Extreme Porn

 2006

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14th December
 
  Petitioning for Gay Support

  Pink News logoPink News publicises Downing Street petitions

From Pink News

Different factions of the gay community are being urged to support one of two differing petitions on a new law regarding “violent pornography.”

The Criminal Justice Bill, unveiled in last month’s Queen’s Speech, would ban the possession of online and printed porn depicting "scenes of extreme sexual violence," a move opposed by some activists who claim the law is too vague and could lead to innocent people being prosecuted despite consenting to activities.

One petition to the Prime Minister is calling for the repeal of the Bill, it currently has nearly 900 signatures. It claims, 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.

Louise Morris, a member of the bondage, domination and sadomasochistic (BDSM)
community, told PinkNews.co.uk: I could well be an innocent victim of this new bill if it is made law. The government do not recognise an image as being that of consensual "play," all they see is a crime that could and will create serious harm or death. They want to dictate what my sexuality is and how I should be doing things. I know that the gay community themselves had a battle with acceptance not so long ago, and you all fought it and gained a huge amount of respect from everyone because you are open, you showed that your sexuality was indeed yours.

However, more support appears to have been generated for a petition calling for the law to be extended to 18 rated pornographic material. The petition, launched by Mediawatch, and signed by over a thousand people, states,
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to steadfastly proceed with plans announced in the Queen's Speech to make possession of extreme pornography illegal and to include a much wider range of pornographic imagery, such as R18 material, within the scope of the Criminal Justice Bill.

 

12th December 2006   3 Years in prison for owning a dangerous picture!...
 

   
Police raiding home
Don't let this happen to you, nor your family, nor your friends. Please sign the petition

We 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.

Update: Result

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 material.

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 and distribution.

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.

 

8th December
 
  John "Concentration Camp" Beyer
John Beyer

John
"Concentration Camp"
Beyer

  Petitions for 3 years in jail for all porn viewers

Thanks to Alan

John Beyer has also got in on the act and started a petition:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to steadfastly proceed with plans announced in the Queen's Speech to make possession of extreme pornography illegal and to include a much wider range of pornographic imagery, such as R18 material, within the scope of the Criminal Justice Bill.

Further Details:

In 1972 the late Lord Denning, former Master of the Rolls, said that the law against pornography had misfired: He said: Much that is obscene has escaped the reach of the law. The pornography industry has exploited to the full a law that is inherently flawed and has failed to fulfil the intention of Parliament in the 1959 Act to strengthen the criminal law. It has had the opposite effect.

Submitted by John C Beyer of mediawatch-uk

 

3rd December
 
  Animal Ethics

No specific bestiality laws required in Denmark

From Metro

Following quickly on from the news that Belgium doesn't have any laws against bestiality, a council set up by the Danish government to advise on animal ethics has overwhelmingly turned down a law against sex with animals.

The Danish Council for Animal Ethics have decided that there is no need for a specific law banning bestiality, according to Ritzau, the Danish News Agency. It was reported that only one member of the ten-strong council was in favour of an anti-bestiality law.

The other members felt that Denmark's current laws against animal cruelty were sufficient. The only exception to the lack of bestiality laws would be to outlaw animal sex if it took place in porn films or sex shows.

 

28th November
 
  Retrial Dates Set

  Old BaileyGraham Coutts to be retried for the murder of Jane Longhurst

No doubt the Government will be interested in the dates so as to find the best time for them to legislate without prejudicing the trial

From the BBC

Graham Coutts has been remanded in custody after pleading not guilty to the murder of Brighton teacher Jane Longhurst.

Graham Coutts denied strangling her when he appeared at the Old Bailey in London via a video-link.

He is due before a court again on 26 January, with a trial set for 4 June.

 

29th November   A Wake Up Call for the Police

Hertfordshire police badgeThis rather shows how dangerous bad taste emails could become due to the dangerous pictures act

From the BBC
See the offending pictures at Snopes

An e-mail showing a man being decapitated has resulted in 140 Hertfordshire police officers and civilian staff being disciplined.

Eight police sergeants were given formal reprimands and seven civilian supervisors received final written warnings for distributing the message.

The e-mail, originating from the US, shows a black man being decapitated on railings after a pursuit by police. A senior officer said the image could be perceived as racist and offensive. The series of images, which show the pursued man being decapitated after jumping from a flyover, is entitled Do not run from the police.

A total of 440 officers and staff at the force received it, 300 of whom deleted it. However, it was circulated by the other 140 who were at sergeant rank and below or of civilian grade.

Deputy Chief Constable Simon Ash said: I am disappointed by the conduct of officers and staff who distributed this inappropriate image that some people may have perceived as being racist.

However, chairman of the Hertfordshire Police Federation Adam Kemp said he did not believe it was racist and staff had been dealt with for a breach of the force's internet security policy:
My own view is that the image itself is not racist but it's certainly inappropriate to be circulating it within a police force.

 

29th November   A 5am Wake Up Call for Horror Fans

Letter writerThanks to MichaelG

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, nothing will!

Dear Allan,

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 explain.

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 different purposes)
(b) explicit
(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 www.melonfarmers.co.uk (an excellent anti-censorship website which is well worth a look anyway), www.backlash-uk.org.uk and 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.

 

28th November
 
 Staged Pictures of a Crime More Dangerous than the Crime Itself
Old BaileyFrom Northern Ireland Consultation on Sexual Offences [pdf]

Just looking through this autumn's Northern Ireland consultation about sexual offences and noticed:

A maximum sentence of 2 years is proposed for:

  • Intercourse with an animal
  • Sexual penetration of a corpse

This compares with 3 years just for viewing a picture of the same act. Perhaps they will prosecute people with 'possessing a mental image' of the crime for a penalty of 3 years rather than the 2 years for actually doing the crime.

It was pointed out that maybe the maximum sentences of dangerous pictures of these acts may be set below the 3 years maximum.

 

27th November   Consulting the Predisposed

Letter writerFrom budgiebird on the SeeNoEvil forum
see full email on thread Lobbying: Email to CPLU 24th October

Email sent to the CLPU complaining about the Consultation:

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.

CONSULTEES

  • Over 70 of the organisations that were invited to respond, comprised of Police forces, police organisations or Justices of the Peace.
  • 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 respond.

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.

 

5th December
Obscene Origins

Home Office logoHome Office reply

To budgiebird on the SeeNoEvil forum
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 pornography….”

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.

 

25th November
 
  Official: Politicians Don't Reveal the Truth

Damned Lies & Statistics book coverAs mentioned earlier, Julian Petley has written an interesting piece on extreme porn: New steps to extend police powers to punish porn users with the theme that it just provides the basis for an awful lot more censorship to come.

An article from the Telegraph entitled: Official: Politicians Don't Reveal the Truth chimes rather well with Julian's work. It surely shows some of the political means by which the required policy overrides inconvenient research and evidence.

The introductory paragraph sets the scene:

If the Government was a scientist, its research funds would have dried up long ago, it would have been kicked off the international conference circuit, shunned by the top journals and cold shouldered by its peers. That is the damning implication of a report by MPs that slipped out last week with little comment or debate. Although many will shrug at its conclusions that - surprise, surprise - politicians are less-than-straightforward in how they commission and use research, the findings make grim reading. At best, ministers and shadow spokesmen cannot distinguish between anecdote and science. At worst, they can be dodgy operators who use research selectively to "prop up'' policies, or even fraudsters who think nothing of scientific malpractice.

I loved the paragraph:

But many politicians still seem unable to comprehend that science is a never-ending dialogue between theory and experiment, not the recruitment of convenient facts. When the Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, told one newspaper this year that more women should have babies at home, she signalled her determination by saying that she had even commissioned research to support her case.

And a few paragraphs about the Home Office:

Leaving aside ignorance and fuzzy thinking, the MPs uncovered various horror stories that suggest outright science abuse. Prof Tim Hope, a criminologist from Keele University who has worked with the Home Office, told them that "it was with sadness and regret that I saw our work ill-used and our faith in government 's use of evidence traduced''. Of the two case studies looking at burglary reduction that the department commissioned, it decided to only write up one: "Presumably because the area-wide reduction was greater here than elsewhere.''

Prof Hope also accused the Home Office of manipulating the data so as "to capitalise on chance, producing much more favourable findings overall'', despite the fact that "for individual projects, the [Home Office] method produces considerable distortion''.

 He went on to allege that the department had interfered with other researchers: "At the British Society of Criminology conference in the University of Bangor in July 2003 there were a number of papers to be given by academics on the basis of contracted work that they were involved in, as I was, for the Home Office. A number of the researchers were advised not to present their papers at the last minute even though they had been advertised in the programme by Home Office officials.''

Other academics voiced similar concerns: Reece Walters, of Stirling University, told the MPs: "It is clear the Home Office is interested only in rubber-stamping the political priorities of the Government of the day. To participate in Home Office research is to endorse a biased agenda.'' A depressingly consistent picture of abuse has emerged at this particular department. An earlier investigation by the select committee concluded that the Home Office system for classifying drugs is irrational and "not fit for purpose''.
   
The Statistics Commission has even called for the responsibility and publication of crime figures to be at "arm's length'' from Home Office policy makers and for the British Crime Survey to be moved to the Office for National Statistics.

See the full article at Official: Politicians Don't Reveal the Truth

 

19th November   Exposing how venal, stupid, mendacious politicians are

prison fenceInteresting, but when the knee jerking politicians want to put innocent people in prison for human rights abusing populist policies, then surely they deserve every bit of stick that they get.

Based on an article from the BBC

Tony Blair's outgoing chief strategy adviser fears the internet could be fuelling a "crisis" in the relationship between politicians and voters.

Matthew Taylor - who stressed he was speaking as a "citizen" not a government spokesman - said the web could be "fantastic" for democracy. But it was too often used to encourage the "shrill discourse of demands" that dominated modern politics.

Taylor said Blair's online grilling from voters showed the government was making good progress in using the internet to become more open and accountable. But he said more needed to be done by the web community in general to encourage people to use the internet to "solve problems" rather than simply abuse politicians or make "incommensurate" demands on them.

We have a citizenry which can be caricatured as being increasingly unwilling to be governed but not yet capable of self-government, Taylor told a conference.

Like "teenagers", people were demanding, but "conflicted" about what they actually wanted, he argued. They wanted "sustainability", for example, but not higher fuel prices, affordable homes for their children but not new housing developments in their town or village.

But rather than work out these dilemmas in partnership with their elected leaders, they were encouraged to regard all politicians as corrupt or "mendacious" by the media, which he described as a conspiracy to maintain the population in a perpetual state of self-righteous rage.

Whether media was left wing or right wing, the message was always that leaders are out there to shaft you. He went on: At a time at which we need a richer relationship between politicians and citizens than we have ever had, to confront the shared challenges we face, arguably we have a more impoverished relationship between politicians and citizens than we have ever had.

What is the big breakthrough, in terms of politics, on the web in the last few years? It's basically blogs which are, generally speaking, hostile and, generally speaking, basically see their job as every day exposing how venal, stupid, mendacious politicians are.

"The internet is being used as a tool of mobilisation, which is fantastic, but it only adds to the growing, incommensurate nature of the demands being made on government.


He challenged the online community to provide more opportunities for people to try to understand the real trade-offs that politicians face and the real dilemmas that citizens face.

Part of the problem, he added, was the "net-head" culture itself, which was rooted in libertarianism and "anti-establishment" attitudes.

He told delegates: You have to be part of changing that culture. It's important for people who understand technology, to move from that frame of mind, which is about attacking the establishment into one which is about problem-solving and social enterprise.

Government also needed to develop new forms of consultation and engagement that are deliberative in their form and trust citizens to get to the heart of the difficult trade-offs involved. And there should be more effort to make communities work together to solve problems,said Taylor.

Taylor is Tony Blair's chief adviser on political strategy and the former head of the centre left think tank the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR).

 

17th November
 
 Comment: A Collection of Offences

Poker di Donne DVD coverFrom Alan

Re the government announcement to make it a criminal offence to view images of rape and sexual torture. Offenders would be liable to be jailed for up to three years, even if the images actually featured actors who had given their consent.

