will get them most of the way - but I
predict very rich pickings for the lawyers all the same.
Images of the crucifixion raise other intriguing questions about the
link between what we see and the way we behave. More than a billion
people world-wide gaze every Sunday at often-graphic depictions of this
revoltingly cruel way of torturing a man to death. Countless films have
re-enacted it too.
So why, if those people are right who argue that violence on screen
provokes copycat violence in real life, do we never hear about crazed
Christians rushing out after church or the cinema to crucify their
The answer is that the way we behave depends vastly more on the sort of
people we are than on images we see.
My own children, I'm ashamed to admit, watch far too many violent films
and play endless video games that involve blowing people's brains out or
kicking old ladies in the head. I suppose I should do more to try to
stop them - although it would be pretty fruitless if I tried, since they
would only go to their friends' houses and watch the same films or play
the same games there.
But I don't worry too much about it because I am absolutely, 100% sure
that none of my four sons - bad-tempered though they can sometimes be -
would ever dream of knifing or shooting anyone in real life, any more
than I would myself. Like the overwhelming majority of us, they are
simply not that sort of person.
In the same way, you can be completely certain that none but the tiniest
handful of perverts who get a kick out of watching violent rape scenes
on the internet would ever commit rape or murder in real life.
One man who is said to have done that is Graham Coutts, who was
convicted of murdering 31-year-old teacher Jane Longhurst, hours after
looking at websites showing images of torture and extreme sexual
violence. He won an appeal on technical grounds and is now facing a
It is chiefly because of this one case that the Government has promised
to bring in the new law, after a ten-month campaign by the victim's
mother, Liz Longhurst, whose petition attracted 50,000 signatures. Like
everyone else, I have the most heart-felt sympathy for Mrs Longhurst and
the deepest admiration for her determination that some good should come
out of her daughter's awful death.
She is convinced that others like Jane are at risk from these vile
pornographers, feeding on the basest appetites of the men who log on to
I strongly respect her view - and I fully understand the argument that
if nobody looked at this muck, the market for it would disappear. And
with the market gone, nobody would produce violent pornography any more,
which would mean that nobody would suffer in the making of it.
But many things worry me about the proposed law. For a start, it may
well be true that perverted killers like looking at unspeakable filth on
the internet. But it doesn't necessarily turn them into killers.
For another, the great majority of films that purport to showmen and
women being tortured and killed are performed by consenting adult actors
and nobody actually suffers( except perhaps morally) in the making of
We have all heard about 'snuff movies' showing real deaths - but this
new law will apply equally to pornography that relies on acting and
A third consideration is that this new law will utterly destroy the
lives of many men, drawn to look at pornography by curiosity or sexual
inadequacy, who pose no real physical threat to anybody.
But, worst of all, do we really need yet another new law, creating yet
another new imprisonable criminal offence, at a time when the Government
is setting thousands of violent men free to clear space in our prisons -
men who certainly do pose an immediate physical threat to us all?
Aren't the police far enough stretched as it is, without giving them yet
another excuse to sit in offices, watching hundreds of hours of
pornography, instead of getting out on to the beat where they might
protect the public?
The new law has New Labour written all over it. Home Office Minister
Vernon Coaker knows that countless millions of us will heartily agree
with him when he says he finds violent and extreme pornography 'deeply
abhorrent'. He knows that a great many will therefore approve when they
see headlines proclaiming 'Government cracks down on internet filth.'
So it is that, long after the headlines are forgotten, we will be
saddled with yet another badly drafted law, to add to the 3000-plus new
criminal offences already created under Labour.
It will be yet another law that nobody will be able to enforce properly,
because we haven't enough room in our prisons. And yet another law that
will do no obvious good, while giving the police yet another excuse to
avoid doing their proper jobs.
Is that really such a good idea?
Update 11th March
Off with their Bollox!
The Scottish responses to the
Government Consultation on Extreme Pornography have now been posted.
There were 92 responses of which 66 have been made public. Hopefully
those preferring to remain anonymous are anti censorship because the
balance of responses I read (not all) seemed to be in favour of the
Government's nasty stance.
In fact many of the responses posted are very depressing. There are
so many people that support 3 or 5 years in prison for merely viewing
images. No consideration of the devastation that they are wishing on
people. Hardly a properly reasoned comment amongst them.
The lynch mob is alive and well in Scotland and they are calling for
(missing 'l' in Material is deliberate)
33-28 but Recount Demanded
Regarding the Scottish response to the consultation, I make it that
33 out of 66 published responses support the legislation, 28 are against
and 5 are neutral/ambiguious. There are some very polarized viewpoints
as we might have expected! My guess is that many of the confidential
responses will be against...possibly from those close to or within the
I was worried that the Law Society of Scotland seemed to buy the
government spin that criminal activities are widely involved in the
production of the material in question. The WS society (solicitor's
society) made a very strong case against the legislation in
counter-balance. I have written to the Law Society of Scotland to ask
them what evidence they used in the construction of their response (see
below) but I don't expect a reply any time soon!