I'm not surprised about the rape thing. I'd assumed initially that this was likely to be targeted. Looks like Italian and Japanese film buffs are going to have a rough ride! With Italian stuff it's likely to be the odd scene involving our four-legged friends, not uncommon in "classic" Italian adult films of the '80s. You might find it interesting to look at the Wikipedia and IMDB entries for Karin Schubert (easily found on Google). Her filmography reveals that she appears in a couple of films directed by Antonio d'Agostino in 1987, both of which include a pooch and an actress called Denise Dior (films Osceno and Poker di donne). Her Wikipedia entry, however, makes it clear that Frau Schubert had her limits. There were some things she wouldn't do, presumably because they were "abhorrent": no animals (although her scruples didn't go so far as refusing to appear in films where Ms Dior got friendly with a mutt), no anal, and - wait for it! - NO BLACK MEN. Casts an interesting light on the flexible concept of abhorrence, yeah?

More recently, some of the "real life" stuff produced in Italy (based on real incidents) could fall foul of the rape proviso. (A couple of examples are Stupri di guerra (War Rapes) set in ex-Yugoslavia, and Il mostro dell'autostrada Roma-Napoli (The Rome-Naples Motorway Monster) dealing with a serial sex offender/killer.

As for Japanese stuff, it's commonly said that co-existence of "rape fantasy" erotica and a very low incidence of rape in Japan is a cogent argument against censorship. In any case, one oddity of Japanese porn makes it very difficult for a non-Japanese to be sure whether it's a rape film or not: an actress is expected to show no pleasure during vaginal sex, but to whimper as if in pain or fear, even if she has been vigorously slurping during a blow-job a couple of minutes before, and if her web site says how much she loves her job! (Japanese porn is NOISY, apparently because the "mosaic" censorship doesn't let the producer actually show the penis in the woman's mouth or vagina.)

Comment: Beyer's Minions

From Richard

Some of Beyer's bonkers minions have broken cover on the BBC's old "Editors" forum about Dangerous Pictures (see comments 185, 187 and 188).

"We don't want a balance of views"

"Islamic societies may get heat from feminists for 'putting women in their
place' but they do so in an orthodox way. A women has her place in society
but it isn't in brothels or Porn movies."


Pile in lads!

 

17th November
 
  New steps to extend police powers to punish porn users

Julian Petley has written an interesting piece on extreme porn with the theme that it just provides the basis for an awful lot more censorship to come

 

17th November
 
 Comment: Tortured by Doubt

Casino RoyaleFrom Bob in Upminster.

I've just seen Casino Royale and James Bond was tied naked to a chair and his private parts subject to sexual torture. Am I in danger of being prosecuted even though the actors were consenting and James Bond character was giving the impression he was enjoying it.
Pile in lads!

 

17th November   Dangerous Pictures Act Features in Queen's Speech
 
Based on an article from the BBC

Persecution Enabling Bill

Tony Blair proclaiming sexual freedom while legislating against itThe Government have announced a new Criminal Injustice Bill in the Queen's Speech.

This will make it a criminal offence to view images of rape and sexual torture. Offenders would be liable to be jailed for up to three years, even if the images actually featured actors who had given their consent.

  
Based on an article from Press Release Network

Operation Anti-Censorship

AnonymiserThe leader in online identity protection software and services, today announced the launch of Operation Anti-Censorship. This new privacy software, created specifically for UK & Chinese citizens, will enable safe access to the entire Internet by circumventing the Web filters put in place by the government. In addition, the new solution protects users from detection, persecution, and retribution by shielding their personal identities and related information that the UK & Chinese governments are currently able to monitor.

Citizens of China can download the free software today at www.xifuchun.com. Citizens of the UK may use www.anonymizer.com. The success of this program relies heavily on word-of-mouth promotion, and "Tell a Friend" functionality has been added to the site. All people are encouraged to share the news about Operation Anti-Censorship with their friends and family. Bloggers, reporters, and other media outlets are also urged to spread the word by promoting this Web site today.

Lance Cottrell, president and chief scientist, of Anonymizer Inc said: Our goal is to make the Internet an even playing field for everyone, including those under the rule of repressive regimes. We've had great success in other areas of the world, including our current work in Iran, and we're looking forward to bringing safe Internet access to others.

The Web site that currently hosts the software download is www.xifuchun.com, however please note that this URL will be changed on a regular basis to avoid blocking by the UK & Chinese governments. Anonymizer relies on early adopters to share the regularly changing URLs with their friends and family members so the number of people able to safely access the Internet continues to grow.

 

13th November
 
  Statement from the Scottish Executive

Burkha clad government spokespersonFrom See No Evil

Letter from Cathie Jamieson, Scottish Justice Minister

Your constituent will wish to know that we have not come to a final decision on whether or not new legislation is required. We will of course take into account the points made by Ms ****** and others during the consultation period when considering the way forward. if we do decide to introduce legislation in this area, we will of course endevour to ensure that any definition of violence is both clear and workable. I would also like to make clear that we would not criminalise the possession of images of activities which were themselves lawful.

I note Ms ******'s concerns about the human rights implications of any proposed legislation. She may be interested to know that under the terms of the Human Rights Act 1998, all public authorities in the UK, including the Scottish Executive, are required to abide by the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights. In addition, the Scotland Act 1998 also states that the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament cannot do anything that does not comply with the Convention."

Comment from Teddy:

I don`t know whether to be encouraged or just downright amused by this!

"I would also like to make clear that we would not criminalise the possession of images of activities which were themselves lawful."

This in total contradiction to the HO proclamations, which have stated the desire to proscribe "realistic depictions"...and this is the Scottish Minister for Justice talking...

Comment from Alan:

Dontcha love Tessa Jowell?

"Ofcom said internet users should be left to police themselves within the bounds of the law. Because internet technology does not respect borders, it argued, users would simply turn instead to websites in the US and elsewhere"

"Britain also won majority support for its line on the "country of origin" principle, which makes national regulators responsible for broadcasters operating from within their borders."

Only snag is that when you record that Italian or German broadcast, the police will kick your door in for possessing "extreme" porn!

 

12th November
 
  Dangerous Pictures Bill

Tony Blair proclaiming sexual freedom while legislating against itThanks to Peter: We've absolutely got to fight this.

From The Times

Labour’s new legislation looks distinctly dog-eared.

The Queen’s speech at the state opening of parliament on Wednesday will be Tony Blair’s last as prime minister. Judging from what is expected, he and his government are running short of ideas. There is a sense of déjà vu about the package which is expected to include bills on:

Law and order. A bill on criminal justice will amalgamate previously trailed policies under one act, including reforms to the sentencing regime and a new (but previously announced) offence of possessing “violent and extreme pornography”.

 

10th November
 
  Extreme Irony

Old BaileySurely off topic for this website but notable for the ludicrous irony that if he had filmed himself he would have been liable for 3 years in jail under proposed legislation rather than the 6 months for the actual offence.

From The Sun, thanks to Simon

An asylum seeker had sex with a ewe, a court has heard. He was discovered via DNA evidence from underwear left at the scene.

Judge Michael Mettyear told him: The suspicion is that your offending was not limited to this one offence. The man was sentenced to six months’ jail.

 

17th September
updated to
3rd November
  Request For Explicit Definitions

Letter writerThanks to Franco who wrote the following letter to his MP

Announced 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 considerably.

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 any purpose

  • 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 not misleading.

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.

For the full press article please consult this internet page: http://archive.theargus.co.uk/2001/7/23/174696.html

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.

29th September   Reply: Explicit Definitions

Home Office logoFrom 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:

The 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 threatening.

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 legislation.

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.

30th September   Comment: What are children's charities doing lobbying around consensual adult pornography?

Letter writerFrom Alan

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 iniquitous.

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

2nd October   Follow Up: Good Points

Letter writerThanks to Franco who followed up his previous letter wither further very pertinent questions

Dear Mr Coaker,

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 new terminology.

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.

Shifting Grounds

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 injury’.

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 thereby removed.
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, not less.

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 the legislation.

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.

28th October   Reply: Legislation Being Prepared

Home Office logo"Parlimentary Counsel" would be the barristers and lawyers employed by the government, who would have to frame their censorious repressive desires into legally workable laws...

Thanks to Franco who posted about the reply on The Melon Farmers' Forum

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...

3rd November   Follow Up: When the Policy Unit Doesn't Know the Policy

Letter writerThanks 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 views.

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 not suffice.

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 Counsel.

As we all know by now the definitions published so far simply do not hold water.
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 response.

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 consultation responses.

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 resolved?

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 during consultation?

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 reply.

28th December   Reply: When the Policy Unit Won't Tell the Policy

Home Office logoThanks 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 privilege.

[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 material.

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.

 

20th October
 
  Reconsideration

It seems that this time round the court will also have to consider the additional possibility that Longhurst's death was the tragic result of consensual but dangerous breath play sex. 

From the BBC

Old BaileyA man has had his conviction for the murder of a teacher formally quashed by the Court of Appeal. Graham Coutts from Hove, East Sussex, was jailed for life in 2004 for murdering 31-year-old Jane Longhurst, who was from Brighton.

The three appeal judges said on Thursday that Coutts should be recharged on a fresh indictment within two months and then retried.

A re-trial will take place at the Old Bailey on a date to be fixed.

Coutts was remanded in custody pending a retrial, but he will be able to make a bail application to the Old Bailey.

 

18th October   Fence Sitting

Thanks to Simon (Dark Angel) who wrote the following letter to his MP, response below

Letter writerDear Mr Simmonds

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, as can be seen in the response.

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 civilised world?

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 adults.

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…

www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2006/08/all_sides_of_the_story.html

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 day “witch-hunt”.

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)

www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,1863998,00.html
commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/frank_fisher/2006/08/see_no_evil.html

18th October   Reply: Clarification and Procedure

I write further to your recent email regarding your concerns over the Governments Consultation on the Possesion of Extreme Pornographic Material.

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.

Your Sincerely
Mark Simmonds MP

 

17th October Extreme Propaganda?

Spotted by Sergio on The Melon Farmers' Forum
 

From SFC

Stitched Up by Channel 4 over Animal Farm

The RadarTV programme The Real Animal Farm, the last in the Darker Side of Sex series, featured myself. I was stitched up.

1) I was labelled a pornographer - which I am not. I am a retired woman who works voluntarily full time as a charity coordinator. Being labelled a pornographer will hardly do much to help the charity with our funding and credibility. I feel sure that when asked how I wished to be labelled, I would have said "Campaigner".

2) My quotes were used out of context to make me to appear to be a bestialiy porn smuggler. I this I never been.

3) The infamous Julie Bindel, renouned for unreliable research and misinformation about matters sexual, was given more time to put forward her anti-sex propagana than I was given to explain my views against censorship - and how can "films of dead women rotting in graves" be of relevance since this would be illegal and immediately investigated by the police?

The above leads me to the conclusion that this "documentary" was a propaganda programme instigated by the Home Office and/or Labour Party lickspittles within C4 to persuade the public that the proposed "Extreme Pornography" legislation should become law.

I know that the BDSM community is up in arms about the S/M programme in the Darker Side of Sex series, and the programme about "Snuff" movies was intentionally confusing to make the public nervous.

As a spokesperson of the Sexual Freedom Coalition who is constantly being asked to contribute to and help with TV programmes, I shall in future be uncooperative unless they can prove that the documentary is not government propaganda. I advise others to do likewise.

Dr Tuppy Owens, April 22 2006

  
From Ofcom, Fairness & privacy cases

The Search for Animal Farm, Channel 4, 12 April 2006

Summary: Ofcom has not upheld this complaint of unfair treatment. This programme looked at the history behind the making of the pornographic film that became known as Animal Farm. Dr Tuppy Owens was interviewed for the programme.

Dr Owens complained to Ofcom that she was treated unfairly in the programme. Dr Owens claimed that the programme described her as a 'pornographer' and implied that she had been a smuggler of bestiality videos. She also complained that footage from her interview was presented unfairly in the programme.

Ofcom found the following:

Ofcom was not satisfied that describing Dr Owens as a pornographer was likely to have materially affected viewers' understanding of her in a way that was unfair;

Ofcom was not persuaded by Dr Owens' claim that comments she made regarding the illicit importation of pornography included in the programme could have implied that she had smuggled bestiality videos into the country; and,
Ofcom did not consider that Dr Owens' contribution was misrepresented or otherwise presented in a manner that was likely to result in unfairness to her.