I agree that it is incomprehensible why anyone could demand 3-5 years
imprisonment (10 years in one case!!) on the mere basis of moral
indignation. Again, I think the consultation document did quite a good
job of misleading the public...
From Dark Angel on
Just been reading through the responses on the Scottish exec website.
the question as to whether people are generally in favour of their
proposals doesn`t seem particularly clear cut.
Many people who initially say they would be in favour of a strengthening
of the law THEN go on to say that only in the case where the acts were
non-consensual and/or involving animals and genuine cases of
The only people who seem strongly in favour of the proposals in their
original form are those totally unaware this material is in fact
faked/staged and consensual.
It`s interesting to note that most private individuals who responded
seem generally against the proposals, whereas organisations, such as
councils, children's associations and police forces seem in favour.
Also interesting is that they fail to address the issues such as, how
come were the only country that has a problem with this stuff, how do
they intend to police what people view in the privacy of their own homes
and how is saying "we can`t view it" going to affect the production and
viewing of this material overseas?
It seems they have little knowledge of the outside world and are only
interested in trying to maintain this country`s archaic laws.
I`m still working my way through the responses, but the most interesting
reply so far appears to be from "The Scottish Court Service" who have
simply said "how much is all this extra work expected to cost us"?
Food for thought indeed!
10 Years for Viewing an Image
From MichaleG on
Worrying stuff indeed from the Scottish consultation, I only read a
couple of the responses and began to get rether depressed so I left it
at that. Fucking facists like David N. Mackie (if you haven`t read his
response yet, please do: it`s very amusing in a terrifying kind of way)
don`t even belong in the 21st century in my opinion. What kind of sadist
would wish a 10 year prison sentence on someone for viewing an image? To
Mackie, this is "...a simple matter of social discipline". Piss off you
loser, it`s because of people like you that we`re still languishing in
some kind of sexually disfunctional dark age while most of our European
counterparts laugh their socks off at us. Do you think this guy has
actually had any kind of sex himself? Ever?
Still, in Mackie`s favour, he does state that much greater clarification
is needed on the material in question, which is undoubtedly the key to
this issue. It`s the whole "serious violence in a sexual context", and
"realistic depictions, staged or otherwise, with or without consent"
that really make this difficult to understand and potentially
incriminating and dangerous to so many people.
So here`s me, 35 years old, always worked hard (I now have my own
business), always paid my bills and taxes, never taken drugs, never been
in a fight, never been arrested, and I try to be polite and courteous to
everyone I meet. Yet in the not too distant, I could be turned, quite
literally overnight, into a criminal. End of story, and quite possibly
my life as I know it. I`m still optimistic that the sheer unworkability
of the proposed laws will make extensive reviewing before legislating
inevitable, but we`ll just have to wait and see.
Home Office to Respond in May
Well the feminists bizarrely seem to have taken to this idea with a
vengeance (somewhat illogically, I would argue) but otherwise I don’t
see the organizations all coming down in favour… the odd council seems
to say yes, but take a look at the reply by the sheriffs and the
Scottish courts and there is no commitment either way… in fact the
courts merely state that they’d require additional funds if the law was
introduced… so I don’t think all is yet lost in Scotland…
If the backlash site is right and May looks like the date we’ll hear
from the home office about the nature of the response, then I think
there is indeed hope… had they sought to railroad this through, I think
they wouldn’t take that time.. the fact that their response is delayed
seems to suggest that at least some considerations are being made… if
this is a good thing or merely an indication that they are trying
desperately to somehow weld together something new which would allow
them to go ahead despite the objections remains to be seen…
Updated 1st March
Caught Ignoring Consultation Response
Jon F to
from Jon F who also reports the abuse of human rights)
I posed 3 Freedom of Information questions in my response to the Home
Office consultation paper. Obviously, I've not received a reply within
the required period. I'm not surprised - because I don't think the Home
Office has any interest in the views of the private individual. But,
that's why I posed 3 Freedom of Informationrequests - to demonstrate
that they DON'T read responses to consultation material !
This is another critical factor in the case to be presented to the
European Court of Human Rights (Strasbourg).
Here is the letter I have today issued to the Information Commissioner:
Freedom of Information
Consultation on Possession of Extreme Pornography
On 14 November 2005 I issued a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to
the Home Office as part of my investigation into, and response to, the
consultation process on the possession of extreme pornography.
I inserted a freedom of information request for two reasons – one of
them to establish whether the Home Office actually reads responses from
the private citizen.