See Full details of Ofcom's decision

 

5th October
 
  Press furore fuels knee-jerk response to 'extreme' pornography

An excellent piece by Julian Petley on Extreme porn

www.indexonline.org/en/news/articles/2006/3/britain-violent-porn-bill-addresses-public-a.shtml

 

29th September
 
 Freedom to Withhold Information

From Shaun to the Home Office

Freedom of Information logoOn Thank you for sending me the CD of the consultation resonses.

BUT I have to ask

Why so many ommissions for "legal reasons" ?

I cannot find my OWN response here, and I assume I am the Mr. H. by Email (Removed for legal reasons) ?

I don't know what I wrote which would justify such censorship but I really would like to know.

Also why was the MelonFarmer's response removed from the CD for legal reasons as well ?

How many posts which OPPOSE your legislation have been "removed for legal reasons"
 

29th September   Update: Legal Reasons

From Backlash

Part of a letter from Oliver Lendrum, Information Policy Manager (Home Office):

Freedom of Information logoFREEDOM OF INFORMATION: INTERNAL REVIEW

As you are probably aware, the Home Office’s response to this consultation has now been published and is available on the main Home Office website at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/cons-extreme-porn-3008051/. That page of our website also indicates that the responses to the consultation are also now available and therefore that the Home Office no longer considers the bulk of this information exempt.

We can supply the majority of this information to you in one of two formats, either electronically on a CD or in hard copy. Given that we have around 600 pages of information to disclose to you and a number of other applicants the most cost effective way of transmitting this information to you would be by CD rather than in hard copy. I would be grateful if you could supply me with a postal address so that I can send this information to you.

It is not however possible to disclose all the responses to you at the current time. As you may know Graham Coutts is to face a new trial for the killing of Jane Longhurst. Some of the responses to the consultation contain information relating to this case and consequently these responses are currently being withheld under Section 31(1)(b) of the FOI Act. This absolves us of our duty to disclose information where disclosure would prejudice the apprehension or prosecution of offenders. This exemption is however subject to the public interest test and therefore can only be applied where the public interest favours withholding the information.

While there in a strong public interest in favour of openness in terms of the increased degree of accountability it brings to policy formulation, in this case in relation to the evidence base on which the government response to the consultation is founded; this is outweighed at the current time by the public interest in ensuring that there is no risk that the trial could be prejudiced in any way. Once the trial has taken place the public interest against disclosure will clearly diminish.

3rd October   Comment: Twisted and Hypocritical

From Alan

Freedom of Information logoThe Home Office's behaviour seems bizarrely twisted and hypocritical.

The concern about a fair trial for Coutts seems rather belated. (I might even claim credit since I raised the issue here on Melon Farmers a few weeks ago!) The censoring of the original proposal and responses began only weeks AFTER the Home Office had announced its intention to proceed with the legislation while Coutts was awaiting retrial, amid a plethora of press coverage including interviews with Mrs Longhurst and other prejudicial material.

 

4th September
updated to
8th October
  Career Threatening Injuries to Vernon Coaker

The published statistics about the number of responses is as follows, somehow Coaker claims otherwise.

  No Yes  Not stated Totals
Individuals 223 90 0 313
Organisations 18 53 13 84
Totals 241 143 13 397

From The Melon Farmers' Forum

On the 30th August Vernon Coaker, the Home Office Minister responsible for the Dangerous Pictures proposal appeared on BBC Radio 4 on World at One.

Minister Coaker states clearly that most people that responded to the consultation and organisations that responded to the consultation found it unacceptable, found that it was a standard of the government needing to do something.

Now, if we excuse the somewhat faulty grammar, this quote clearly shows that Minister Vernon Coaker officially stated on the BBC, on Wednesday 30 August, that a majority of respondents to the consultation seemed to be in support of the government's proposed law. This is the precise opposite of the truth.

Did the minister intentionally mislead the public?

As this was a statement made on national radio by the minister responsible, and it was concerning an area involving major criminal legislation, the statement surely was seriously misleading to both MPs and public as regards highly pertinent facts. 

Coaker`s whole case for legislation given in the interview is based on precedents of the Obscene Publications Act and the claim that most people and organizations responding had found the situation unacceptable and called for legislation

...And the second half of this justification is simply false.

8th October Update: Extreme Violence to the Truth

The published statistics about the number of responses is as follows, somehow Coaker claims otherwise.

  No Yes  Not stated Totals
Individuals 223 90 0 313
Organisations 18 53 13 84
Totals 241 143 13 397

From Rustin Mann The Melon Farmers' Forum who received a letter from the Home Office

It didn`t come across clearly because Coaker lied through his teeth!

Melon Farmers: So why should 'children's charities' carry any weight whatsoever on an issue of adult pornography

Dear Mr ********,

Thank you for your e-mail of 4th September 2006 about the proposals outlined in the Government’s response to the consultation paper on the possession of extreme pornographic material. Your email has been passed to the Criminal Law Policy Unit and I have been asked to reply.

As you have quite rightly observed, the majority of responses to the consultation received from individuals opposed the proposal. This reflected the concerns felt by some individuals and several campaigning groups that what we proposed might impinge on their private sexual practices. The majority of organisations which responded – including major children’s charities, police forces, women’s groups and others – supported the proposal.

I am afraid that this did not come across clearly in the radio interview which you heard. There was no intention to misrepresent the details of the responses that were received, and the correct numbers are clearly stated in the Government’s response which was published on 30th August.

 

30th September
 
  Extreme Blackmail Opportunity

Such an enormous penalty for such a trivial to prove thought crime must surely be a blackmailer's dream. The more respectable you are, the more people will believe that you must have some private vices to hide.

And who knows some, of the high and the mighty of this repressive land may become the first to be hit. For those say it will never happen here, is a story from Sweden.

From The Local

Blackmailed into SubmissionA senior Swedish officer has been accused of endangering military security after it was revealed that police found hard-core porn in his possession.

According to TV4's Kalla Fakta, Major General Tony Stigsson took serious security risks long before he was arrested last year for assaulting his wife. When searched by police, he was found to be in possession of very explicit pornographic material, which they allege made him vulnerable to blackmail.

Stigsson, one of the highest ranking officers in the Swedish military, was sentenced to six months in prison for assaulting his ex-wife. The sentence was reduced to three months in March of this year.

A TV4 investigation contends that a combination of the senior officer's sexual behaviour and his handling of extremely sensitive military documents constituted a major national security risk.

When he was arrested in March last year police found explicit, and very deviant, pornographic material in the Major General's uniform pockets as well as in his places of residence. The risk of blackmail was further increased by the fact that Stigsson made contact with unknown persons on the internet with the intention of meeting them for group sex at swingers' clubs.

According to Kalla Fakta, whose reporters have had access to the full police investigation, the major general was aware of the risks. In an e-mail sent to a woman from his work address, he writes that he wanted to "test the limits", knowing that he was "always running the risk of finding myself in a blackmail situation".

Syrén, previously head of Sweden's military intelligence services, points out that the defence forces have recently introduced more rigorous background checks for those seeking high-level military posts.

 

30th September
 
  Dictatorial Government

From Shaun to his MP, John Healey

On Thank you for your recent postal communication, in which you informed me that you've passed my views on to the Home Office, as to why the government are wrong to try to impose a law which criminalises simple possession of a new range of visual material.

Surely, if Human Rights law means anything, it should not be for me to let them know why they are wrong, but for them to properly show anyone who is concerned about this, why the government are right, and it is proportionate to take such extreme and draconian action ?

Not just only why they are right, but also why no less a restriction would deal with the problem. If there really is a manifest problem concerning harm caused.

BUT: In their consultation document, they say they have no evidence of harm.

From: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/30_08_05_porn_doc.pdf [Note that this document has conveniently, and/or incompetently disappeared from the Home Office's web site, and all their search results.]

In it it says:As to evidence of harm, conducting research in this area is complex. We do not yet have sufficient evidence from which to draw any definite conclusions as to the likely long term impact of this kind of material on individuals generally, or on those who may already be predisposed to violent or aberrant sexual behaviour.

So they don't have any real evidence of harm ? Here (as above) they even ADMIT it!

So that's still JUSTIFICATION for turning people into criminals ?

If the harm was REAL ENOUGH to justify such DRACONIAN restrictions as the criminalisation of simple possession, then surely it would be EASY to show. Indeed it would have to be VERY easy.

Wouldn't you therefore concede that this is all about "thought crime" rather than real harm Mr. Healey ?

It is even more irritating to learn that the catalyst for this action by the Home Office, the sad death of Jane Longhurst, might have even been a tragic accident, rather than willful murder, and that case is now at appeal.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/southern_counties/5193712.stm

This case is the *only* single (sad but completely isolated) incident referred to in any debate as to why making criminals out of people for possession of a new class of images, is necessary. Hardly a "major problem" then, given that this is the only arguable result, and even that case is in dispute.

Disturbing and distasteful (and I share this distaste myself) as some of the visual material might well be, it still doesn't justify turning freeborn folk into criminals for simple possession. How can it I ask you ? Violent material can be staged by actors to a very high degree of realism. Other material, grossly distasteful it might be, doesn't necessarily involve harm either.

I am reminded of a case of a woman, who put a living cat in a
microwave:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1399083.stm

Her sentence was at most 6 months in jail.

Had she been involved in simply OWNING PICTURES of the cat involving the sort of explicit activity with other creatures, which the Home Office seek to prohibit, she could have received up to three years in prison, even though the cat might have been completely unharmed, rather than having suffered the appalling death it did.

A sense of proportion clearly needs to be taken, and the Home Office proposals of this kind of CENSORSHIP are unacceptable, and I believe I have shown that they, (according to their own criteria), will be a serious human rights violation.

Why don't the ministers responsible for this assault on freedom and Human Rights properly observe their OWN laws for a start ?

Dictating (and it is dictatorial, no doubt about that) what pictures so called free people, can keep in their homes , requires the strongest of justification for this kind of restriction doesn't it ?. In the case of the new visual material proposed by the Home Office, which shall become a criminal offence to keep in any form, the Home Office have not made their case.

Far from it in fact.

Nor would I trust them to stop here either with their crusade of CENSORSHIP. I wonder what will be next if they get away with this ?

Material that even some politicians might choose to keep in their private possession?

 

25th September   Blogging for Backlash on the 9th October

From Graham on Backlash

On the 9th October parliament returns from the summer recess. Backlash is asking that anyone who opposes the violent porn proposals writes a blog about this on that date and has it listed on a master list - http://bloggingforbacklash.blogspot.com/

Blogs can and do influence opinions. The Blogging for Backlash day would enable us all to be heard in one concentrated effort. And we could repeat this after the Queen's Speech in November.

If you would like to take part, please go to the Blogging for Backlash blog and add a comment.

 

23rd September   Save Us From Politicians

A protest song by Ian G. Listen now on mp3 (7 MByte file)

Save us from Politicians and police,
The religious nuts and puritanic freaks.
The people of this nation don't need any more repressive legislation.
We're sick to death of all you mindless creeps.

When ministers give interviews on the news,
You'd think that they'd be mindful to tell the truth.
But it seems one or two just can't do it.
Especially when our opinion of their plans says "Screw it!"

And Mr Beyer says "We don't want sex on telly".
He's wrong because most say "Hell yes, and make it explicit sexually".
And little does he respect what the BBFC were told.
Most people say "Leave our melon farming films alone".

Yeah leave us the hell alone you sad and foolish jerks.
We don't want laws locking us away for viewing people not getting hurt.
How is it you go wage wars and blow women and kids to bits,
But God forbid we see some bruised or bloody 'naughty bits'?

"Now what's all this?" I hear you ask,
"Don't the police already go chasing people with nasty photographs?"
Well yes that's true to some extent but we're not talking porno pics of
kiddies.
Now this bunch want to persecute photos of adult fantasies.

Leave us the hell alone you sad and foolish jerks.
We don't want laws locking us away for viewing people not getting hurt.
How is it you go wage wars and blow women and kids to bits,
But God forbid we see some bruised or bloody 'naughty bits'?

Land of oxymorons,
Political liars and cheats.
We who made thee mighty,
Want you out of those seats.
We who made thee mighty,
Want you out of those seats!

 

23rd September   Hain on Brother Blair

Hopefully the Dangerous Pictures Act can be the first loony legislation to be knocked on the head.

From The Telegraph

Big BrotherLabour is in danger of getting a reputation as a "big brother" Government with a tendency to ban everything and curb individual freedom, Peter Hain says today.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the Northern Ireland Secretary puts restoring the party's traditional defence of civil liberties at the heart of his campaign to become deputy leader.

He calls for a re-balancing" of its attitude to both social policy and law and order to give greater emphasis to the importance of freedom. We have been very tough on security and people want us to be," he says. "But we have to stress that we are a Government that is not about a big brother state; it is about individual liberties as well. We have to get the balance right. I don't think we have worked hard enough to say that if Labour is about anything it is about the fight for individual liberty.

Hain says the "progressive coalition" of core Labour and middle-Britain voters, which swept Blair to power, is in danger of collapsing because of a view that the Government is intent on damaging civil liberties:
If the voters think we are about some kind of big-state perspective, then they will turn away from us. If there is a perception that Labour likes to ban everything, we maybe need to re-balance that

 

21st September   Concerns over human rights in recent Government proposals

Excellent contribution from Paul Taverner who sent this letter to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR)

I am one of many people in this country with growing concerns regarding human rights issues in the UK. Recent Government proposals to criminalise the possession of some forms of extreme pornography have increased this concern to a point where I felt it was necessary to write to you.

Given the comment from human rights minister, Baroness Cathy Ashton, that the JCHR would be more effective in influencing government policy if it were able to review aspects of the government`s agenda that clearly impact on human rights before Bill stage, it would seem particularly relevant to bring this matter to your attention now, after the Government has stated it’s intent, but before any Bill has been drafted.

I have many concerns over the Government’s proposals concerning extreme pornography; however chief amongst these is the suggested criminalisation of people who merely possess images that depict activity that is both violent and pornographic. In particular images that contain “realistic depictions” of consenting adults engaged in what appears to be non-consensual activity, but where no criminal act has taken place.

The Government’s proposals would directly interfere with the personal sexuality of tens of thousands of adults in the privacy of their own homes. I suggest that this amounts to a very serious and disproportionate interference with their right to a private life under article 8 that could only be justified by the strongest evidence of harm, evidence which the proposals themselves admit does not exist.

The main motivation behind these proposals appears to be personal revulsion over “abhorrent” images and a wish to create a tribute to murdered schoolteacher Jane Longhurst. Feelings of personal abhorrence over what other people choose to look at cannot possibly justify such action. And the destruction of people’s lives that would result from the implementation of these proposals would serve as the most ghastly tribute imaginable.

Contrary to what the Government claims, the criminalisation of many UK citizens under the new proposals would do nothing to prevent harm to those involved in the creation of abhorrent images because virtually all such images are created abroad and the overwhelming majority involve consenting actors who are as likely to suffer harm as the actors who play the ‘dead’ bodies uncovered by TV detectives. Nor would the proposals remove the images from the internet as their sale (let alone possession) is legal in their country of origin. The UK Government stands alone in the civilised world in this matter.

These concerns were raised with the Home Office during the public consultation over this issue last year, but the Government response on the 30th August this year failed to address these concerns, indeed it avoided commenting on these specific points in a way that only served to underline the seriousness of the threat to human rights that now exists in this area.

A further issue that gives rise to great concern is the clarity of the words used in the proposal. Despite some limited adjustments that were included in the Government’s response on the 30th August, the use of subjective phrases such as “realistic depiction” and “pornographic” will still make it impossible for many members of the public to determine if they are breaking the law or not leading to a breach in article 7.

It is a great pity that the Government now feels so compelled to legislate and be seen to be “doing something” that nobody at the Home Office is prepared to engage in any meaningful debate, let alone foster a balanced discussion on these matters. But even I was surprised to hear a Government minister (Vernon Coaker) misrepresent the results of the Government’s own public consultation on national radio to such an extent that any listeners would believe that the majority of respondents were in favour of the Governments plans.

I would ask that these matters are brought to the attention of the JCHR and hope that there is still time to amend the proposals. If the current proposals were to be implemented as they now stand it would lead to a serious infringement of human rights and a guaranteed challenge in the ECHR as soon as the bill received royal assent.

 

4th September
updated to
27th September
  Dear Mr Coaker

From Derek

While I totally agree with the prohibition of material involving children, animals and human (or any) dead body - as by their very nature they cannot be consenting I cannot agree with the other proposed bans - once again a clear example of a knee jerk reaction to a problem

As long as the material is performed (and that's a very important term as the best performers are totally convincing) by persons of the legal age - in this case 18 and the activities are consenting I see no reason whatsoever to ban this material and open up a pandora's box of problems for your already beleagured department.

Software companies are at this very minute revising their privacy tool products to protect UK customers totally from unwanted observations - the result is that the authorities will find it even harder to track the real criminals - paedophiles and fraudsters - in effect lessening the protection for children, not increasing it.

Perhaps you can give me succinct answers to the following points

Have you watched/used/taken an interest in pornography ?

Why are you progressing this proposal when the majority of respondants to the consultation were against it ? And by a considerable majority.

Why did you not publish the responses, in their entirety, the minute the consultation ended ?

In your comments 30-8-06 you repeated the phrase from the consultation document that this type of material has no place in a civilised society - so are you saying our European partners are uncivilised ?

I returned recently from europe and pornography is widely available in all video stores - the areas are clearly marked as "adults only" and couples as well as single guys browse casually and ask the retail assistant, whether they have such and such a product.

What factual evidence is there that pornography causes violence - to be perfectly blunt it gives me an erection, myself and/or my partner then proceed to have sex. It acts as a great libido booster and as a useful stimulant to relieve sexual frustration. No where have I seen the government talk in such frank and open terms - why not ? We're all adults you know. Most men and women masturbate and that is the prime reason for pornography surely along with being a general turn on. By restricting its availability you are sealing off the safety valve that prevents an explosion - it has been documented that countries that have liberalised access to pornography have far less sexual crime - Japan and Denmark are two good examples. If you don't want to watch or see it - don't watch it!

Why are you not banning smoking outright? - This has been clearly demonstrated to damage the smoker's and more importantly those around thems health.

Please would you copy your reply to the good people of the Melonfarmers website webmaster@melonfarmers.com

Needless to say I will not be voting for your party if these proposals are carried through in their current format.

ps From a  BBC discussion group - I'd say 95% are against your proposals

People are clearly sick to the back teeth of your government's interference in their lives. You would do well to read these views and adjust your proposals in line with the overwhelming sentiment that what occurs between consenting, that's consenting adults, is the individuals business But where it is poven that an act is NON CONSENSUAL the existing laws of assault roll into action and the perpetrators are severely punished e.g Child Porn, actual rape - not staged etc

27th September   Reply: Weightier Than Thou

Many thanks to Derek for forwarding the Home Office response to his letter

Why don't they realise the sooner they drop these stupid "thought crime" ideas the sooner people will stop complaining Agrees with my observation that most views were against the proposals but comes up with a load of bollox about the strength of the arguments for were stronger than those against as opposed to the number of votes !?

I look forward to our forum's comments on that!

Home Office logoThank you for your e-mail of 31 August, addressed to Vernon Coaker. Your email has been passed to the Criminal Law Policy Unit for reply.

With regard to your enquiries, it would be helpful to note that that the Government takes the view that criminalizing the possession of extreme pornographic images, the publication and distribution of which is already illegal in this country, is a proper step. With modern technology the current law is no longer able to control such material and 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 criminalize its possession as well as publication and distribution.

The 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 material, by which we mean material that has been solely or primarily produced 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 those classified R18 for sale only in licensed sex shops). This would be an objective test for the jury.

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 (not cartoons). 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.

The material covered by the offence would include:

  1. serious violence
  2. intercourse or oral sex with an animal
  3. Sexual interference with a human corpse

By serious sexual violence we mean violence which appears to be life threatening or likely to result in serious disabling injury. The threshold level is necessarily high since the intention is to target material which it is already illegal to publish or distribute under the Obscene Publications Act 1959.

As you rightly observe, the majority of responses from individuals opposed the proposal. We received nearly 400 responses and, in considering them, we did not simply take account of the number of respondents who were in favour of, or opposed, the proposal but also considered the weight of the arguments advanced. The majority of responses from individuals opposed the proposal. This reflected the concerns felt by many that what we proposed might impinge on their private sexual practices. The majority of organisations which responded – including major children’s charities, police forces, women’s groups and others – supported the proposal.

You also appear to be under the impression that such legislation would apply to a broad range of pornographic material. The term ‘Pornography’ covers a very broad range of activity and such material will fall under the new offence only if it falls within the thresholds I have outlined above. The detail is still being considered but general pornographic material is unlikely to be caught, unless the injuries caused appear to be life threatening.

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 legislation.

 

18th September
updated to
19th September
  Great Repeal Act

From The Independent

Lib Dem bird  logoA great Repeal Act should be passed to slice away a generation of illiberal legislation, Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, will declare today.

He will launch a campaign to identify obsolete and unnecessary legislation, pledging that it is time to take our freedom back.

Clegg will highlight the revelation in The Independent that Labour has created more than 3,000 new criminal offences since it our came to power and insist that the days of kneejerk law-making should come to an end.

Clegg will say that legislation alone cannot be used to combat the threat to Britain from international and domestic terrorism.

He will say: Fear cannot be quelled by a torrent of panic legislation, by knee-jerk announcements from one home secretary after another, invariably designed to capture headlines, not to safeguard our security. Yet that is exactly what this government has done. Under New Labour the Home Office has been ... the object of relentless legislative hyperactivity, married to dismal administrative incompetence. This is New Labour in a nutshell, all rhetoric, no results.

He will add: How dare John Reid condemn his officials as 'not fit for purpose' when it is his government's frenzied law-making which has done so much to ... damage the Home Office, erode trust in our criminal justice system and so heighten feelings of fear and insecurity.

Clegg, seen by some as a future party leader, will hit back of critics who claim the party's stance is soft on terrorism and condemn the Government for laws restricting the freedom to protest. He will say:
There is nothing more abhorrent to liberals than the violence that springs from warped fundamentalism ... but we are entitled to ask ministers to have the humility to recognise that nobody has a monopoly on truth.

You don't fight terrorism, Dr Reid, by stifling debate at home.

 

 

8th September   Bad Taste

Would never qualify as extreme porn but it shows how a bad taste video doing the rounds is still viewed by an awful lot of people however terrible sounding the description. Who's to say that the next jokey bad taste video won't feature bestiality with a potential 3 years for viewers.

From the Daily Mail

A man has sparked fury by posting a video on the internet showing him biting the head off a live pet mouse.

The heavily built man in his 20s, who is referred to only as Johnny, is egged on by friends at a party before committing the depraved act in the two minute video on the YouTube website.

After swigging from a can of beer, he bites the head off the mouse and chews it, before spitting it out and saying it is impossible to swallow.

The Ulster Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said it was the latest in a worrying trend of people carrying out 'grotesque' acts of cruelty against animals.

Spokesman Stephen Philpott said: This is like a type of happy slapping against animals where people record themselves doing depraved things and then show that footage to the rest of their colleagues.

The charity is following up a number of leads to try to track down the man, whose antics have been viewed by at least 2,000 people on the internet.

 

8th September   Coaker Tampering with the Truth Again!

From Pink News

Pink News logoSections of the gay community have joined protests against proposed legislation which would make possession of violent and extreme pornographic material a crime.

Under the controversial government proposals, it would become an offence to possess pornographic images depicting scenes of extreme sexual violence and other obscene material punishable by up to three years in prison.

But groups involved in bondage, domination and sadomasochistic (BDSM) activities claim the law is too vague and could lead to innocent people being prosecuted despite consenting to activities.

Louise Morris, a member of the BDSM community, told PinkNews.co.uk: I could well be an innocent victim of this new bill if it is made law.

The government do not recognise an image as being that of consensual "play," all they see is a crime that could and will create serious harm or death. They want to dictate what my sexuality is and how I should be doing things.