I submitted a particularly detailed paper which seriously undermined the
Home Office proposals outlined in the consultation paper. My paper
supported the legislation approved by all European Union states -
encompassed within UK legislation in the HRA 1998. My FoI questions
sought to tease out elements in the incompatibility between the HRA and
the proposals outlined in the consultation process.
The Home Office initially acknowledged my response. Then the Minister
(Paul Goggins) wrote to an MP on 20 December, who forwarded me his
letter, providing a very brief outline of his approach following the
consultation process. This response demonstrated to me that he had
little understanding of the complexity of the issues I had raised within
the consultation period. I was convinced that the Home Office had not
read my paper. I fear that the Home Office may have concluded its
approach to the consultation process without examining the detailed
reasons why those, opposed to the legislation proposed, held the views
This issue goes to the core of the purpose of your organisation.
I have been patient, I do not wish to overly embarrass the Home Office,
but I wrote in detail on 14 November, posing my questions, and on 29
January, I sent a reminder to Mr Goggins. It is expensive photocopying
lengthy documents, so I summarise here the questions posed in my paper
of 14 November: -
3. Freedom of Information Requests.
3.1 Request for information which demonstrates that a request has been
issued to a foreign government to investigate an alleged sexual assault
3.2 An attempt has been made to find on the Internet an example of a
real time rape video which appears to be a genuine rape. It may be that
Home Office staff have devoted some time to this and have found some
material. No money was spent on pornographic sites during the research
undertaken in support of this response, which may explain why the writer
has been unable to find a convincing example of a real rape. There is
therefore some concern in case the Home Office has claimed material
exists which doesn’t (for some years an “urban myth” was in circulation
of the existence of “snuff videos”).
3.3 Given that the consultation paper suggests that virtually all such
sites are based abroad, it seems reasonable to expect that, if such a
site had been found, and the Home Office had reasonable grounds to
suspect that a real rape had occurred, the Home Office would have asked
a foreign government to investigate. Please would you let me have a copy
of any letter to a foreign government which demonstrates that you have
asked it to investigate an allegation of rape?
3.4 Request for any legal advice which confirms that the possession of
consensual sado-masochistic violent sex can successfully be prosecuted
and that Article 8 does not apply.
3.5 It seems extremely unlikely that violent sado-masochistic sex, which
is consensual, and which is not life threatening, can be deemed to be
criminal (See: 9.1, 9.3 & 9.4 below: Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act
2000: definition). Furthermore, it seems unlikely that the possession of
real images depicting such acts could also be criminalised – because of
the provisions of Article 8 of the Convention. I would therefore like to
see any legal advice you have received with regard to this specific
category of material.
3.6 Request for sight of any research which demonstrates that children
may be more harmed by access to explicit Internet based material, that
is: material more explicit than that which is permissible within the R18
category (for example “fisting”).
3.7 Would you please direct me to or show me any research you have which
demonstrates that children may be more harmed by viewing extreme
material on the Internet than by seeing R18 material? Or harmed at all
by any such material? (There is a belief that if any harm does occur it
may be due to expressions of adult assumed abhorrence.)
3.8 For your convenience I also provide notice of my intention to make a
further FoI request in 6 months time (see paragraph 5.18 below).
I ask that you seek a response from the Home Office to these FoI
requests, that you investigate the reasons for the delay in replying,
and you also press your obligations to the full - to establish whether
the Home Office actually reads responses received to consultation
While I expect little sympathy from your office to the underlying theme
of my response (the right of consenting adults to enjoy bizarre sex in
private), I do ask that you recognise that Government Departments must
read responses to consultation papers. An objective observer will, of
course, recognise that this has huge implications for issues of mass
Maybe a Couple of Admin People Read the Responses
A Backlash contributor points out a few likely
reasons for delay
Consultation responses are all filed and analysed. A list of
respondees and a summary of responses should be made available once the
analysis has got that far. If they haven't made such a list and a
summary (about 4 pages is typical) online, then feel free to ask them
when it will be done. However, the answer is likely to be: when we
can keep a literate admin person long enough to do it!
Given the amount of responses, and there's likely two people working on
this entire topic as a small part of their jobs, it's entirely
reasonable that so far they've only been sorted into piles and their
efforts have been concentrated on writing submissions saying: Er
Minister, you know how you wanted this pushed through by Easter, well
actually there's some significant opposition so you're going to have to
think a lot harder, we'll get back to you once we've analysed it all.
RE FoI hat on, it's arguable that words in a consultation response, ie
not a letter that has to be responded to, don't count as a 'legible'
request and/or that the authority has not yet 'received' the request
[see sections 8 and 10 of FOIA
Write or email them asking the same questions. Mention that you
already asked these questions in a consultation response and haven't had
any acknowledgement. Bear in mind that if you don't get joy from them,
the required next step is for an internal review (under the s45 Code of
Practice), and the IC won't consider your complaint if you haven't tried