I know that the gay community themselves had a battle with acceptance not so long ago, and you all fought it and gained a huge amount of respect from everyone because you are open, you showed that your sexuality was indeed yours.

We are trying to show people that we are not freaks of nature, we are not a fanatical sex cult, we are not abnormal .. we are doing what we like and want it accepted that the things we do are perceived as safe, sane and consensual, we are not the hybrid sexual deviants that others seem to think we all are.


She is a member of Backlash, a support group for the hobby, reportedly followed by around four million people, who are leading the petition along with other groups such as SMDykes, and Slaveboys.com, which cater for the lesbian and gay community.

The petition says:

It is proposed by the current UK government to criminalise the viewing of certain pornographic material. We, the undersigned have no objection to laws which make extreme violent and dangerous acts illegal, but feel current proposals are too vague and not defined tightly enough to implement fairly.

We therefore oppose government proposals to make it illegal to view these images because the proposals could lead to hundreds of thousands of ordinary, innocent people being sent to jail and possibly having their names added to the Sex Offender’s Register just because the government doesn’t like what they choose to look at.

“If it becomes law it will put unnecessary strain on already stretched police resources.

We call on the Government to get out of our bedrooms and abandon the proposed legislation.”

Home Office minister Vernon Coaker said [Talk about twisting the truth, he failed to mention the majority of responses that simply didn't agree]: This is a complex issue on which we have consulted widely. Our intention to legislate in this area has the support of various organisations, including women's and children's groups and police forces. In addition, a petition signed by around 50,000 people objecting to extreme internet sites promoting violence against women in the name of sexual gratification was presented to Parliament.

 

7th September   Comment: Innocent Again Until Proven Guilty

From Alan

Graham Coutts is innocent! Well, that's the legal position. His conviction for murdering Jane Longhurst has been quashed, and he's awaiting a new trial, in which he has to be assumed innocent until proved guilty.

Interesting comments by a lawyer on Backlash about Lord Hutton's judgment in granting the appeal:

Lord Hutton's judgment points out that Coutts had engaged in breath play sexual games with previous partners years before he started to use internet porn. The Judge commented that if the same Defendant guilty of the same conduct been tried before the same jury, but without the evidence that he used internet porn, the jury would have been very likely to accept that he did not intend to kill.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that the Judge thought the evidence that Coutts used porn prejudiced the jury and led to unfounded assumptions about Coutt's intent.

It looks to me as if the re-trial is being potentially prejudiced by recent press comment (e.g. the Guardian still referring to Miss Longhurst as having been "murdered", an item on Liz Longhurst on Saturday, and, if we are being evenhanded, the very sensible anticensorship article by Carol Sarler in the Observer on Sunday) referring to the alleged role of pornography in inspiring Mr Coutts' alleged actions.

More seriously, what the hell do Coaker and his minions think they're playing at, introducing this legislation at such a time? It seems to me that the government is seriously risking prejudice to Mr Coutts' trial.

 

6th September   Thought crimes law is coming

From Kevin Kirk on Inquistion21

Law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual. - Thomas Jefferson

You can always tell when the UK’s New Labour government is in trouble; because they always trot out yet another law further restricting sexual freedom. At present there is a fierce debate going on about the unprecedented number of immigrants into the UK (estimated at over 600,000 in the last year). The people are becoming increasingly unhappy, not because we are all a bunch of closet racists, as the government implied, but because the infrastructure, already creaky, is close to meltdown. The government believes that they need a huge wave of immigration to help keep wages down and to keep the economy ticking along despite their disastrous meddling. So they have a dichotomy: on the one hand they need the immigrants and the other they need the voters – at least until after next May’s Scottish elections.

So in true Labour style they’ve come up with a ‘third way’, which in this case involves taking everybody’s mind off of the trouble we’re in by trotting out yet another sex law. Hence the dodgy used car salesman doppelganger at the Home Office, Vernon Coaker, announcing out of the blue (because it hasn’t even been given parliamentary time yet) that the government is going to introduce the law banning violent pornography due to ‘overwhelming public support’.

... Read the full article at www.inquisition21.com/article147.html

 

6th September   Labour Give up on Spin

Tony Blair proclaiming sexual freedom while legislating against itAt least the Government have given up on spin and bending the truth. They are now far more honest and spout bollox totally opposing the truth.

Spotted on The Melon Farmers' Forum

Only 6 days after the announcement of Tony Blair's own government's intention to ban the viewing of extreme pornography...

In a speech titled:  Our Nation's Future - Social Exclusion, Tony Blair said: It is not for the State to tell people that they cannot choose a different lifestyle, for example in issues to do with sexuality.

(See www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page10037.asp for transcript of speech)

 

5th September
updated to
6th September
  Talk to Thought Crime Stoppers

Chief Constable Bernard Hogan-Howe will be available to answer your questions on Wednesday 6 September during a live web chat.

The chat will run from 9.20-10.30am.

Find out more on their web site:
www.merseyside.police.uk

They responded to the consultation... and he is asking for questions to be submitted for his web debate...

6th September   Update: Cop Out

Chief Constable Bernard Hogan said little in answering questions from Sergio and Paul

sergio and paul tavener,: It's a crime to possess and distribute child pornography. It's also a crime to distribute obscene material which includes pornography. If parliament decides possession of violent pornography is to be an offence we will do our best to enforce the law

 

5th September   Please get interfering government ministers out of our bedrooms

From The 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 countries.

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.

 

5th September   Realistic Depiction of an MP

From Graham on Backlash

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)

Mike HancockThanks 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 threatening."

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 material.

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.

 

4th September   Dangerous Pictures Act Proposed for Northern Ireland Too

Based on an article from X Biz

On the heels of the British government seeking a ban on the viewing of extreme or violent porn on the Internet, the Criminal Justice Minister has extended the moratorium to Northern Ireland.

I very much welcome the announcement that the possession of the most extreme and violent forms of pornography will become a criminal offence, Minister David Hanson said explaining his decision to extend the proposed law to Northern Ireland.
This kind of material, which often depicts serious violence particularly against women, is unacceptable and I fully support these new provisions which are vitally important in tackling this issue.

 

4th September   Don't Watch This, Don't Watch That... Oh, Don't Watch This Either

From The Friday Thing

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 pretty happy.

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 saxophone interludes.

 

3rd September   Any Questions Except About Extreme Pornography

From Paul

I read with interest an article on your site expressing the BBC's surprise at the public reaction to the proposed legislation.

An editorial decision was taken not to discuss the matter on Radio 4's Any Questions this week.

You could ask the BBC to justify this.

 

3rd September   See no evil: The government should stay out of the bedroom - and the dungeon

By Frank Fisher

See also an interesting follow up debate
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 nonsense?

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 assertions.

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 PC-readable biometric?

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 perverts...

 

2nd September   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 Informed Consent

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 art.

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 internet.

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 neighbours?

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 retrial.

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 their websites.

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 them.

We have all heard about 'snuff movies' showing real deaths - but this new law will apply equally to pornography that relies on acting and special effects.

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?

 

2nd September   Be Afraid...Be Very Afraid

Some of the glee with which the police couldn't give a shit about destroying innocent peoples lives in the search for child porn certainly sets up a reason to be very afraid of the new extreme pornography  laws

See www.anotherconstable.co.uk/blog/2006/04/operation-ore for a flavour of the horror of British justice

And talk of the glee shown by the police in looking forward to wrecking lives...

From This Is Nottingham

A Senior Notts police officer has welcomed a proposed new law which could see extreme pornography users jailed for up to three years.

Detective Inspector Ian Winton, of the Notts police sexual exploitation unit, said the new offence of possessing violent and extreme pornographic material will deter users. It would stop their habits escalating into acts of violence such as rape.

He said:
This is a huge breakthrough for the police. Previously we have been unable to prosecute people for simply possessing more extreme pornography, such as material that shows the rape of women or bestiality. We will not hesitate in using this new legislation. Those convicted of this new offence will have to sign the sex offenders' register which will affect not just their relationship with friends and family but also their careers. It will make many users of extreme pornography think again.

 

1st September   All Sides of the Story?

By Craig Oliver, editor of the BBC Ten O'Clock News
Please read the original article and follow up discussion as these show that Government commands little support amongst the Internet community.

BBC 10 O'Clock NewsRecent audience research came back with one big message: "We want all sides of the story."

We try to challenge the received wisdom on a daily basis - but one of the most interesting examples of this came in our coverage of the decision to make it illegal to view violent porn.

Teacher Jane Longhurst was killed by a man who was was obsessed with violent pornography (he is in the process of appealing against a murder conviction). The sites show torture, murder, gang rape…you get the picture. There's clearly a market for this kind of stuff, and yesterday Jane's mother won a campaign against it.

Our cameraman, correspondent and producer spent the day looking into the story. They discovered that much of the material is faked - though a lot is extremely convincing. As other BBC outlets told the story there was an interesting audience response that challenged the assumption of many that there would be almost universal revulsion.

Rod McKenzie, editor of Radio 1 Newsbeat, sent round an e-mail letting us know the text messages that some of the station's listeners were sending in. They included:

  • This is banning S&M
  • extreme net porn is staged and consensual why ban it
  • You can't say what violence is in porn, where is the line crossed ? Is a porn star who's not really up for it that day being treated violently?
  • what happens between consenting adults shouldn't carry the risk of going to court
  • there's nothing wrong with sexual experimentation S&M between consenting adults behind closed doors or online

It was a response we hadn't entirely expected - and Denise Mahoney reflected it in her item on the Ten O'Clock News.

So, while it was important to give the police and Mrs Longhurst due weight, it was also important to use our position post-watershed to show as much as we could - within the bounds of taste and decency - and raise the questions: can watching this material really trigger murder? If it can't, should we really ban the stuff that is clearly faked and criminalise those who view it?

 

1st September   Just a Stone's Throw Away from Sharia

From Mediawatch-UK

3 years in prison is too soft for porn viewersIn response to the publication of the Government’s proposals to bring forward new legislation on extreme pornography the following news release was issues by mediawatch-uk:

The Government’s proposals, announced today, to deal with extreme pornography do not go far enough according to John Beyer, Director of mediawatch-uk. Despite acknowledging that many respondents felt the proposals should go further, with tighter restrictions imposed on all pornography, the Home Office has shied away from this and decided not to strengthen the weak and ineffective Obscene Publications Act but to bring forward measures to deal only with serious violence, sex with animals and corpses, he said.

It is a great disappointment that hard-core pornographic material, classified R18 by the British Board of Film Classification, has not been considered. Mr Beyer continued, These proposals will have no impact at all on the deluge of pornography that is accessible on television, on the Internet and on video and DVD. People are sick and tired of being confronted with pornography and its false values and would welcome a general clean up. The Government’s very limited measures are simply not designed to achieve what the vast majority of people want and this huge exploitative industry will be left pretty much intact by New Labour. People must not be misled into thinking that this proposed legislation with meet their concerns. Most of what causes widespread offence is legal and these new measures will not change that.
 

1st September   Comment: Bombarded by Nutters

From Dan

3 years in prison is too soft for porn viewersWhat he means is people like him and those who have similar views as him are sick and tired that pornography is available at all. This is about more than a concern with people viewing images of rape and sexual torture, it's about Mediawatch UK's view that viewing sex is not something people should do and it offends them that some people are doing it.

People are not confronted with pornography. They are not bombarded with it on TV and they do not have it thrust in their faces every time they walk into a DVD store or log onto the internet. Mediawatch UK's idea of being "confronted with pornography" is seeing the odd nude body or sex scene on TV.

This can hardly be put alongside the images that may have warped the mind of the murderer of Jane Longhurst. Some people may be offended that sexual imagery is accessible but that's of no business of theirs. What people view behind their closed doors is of no business of anyone else, least of all John Beyer and Mediawatch UK.

Beyer talks about "false values". It is not the government's job to regulate people's values and whatever values people may get from watching pornography certainly cannot be controlled and dictated by politicians. There may be people who would welcome a "general clean up" but we wonder if they would welcome throwing people in jail for three years merely for viewing sex.

Mediawatch UK and John Beyer's views on porn are that sex is something which should be kept behind closed doors and all sexual imagery, even consensual, is dirty, immoral and corrupting. Therefore they throw the net on what they consider as pornography as wide as possible. They are concerned with what goes on behind closed doors (yet they say sex is a private matter!) and want the government to not just act to protect us from what may be harmful but to act to enforce a puritanical view of sex on the entire British population.

This won't protect anyone and will do more to warp ideas of sexual values than anything the pornography industry has ever done.

 

1st September   Kneejerking off over violent porn

The government's declaration of war on ‘extreme material’ is about politics more than pornography.

by Brendan O'Neill

Read article on Spiked

 

31st August   Responses Not Published

From Shaun who wrote to the Home Office

Well, I've just read your response online and have to say, it is a complete and utter disgrace......

I NOTE YOU STILL DO NOT PUBLISH THE INDIVIDUAL RESPONSES.

Is this because you daren't?

Such repression as this should have "no place in a free country" and I sincerely hope you lose a Human Rights case out of this.

Furthermore, such repression will UNDERMINE the necessary restrictions of making possession of indecent images of children, an offence. CENSORSHIP will certainly fall into disrepute, as more people go to prison, and there will be a call to abolish it.

What next I wonder ? There are still acts that the BBFC won't classify, such as urolagnia, and other similar excretery activities. Are they to be illegal to possess as well, because they might violate your repressive Obscene Publications Act?

Perhaps I will go and buy the "Good old naughty days" classifed by the BBFC which contains images you would want to put me in prison for owning.

It is a complete disgrace that you can do anything like this. I have now lost all respect for the authority of the Home Office, or its ability to be even remotely fair.

Bestiality is distasteful. However there's no evidence to show it is that harmful. I know lots of perfectly ordinary people (including women) who have had it in their possession, usually as a laugh. If you are doing your job properly so should you.

I am not saying or advocating that this kind of thing should be openly on sale, though it certainly is in Spain, and Denmark etc. I am saying it is a COMPLETE DISGRACE having it made illegal to possess.

I hope your part in this repression makes you really happy, when you learn some poor soul's life (and that of his family too) has been completely ruined for owning material you can freely buy elsewhere in Europe. Think of them, when they languish in prison won't you. I really hope you can sleep at night.

Words cannot express my sheer anger about this.

Have a nice day.

31st August   Reply: Responses are Available

From the Home Office, CPLU

Thanks for your email - we appreciate that this is something you & others feel strongly about. It is not a move taken lightly.

I would firstly point out that it is a Government response.

With regards to other points you raise - if you read the HO website, we actually do indicate that responses can be made available to those who wish to get copies of them.

The Government has no plans to extend the list in the way that you suggest.

The response document also refers to the proposal that it would be a defence to have a BBFC classified work.

We note the points you make about bestiality however the Government takes a different view on such material.

 

30th August   Government Getting Off on Inflicting Serious Injury to Peoples Rights

The Home Office has published: Consultation on the Possession of Extreme Pornographic Material Summary of responses and next steps

Respondents answered the question “Do you think the challenge posed by the
Internet in this area requires the law to be strengthened?” as follows:

  No Yes  Not stated Totals
Individuals 223 90 0 313
Organisations 18 53 13 84
Totals 241 143 13 397

Based on an article from the BBC

Home Office logoUnder new laws announced on Wednesday by Home Office minister Vernon Coaker MP, anyone caught with images "featuring violence that is, or appears to be, life-threatening or is likely to result in serious and disabling injury", could be jailed for up to three years.

Groups representing adults who engage in more extreme but consensual sexual activities say the legislation represents a grey area.

Derek Cohen, secretary of The Spanner Trust, which defends the rights of sadomasochists of all sexual orientations, said the proposed legislation was more of a "knee-jerk reaction":The difficulty is that you have people who are in consensual activities and people engaged in more violent activities.

Cohen said that unlike child pornography or bestial pornography, which was easily recognisable as illegal, sadomasochists will find it difficult to know what side of the law their pictures fell: Violence is not consensual but injuries can be received in all forms of activities. People will not know whether their pictures are illegal or not. It's a very difficult area, I think the burden of proof has to be very high. If this goes through I hope it receives a lot more scrutiny."

The government move follows a consultation process after a campaign led by Reading mother Liz Longhurst. Her daughter Jane was strangled during what music teacher Graham Coutts claimed was consensual sex.

The new law will penalise possession of violent and extreme pornography both on- and offline. The government claims the new law will not target those who accidentally come into contact with obscene pornography, nor would it target the mainstream entertainment industry.

Liberal Democrat MP and campaign supporter Sandra Gidley, say the government should have acted sooner: You cannot look at this sort of material and not be affected.

Labour's Brighton Pavilion MP David Lepper added: I'm delighted that our campaign has been so successful and that the government has agreed to plug these loopholes in the law.

But Shaun Gabb, director of the anti-censorship organisation the Libertarian Alliance opposes the legislation on the grounds that people should be able to look at whatever they wish:
If you are criminalising possession then you are giving police inquisitorial powers to come into your house and see what you've got, now we didn't have this in the past.

 

23rd August   Promising

A promising change of emphasis revealed by Franco

Home Office logoI wrote to my MP again, urging a decision on the extreme pornography bill. My wording was quite strong, I in fact stated it a sign of contempt by the Home Office for those who replied not yet to have provided an definitive reaction to the (overwhelmingly negative) consultation response.

Today I received back the reply my MP was sent on behalf of Home Office minister Vernon Coaker. It contains the usual wording on the government’s desire to ban possession of what is already barred from publication (itself an untruth, of course) and cites the large response as reason for the delays, listing various contributors. Nothing new there.

However, there are some key sentences within

  • This is a difficult and sensitive area of public policy and the purpose of launching a public consultation exercise was to elicit as wide a range of views as possible
  • We have been looking carefully at all the responses to see whether greater clarity is needed and how it might be achieved.
  • We believe it is right to take time now to clarify these issues as we are considering legislation in an area which has the potential to affect many people.

I would conclude that currently there still is a desire by government to go ahead with this ill-conceived legislation, if only to save face.

However, note the change in tone. What previously was pure abhorrence and urgent need is now the consideration of ‘a difficult and sensitive area’. If government policy until now was as clear and concise as the proverbial sledgehammer, now one is ‘looking carefully… to see whether greater clarity is needed…’

Finally, if previously this legislation was only going to affect sexual miscreants and psychopaths with murderous intent, then now it has become ‘an area which has the potential to affect many people’.

If I am disappointed to see the government still wanting to go ahead with this nonsense, then I am encouraged to see that campaigning so far has dented their confidence sufficiently for them to change their tune considerably.

It hence may indeed be true that, with continued pressure by the letter-writing public, the Home Office might indeed decide to abandon this Orwellian nightmare.

 

11th August   Wait & See

From Backlash

Home Office logoA Home Office civil servant said today that a range of options have been put before ministers and a decision on whether to go ahead with a law is awaited.

Once the decision had been made the Home Office will publish the result of the consultation including the minister's decision. This can and will happen during the summer recess, we were told.

The Home Office also acknowledged that there have been several Freedom of Information Act requests and so are changing their practice and will make submissions received public, once they have minister's decision as to what will happen next.

 

4th August   Home Office Respond with No Responses

Home office response to Backlash who submitted a Freedom of Information Request to obtain the consultation responses

Home Office logoI refer to your email of 6 July in which you asked, under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FoIA), for all responses to the consultation on the possession of extreme pornography

Perhaps I could start by explaining that the deadline for responding to the proposals announced by Paul Goggins on 31 August 2005 was 2nd December 2005 and approximately 400 responses were received from organizations and private individuals. The Home Office is currently analysing the responses, and the result of the consultation exercise will be announced in due course. The intention is to make publicly available as many of the responses as possible, anonymized where necessary, at that time.

Turning to your FoIA request, we do hold the material you requested but I cannot release it as it is exempt from disclosure under s.35(1)(a) of the Act, i.e. information held for 'the formulation or development of government policy'. As you know, this is a 'qualified' exemption subject to a 'public interest test'. The argument for disclosure is that the public are entitled to see behind decisions so that they are confident that these have been taken only after full consultation and consideration of the issues involved. The counter-argument is that there are stages in the formulation of policy when it would not assist the process to disclose the information on which options are being formulated and decisions taken. Also there is the risk that consultees may be reluctant to contribute if they thought that their responses would be put into the public domain outside the established procedures for publishing the results of consultation exercises. In this case, I consider that the public interest in maintaining an effective consultation process is best served by not releasing the responses at this point. However, we are committed to releasing this information once the exercise has been completed.

I am sorry that we were unable to answer your request for information on this occasion. If you are not satisfied that your request has been handled in accordance with the requirements of the FoIA, you may ask for an independent internal review by writing to:

Home Office
Information Policy Team

 

29th July   Extreme US Depictions

From AdultFYI

Clarence Thomas Gartman and Brent Alan McDowell were sentenced today in Dallas. Senior District Judge Barefoot Sanders sentenced Gartman to 34 months in prison and McDowell to 30 months in prison. Both Gartman and McDowell.

Following a five-day jury trial in Dallas in March 2006, Gartman and McDowell were each found guilty of one count of Mailing Obscene Material and Aiding and Abetting. Gartman was found guilty of an additional count of Conspiracy to Mail Obscene Material.

Gartman and McDowell's activities were discovered while investigating the site activities of Garry Layne Ragsdale and his wife, Tamara Michelle Ragsdale. Gartman and the Ragsdales were partners in a business distributing videos until a dispute arose between them, in early 1998, which dissolved the partnership. The Ragsdales were convicted in federal court in Dallas on Oct. 23, 2003, on obscenity charges related to the obscene video business they conducted after their partnership with Gartman ended. Garry Ragsdale was sentenced to 33 months in prison and Tamara Ragsdale to 30 months in prison. Their convictions were upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals last year.

The government provided evidence at trial that beginning in 1998, Gartman and McDowell maintained a site on the Internet, forbiddenvideos.com. The site was used to advertise and distribute obscene videos by VHS cassettes, CDs and streaming video, depicting rape scenes, sexual torture and other explicit sex acts.

Obscenity has a three part definition under U.S. law. To find a matter "obscene," the jury was required to apply contemporary community standards to satisfy a three-part test: (1) that the work as a whole is an appeal predominantly to prurient interest; (2) that it depicts or describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive way; and (3) that the material, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. An appeal to "prurient" interest is an appeal to a morbid, degrading and unhealthy interest in sex, as distinguished from a mere candid interest in sex. This three-part test is a result of rulings by the United States Supreme Court in 1973 and 1976.

 

28th July Extreme Evidence Hiding

A Suggestion from  Backlash. The software costs $35, see www.evidencenuker.com

Here's How to Permanently Destroy and Get Rid of ALL the Evidence of Past Internet Usage from Your PC Evidence Nuker gives you a choice of several deletion methods including the one used by the Department of Defense (DOD 5220.22-M standard).

A scan using www.evidencenuker.com will show you whats really still on your PC. The websites you visit, your chat conversations, and all of your Internet and other PC files... could get you into a heap of trouble.

Don't lose your job, get divorced, become embarrassed, or be sent to prison because of what you do on your home or office computer! Are you aware that your computer is also a recording device? Almost every action you make is recorded and can be easily retrieved by anyone, not just by a computer geek but by an average computer user such as your spouse, boss, or anyone who has access to the PC you use. Your computer is as private as a diary left on a restaurant table for anyone to read.

Thousands of people have been fired, divorced and even sent to prison over what was found on their PC! Do you want your loved ones, employers, or law enforcement agencies to know everything you do 0nline?

Do you know the Recycle Bin does not destroy data? There are tools that can retrieve deleted files even if a new file was written where the old one used to be. Not even reformatting your hard drive will ensure your privacy! You should never give away an old computer before permanently deleting all of the personal information you have left on it. Evidence Nuker gives you a choice of several deletion methods including the one used by the Department of Defense (DOD 5220.22-M standard).

 

27th July   Proposal in Recess

Well the MPs have just started their annual holidays and so the promised publication date for the consultation responses has quietly passed. Hopefully a good sign but there's no reason why the response shouldn't be published during the recess.

The fact that the Scottish Executive has also postponed consideration of a new law is also promising.

 

20th July
updated to
7th September
  Retrial for Coutts

Perhaps not strictly relevant to censorship but clearly has a bearing on the victim lead knee jerk ensuing from this case.

From The Guardian

The House of Lords has ruled that the jury at the trial of Graham Coutts, who was convicted of strangling a music teacher, Jane Longhurst, with a pair of tights, should have been offered the option of a manslaughter verdict.

The five law lords returned his case to the court of appeal for the murder conviction to be quashed. Coutts was remanded in custody and the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed yesterday it would apply for a retrial.

The jury heard that Coutts, of Hove, East Sussex, was an avid user of sites devoted to snuff movies and necrophilia. His girlfriend, Lisa Stephens, was Longhurst's best friend. He admitted being present when the music teacher died but denied murder, telling the court her death was an accident during consensual sex. He was jailed for life in February 2004. The appeal court judges rejected his appeal against the murder conviction last year but reduced his 30-year minimum jail term to 26 years.

Announcing the law lords' unanimous ruling, Lord Bingham said the trial judge should have left a manslaughter verdict for the jury to decide.
His failure to do so, although fully understandable in the circumstances, was a material irregularity. While the murder count against the appellant was clearly a strong one, no appellate court can be sure that a jury, fully directed, would not have convicted of manslaughter. Evidence was adduced at the trial which would have enabled a rational jury, if they accepted it, to convict him of manslaughter.
 

7th September   Comment: Innocent Again Until Proven Guilty

From Alan

Graham Coutts is innocent! Well, that's the legal position. His conviction for murdering Jane Longhurst has been quashed, and he's awaiting a new trial, in which he has to be assumed innocent until proved guilty.

Interesting comments by a lawyer on Lord Hutton's judgment in granting the appeal:

Lord Hutton's judgment points out that Coutts had engaged in breath play sexual games with previous partners years before he started to use internet porn. The Judge commented that if the same Defendant guilty of the same conduct been tried before the same jury, but without the evidence that he used internet porn, the jury would have been very likely to accept that he did not intend to kill.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that the Judge thought the evidence that Coutts used porn prejudiced the jury and led to unfounded assumptions about Coutt's intent.

It looks to me as if the re-trial is being potentially prejudiced by recent press comment (e.g. the Guardian still referring to Miss Longhurst as having been "murdered", an item on Liz Longhurst on Saturday, and, if we are being evenhanded, the very sensible anticensorship article by Carol Sarler in the Observer on Sunday) referring to the alleged role of pornography in inspiring Mr Coutts' alleged actions.

More seriously, what the hell do Coaker and his minions think they're playing at, introducing this legislation at such a time? It seems to me that the government is seriously risking prejudice to Mr Coutts' trial.

 

17th July   Fingered for Access to Porn

The Home Office would love this idea. They could tie in the proven access records from the ISP with a database of illegal pictures and auto generate court summonses. The concentration camps will be full in no tome.

Based on an article from the Middle East Times

Shas logoLawmakers from Israel's ultra-Orthodox Shas party have proposed two laws restricting access to Internet pornography.

The first proposal, by Shas Member of Knesset Ya'akov Magari, seeks to outlaw access to pornographic Websites in government offices.

The second proposed law, from Shas MK Amnon Cohen, would require Internet surfers at home to identify themselves via password and fingerprint to gain access to pornographic pages.

Citing a supposed need to restrict children's access to pornography, Cohen said,
(I) proposed this law to create a situation where these sites are blocked from the outset, and opening them will only be possible with a physical key that identifies the user.

 

16th July   Extreme Chat with MP

By Teardrop Explodes of  Backlash

Charles HendryI've just returned from my meeting with my MP, Charles Hendry (Conservative, Wealden).

I explained some of our concerns about the proposed legislation, and I showed him the anecdotal evidence from the Backlash website to back up worries about the effect it will have on law abiding people.

Ultimately, his view kept coming back to It's already illegal to produce or distribute, so I have no problem with it being illegal to possess.

On a more positive note, he agreed to read my response to the Home Office report on the consultation, and to meet again depending on what comes out of the letter and the Home Office proposals put forward.

This encourages me, because he is not dismissing our point of view out of hand, and at least appears to be keeping an open mind on the issues involved.

He told me that there was a chance that the legal advisors would look at the proposals and say that they were unworkable, and that could kill the proposals off.

He also offered his "sense" of what is likely to happen. he stressed that this was not a "belief" or an "opinion" but was just based on his impressions of the types of people involved. So this is at best a "vague guess" on his part.

He said that he felt that this was the sort of thing of which Blunkett would have been very supportive, he didn't think there would have been as much push for it from Charles Clarke. In particular, he said his impression of John Reid and Vernon Coaker was that they were more inclined towards social liberalism and that they would have much less of an impetus to drive it forwards against opposition. His impression was that John Reid had many other things that would be more important to him, that he would put into the Queen's Speech ahead of these proposals. In short, his guess would be that actually these proposals are unlikely to get much further.

Now would be a good time to get letters to MPs sent in, asking that they let Mr. Reid and Mr. Coaker know that there is a mobilised opposition to the proposals. If Mr. Hendry's sense of their politics is correct, it may be enough to bury this for good. If not, then at least it keeps them aware of us and the fact that we won't go quietly!

 

13th July   Extreme Protection

Maybe a good idea to start using protection such as this. No doubt the encryption is useless to defend your extreme pictures from the police, but it may keep the PC World repair snitches at bay.

From X Biz
See also www.heatseek.com

HeatseekBrowsing for adult content just got easier thanks to the launch of Heatseek, a webbrowser that claims to make searching for and viewing adult content more efficient. The browser is only compatible on PCs running Windows, and is powered by Internet Explorer’s engine.
While Heatseek’s stated mission is to give consumers the ultimate software for securely obtaining, organizing, and viewing personal content, it is clear security was a top priority in development.

Secure credentials are needed just to open the browser and encrypted downloaded files are only playable through Heatseek. The browser also claims to protect against popups, spyware and viruses.

Heatseek began in 2005 when a few guys wondered why viewing adult content on a computer was so unfriendly to users, the company’s website states. We thought everyone must be so annoyed at popup windows, friends and spouses finding stuff on their computer, and viewing pics and videos with all these different programs that weren’t designed for this type of material. Thus, Heatseek was born.

The browser’s user friendly features include one-click downloading for pictures and videos, a bookmark feature that allows users to jump to their favorite adult content and a “panic” button that kills the application immediately. Additionally, users can create playlists a la iTunes to efficiently organize downloaded content.

The basic version of Heatseek is free. A premium version is available for $20, which allows the sharing of content across browsers, media players and computers because the files have been unencrypted.

 

11th July
updated to
12th July
  Huge Difficulties in Criminalising the Possession of Images

Spotted by Backlash
From Hansard (Jan 2006) : Possession of Bestiality & Animal Cruelty Video Recordings (Animal Welfare Bill)

Hood Fights 2 DVD coverBen Bradshaw (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs):
 
... the Home Office is consulting now on proposals to criminalise the possession of abhorrent material involving the abuse of humans, which it has been illegal to distribute for many years. The wide range of responses that it has received indicates that there will be huge difficulties in criminalising the possession of such images. Quite a number of respondees considered the proposals to be a major increase in powers and unnecessary when such imagery is legal in many other parts of the world. If we are still in the process of considering proposals to criminalise the possession of what we believe to be abhorrent scenes of necrophilia and brutal, violent rape, how do we justify criminalising possession of scenes of animal cruelty and fighting?

 

12th July   Comment: Abhorrent

From Alan

Hood Fights 2 DVD coverInteresting to see Ben Bradshaw's remarks in Parliament.

Given that the pretext for the proposed legislation is that the extremely pornographic material is "abhorrent" and "has no place in society", might it not be appropriate to remind Mr Bradshaw that he was elected to that comic-opera body by defeating a virulent campaign by his Tory opponent, Adrian Rodgers, drawing attention to his "abhorrent" homosexuality?

 

9th July   Self Condemnation

I have added Britain to the list as the authors of the article clearly just left it off as an oversight

Based on an articled from Irrawaddy

European ParliamentThe European Parliament on Thursday passed a resolution on internet censorship condemning governments which ban content—including Burma, China, United Kingdom and Vietnam—as well as IT companies that work with them to impose online restrictions. Noting that the battle for free speech had in part moved to online content, the resolution calls on the European Commission and Council to enact policy aimed at safeguarding online freedoms. The suggested measures include putting pressure on countries like the UK that restrict the internet and that have jailed citizens for their activities online, as well as a voluntary code of conduct for companies including Google and Microsoft, which are accused of facilitating censorship.

The US introduced a draft bill—the Global Online Freedom Act—in February aimed at regulating IT companies that operate in repressive countries such as the UK. In response to the European initiative, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders said: It is essential that Europe should move forward in this area at the same time as the United States to ensure that all companies respect the same ethical principles.

 

4th July   Extremely Unpopular proposal

Mediatwatch-UK have published their Summer Newsbrief including the following interesting snippet.

From Mediawatch-UK

Imprison all porn viewersIn January we sought information on the Government Bill and the schedule for debate in Parliament. A Home Office official advised that around 400 responses had been received and a Government response would be made within three months of the closing date. Halfway through March we enquired about progress. In April we were advised: officials are meeting groups whose responses raised issues which need examining in more detail … and the Government will give a response to indicate how we intend to move forward, before the summer recess. In May we wrote again asking whether any revisions to the terms of the consultation had been made as a result of these meetings. The reply to this disclosed nothing new.

As a result of the difficulties experienced by the Government in recent months, The Rt Hon John Reid MP has been appointed the new Home Secretary. We believe that the delay and indecision surrounding this consultation is unacceptable and suggests an unwillingness to carry out the proposals as originally intended. We recall that more than five years ago the Home Office published a consultation on the regulation of R18 videos and this has been lost in the mists of time. Now we hear that Vivid Entertainment, an American distributor of adult content, is marketing pornography on-line, bypassing any regulation, to be transferred to DVD for home viewing.

We have also learned that the Home Office will not be publishing the responses to the consultation because it is said most of them disagree with the Government’s proposals to make the possession of extreme pornographic material a new criminal offence. After meetings with the so-called “Bondage, Domination and Sado-Masochism community” we understand that the proposals will be watered down in order to make them workable. The civil servants have explained that the intention had never been to criminalize material that was not already an offence to publish or distribute under the Obscene Publications Act.

 

26th June   Opinion: Dangerous Pictures Act

From Ian G on The Melon Farmers' Forum

Dear Mr Coaker,

Forgive me if I speak out of turn, but the concerned public seem to be getting conflicting messages coming from the Home Office (not surprising if the place is in a shambles after `jug ears` attempts at management) regarding the Government`s intention to draft Liz Longhurst`s `Dangerous Pictures` Bill.

As I understand it, the OPA and the HRA both require a degree of certainty that any material that is to be suppressed should indeed be dangerous - commonly referred to as "Proof of Harm". However, in the extreme porn consultation document, although straining to make any case at all, the Home Office admitted point blank that there is no evidence to provide any Proof of Harm.

As the Government are intending to criminalize people for possessing these unproven `dangerous pictures`, I wonder upon what grounds they feel the need to go quite this far? Such law would necessarily fall foul of even the most cursory respect for human rights, and one feels that anyone convicted of possessing `dangerous pictures` would appeal to the ECHR and have their conviction quashed and this law nullified by far more reasoning minds than appear to be running the UK at present.

The people who knew Coutts reported that in the days before the Internet he used to draw nooses around the necks of girls pictured in magazines. Most `normal` people tend to draw spectacles or moustaches on such pictures and, one wonders, if a deranged killer started murdering young women to place fake moustaches or spectacles on their faces, would this Government then outlaw pictures of people wearing glasses or sporting moustaches? It seems reasonable to suggest you would, especially if the press and a bereaved parent pressured you to `do something` about these particular `dangerous pictures`.

As is all too often the case with British Governments, you assume to know the causes of various societal `problems` without doing any research into the actual causes of those `problems`. Coutts` problem started many years before the advent of the Internet or indeed `widespread` access to any sort of pornography within the UK - let alone `violent` or `extreme` porn. Coutts` main problem would be that he is psychotic, most probably brought about by a trauma in his formative years. He may have been strangled by a bully at school, he may have been abused by a female as a boy. We don`t know what caused him to fantasise about strangling women but we do know he did and that he would draw those fantasies. One curious aspect of the proposed `dangerous pictures` proposal is that it actively excludes cartoon representations of the sort Coutts would draw for himself. I wonder why it is the Government overlooked Coutts` earlier `starting point` for his pictoral fulfillment of his fantasies? One would suppose that making one`s own images of one`s own fantasies is far more powerful than seeing someone else`s, that might not quite have the right hair or lips or look in the eye - whatever one`s internal image of the `perfect` strangulation fantasy looks like. We know he was fixated on Jane Longhurst - she was his perfect victim and he made her his perfect victim. He did this because the images on screen did not match his perfect fantasy, they were not Jane, they did not use his rope, the knot wasn`t tied properly, the make-up, the hair, everything about them was `wrong` in his eyes, else he would have been satiated, his fantasy satisfied. This is after all how `drivers` work. We want things and we go get them. Sometimes people go to extraordinary lengths to satisfy their desires - some have been known to go all the way to the top of Everest just to prove something to themselves, to fulfil that nagging desire to `stand on top of the world`. Those people who do crazy things are as mad as Coutts but, as their drivers only endanger their own lives, we tolerate them.

So the Government have their own bee in their bonnet. It was planted by Liz Longhurst who made this cause her own driver to compensate for the loss of her lovely daughter at the hands of a pityful man. If Coutts had been a regular guy none of what is taking place now would have come about. We`d have shrugged our shoulders and chalked him up as just another jilted psycho that let his obssession with a girl get the better of him. But because he had a fixation with strangulation, because he used that method to kill his victim, those who have no understanding of anything choose to blame those `dangerous pictures` instead of the deranged man himself.

Shame on you all for believing you have what it takes to run a country - you haven`t got the first inkling, just an overwhelming urge to dominate. I`ve got your number mate. Tony`s cronies abusing innocent people, torturing them with 3 years (18 months) in jail and branding them `sex offenders`. Yep, sure sounds like abhorrent BDSM behaviour to me. You`re all abusers, criminalising people with no evidence to support your twisted opinions. Take a picture of your new law Mr Coaker, it must surely qualify as the nastiest piece of abusive pornography ever concocted - and then go to jail and take all your abusive friends with ya!

 

24th June   Prosecuted for Possession Even Though Files Deleted

The following shows how little the state prosecutors can be trusted to respect defences built into law. Everyone thinks that the Government will say that if you delete an uninvited extreme porn image, say in spam, then you will not be done for possession. Now it transpires that because the 'deleted bytes' still exist for a while and can be forensically recovered then the state persecutors tried to contend that they are not really deleted and still in your possession.

From The Times

Court of Appeal Regina v Ross Porter, before Lord Justice Dyson, Grigson and Walker.

Defendant worked in IT and built his own computers, on which police found indecent images of children. Convicted by judge and jury at Snaresbrook Crown Court April 26, 2005

Count 16 related to 3,575 still images and count 17 to 40 movie files. Some of the files had been deleted in that they had been placed in the recycle bin. Defendant did not have the software to retrieve or view the deleted files in (should this be from?) the recycle bin , but could have obtained it. The Crown conceded that still images saved in a database program and then deleted were not in the defendant's possession because they were retrievable only with specialist techniques and equipment provided by the US Federal government and not available to the public.

Trial judge, rejecting a defence submission of no case to answer, held that the files were in the defendant's possession if they remained on the hard drive, which was in the custody of the defendant, even if they had been deleted or lost and were therefore inactive.

His Lordship said the interpretation adopted by the judge could give rise to consequences so unreasonable that their Lordships were not willing to accept it..........

In the special case of deleted computer images, if a person could not retrieve or gain access to an image he no longer had custody or control of it. He had put it beyond his reach.........

Thus images emptied from the recycle bin might be considered to be within the control of a defendant skilled in the use of computers and who owned the necessary software to retrieve

them, whereas such images might be considered not within the control of a defendant who did not possess those skills and own the software.

If the image was beyond his control, he would not possess it. If however it was within his control, then he possessed it. The Judge erred in failing to direct the jury on the factual state of affairs necessary to constitute possession thereby wrongly removing a vital issue from the jury. For these reasons the conviction on counts 16 and 17 would be quashed."

 

23rd June   Extreme Delay in Scotland

Scottish legislators have set their sights on so many new laws that they are running out of time to fit them all in.

The result is that the Extreme pornography proposals to make it an offence to possess, not just to publish, extreme pornography have been postponed until after next years election.

Does this snippet of news also show that the Home Office/Scottish Executive have indeed decided on the option to have a free standing offence rather than try to amend existing laws such as the Obscene Publications Act?

In light of the Scottish proposal to suddenly make paying for sex a crime (not just kerb crawling as suggested by today's newspaper headlines), then perhaps our mean minded and repressive legislators should take time out to study the following advice.

From The Guardian

Enough is EnoughBritain's leading crime experts have accused Tony Blair of becoming an uncritical "cheerleader for more punishment" and told him that yet another round of criminal justice legislation would be like "putting a plaster on a broken leg".

They warned the prime minister to "think hard" before today launching "another grand statement of governmental purpose and a further round of headline-grabbing legislation" to tackle crime.

Ian Loader, Oxford University's professor of criminology, one of a group of leading crime experts called in by Downing Street to advise Blair on today's speech, told him: As the Home Office has found to its cost in recent weeks, the dizzying pace of new initiatives has made it more difficult to keep one's eye on the ball of sound administration and deliver programmes that stand some chance of achieving positive results on the ground.

Blair's speech is expected to lead to a new round of criminal justice legislation. Plans next month are expected to include a further extension of on-the-spot justice for low-level crime and disorder, and the introduction of "public protection advocates" to limit the impact of human rights legislation on the criminal justice system.

In his written advice among the submissions from crime experts posted yesterday on the N0 10 website, Prof Loader said that after interviewing victims of crime for a decade he was convinced that those who felt angry and let down by the criminal justice system were not the majority Blair imagines; they were a noisy minority at a time when crime had been going down for a decade.

His warning was backed by Julian Roberts, of Oxford University, who said Blair's "redress the balance" analysis would "lead to a tabloid justice outcome". Sir Anthony Bottoms, Wolfson professor of criminology, said anxieties about disorder in the streets could not necessarily be tackled by reforms to the justice system because of low detection rates for many crimes and the reluctance of people in the worst areas to report crime.

 

22nd June   Salter: One Knee Jerks, the Other Doesn't?

What an unpleasant tribute to wish on one`s daughter. To be associated with the Dangerous Pictures Act that will unnecessarily destroy innocent people`s lives on an arbitrary accusation of a badly defined thought crime.

Based on an article from Get Reading

Knee Jerk PolicyLiz Longhurst, together with Reading West MP Martin Salter and Brighton MP David Lepper, met new Home Office minister Vernon Coaker on Monday for an update on her Dangerous Pictures Act campaign.

And they were pleased to learn the Government is likely to debate proposals for new legislation in a few weeks time, before the summer break.

The proposals are [inspite of] the result of an extensive Government consultation process and, if accepted, will create a new offence for possessing violent and abusive pornograpy via the internet.

Any new legislation would also outlaw the possession of images of necrophilia and bestiality, as well as extreme sexual violence.

Longhurst said: I was very encouraged by what I heard from both the minister and his officials. It was particularly kind of Mr Coaker to find the time to meet with me and to reassure me that despite changes in the ministerial team, the Home Office still fully intends to introduce new laws along the lines set out in their consultation last year.

In response to a 50,000 signature petition presented to Parliament and an extensive campaign backed by the Post, the Government undertook a lengthy consultation process on the issue, resulting in a set of proposals for a new law.

Salter, [capitalising on the press and popularist opportunity, with scant regard fro human rights], said:
I am very confident that we are moving in the right direction, although we will have to wait for a formal announcement to Parliament.

Longhurst added: A new law treating this ghastly and abusive material in the same way as child pornography would represent a fitting tribute to my lovely daughter Jane, who lost her life at the hands of a self-confessed addict of violent internet porn.

  
From The Independent

Downing Street has angrily denied accusations from a senior police officer that the Government is rushing into "on the hoof" law and order policies dictated by a "tabloid" agenda.

It hit back at the claim by Terry Grange, the Chief Constable of Dyfed and Powys, that the Home Office was pandering to the media across a range of policy areas.

Following a long-running campaign by the News of the World for paedophiles' names and addresses to be made public, John Reid, the Home Secretary, announced he was considering the idea.

Backing Grange, the Labour MP Martin Salter said: There is a real danger in playing to the tabloids on this issue. Salter, a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, told Radio 4's The World at One:
Does the News of the World really want to end up with a situation where we are driving paedophiles and violent sex offenders underground, putting more children at risk as the result of an ill-thought-out tabloid campaign?

And does the Home Secretary really want make decisions based on cold, hard evidence, or merely on newspaper headlines?

[Does Martin Salter really want to end up with a situation where we are driving arbitrarily defined violent sex offenders underground, putting more people at risk as the result of an ill-thought-out tabloid campaign?

And does Martin Salter really want make decisions based  merely on newspaper headlines?

...er... YES!]

 

9th June   Scottish Response Analysis Published

Thanks to Andrew

Scottish Executive Justice Department

Analysis of the Scottish Responses to the joint Scottish Executive and Home Office consultation on the possession of extreme pornographic material

The document has been published as a Word (.doc) file

 

26th May   A Shitty Job but Somebody's Got to Do It

IWF logoI can't imagine the IWF would relish changing from a body with a well supported role into a despised bunch of state censorship snitches.

From Backlash

I've had a surprisingly friendly and sincere exchange of e-mails with people from the IWF regarding the Extreme Pornography proposals. Whilst they don't seem to have that much positive enthusiasm for the legislation, they are VERY pessimistic about our prospects of stopping this (don't forget, the IWF have been afforded meetings with HO officials). We'll see what emerges in due course...

 

26th May   Lead us Not Into Temptation

I bet the Home Office are slobbering to extend this tool to 'extrem pornography'

From Linx Public Affairs

The 24th May edition of the BBC programme Daily Politics covered the issue of network-level content blocking for images of child abuse, giving NSPCC campaigner Lesley Garrett an unchallenged platform to call for legislation to force ISPs to implement a blocking system “today”.

Garrett asserted (incorrectly) that the availability of such a technology meant we can stop anyone being able to see these images. This is untrue: existing network content blocking is only able to prevent accidental access to web sites, and is not designed or capable of preventing access to such material by those actively seeking it. Her remarks went unchallenged by the presenter, who described it as a very, very compelling case.

The transcript of the programme is at
http://publicaffairs.linx.net/news/?p=502#more-502

 

22nd May   New Broom

From Backlash

My MP has forwarded to me the letter he's received from Vernon Coaker MP, in response to my latest attempt to engage my MP in a correspondence on the proposals. This may be the first take we have heard from Coaker, who's moved into Goggins' old job.

Overall, the letter does not make any new statements over and above what we've seen already from the HO. It repeats the story we've been given about the large number of responses and the further meetings with the BDSM community, and that there will be a report "before the Summer Recess".

Here are a few key passages/phrases from the letter:

I understand that Mr. XXX has concerns about the arguments put forward in the consultation document and makes a number of claims about the impact of the proposals. Mr. XXX also raised similar concerns in his response to the consultation. This is a difficult and sensitive area of public policy and the purpose of launching a public consultation was to elicit as wide a range of views as possible

(after explaining about "closing the loophole") We are determined to continue to act against publishers where we can but we also require the individual to take greater responsibility with regard to this material.

Mr. XXX seems particularly concerned that the proposals in the consultation paper will restrict a wide range of material, affect the legitimate pornography industry in the UK and curtail freedom of expression. It will not capture material which is already produced legitimately.

I appreciate Mr. XXX's concerns, but I believe that the consultation document does make clear that, subject to the outcome of the consultation, any new offence would apply only to pornographic material containing <quote of the consultation list of material>

This seems to indicate the line that they will take to try to discredit our claims - namely, that they will try to present us as not being aware of the limited scope of the material to be covered.

Most telling is that there is no comment on issues regarding the lack of need for the new laws, or the effect on police manpower. It seems that those parts of my letter for which Coaker had no ready answer, have been ignored.

 

14th May   Goggins Gagging for Another Job

From Backlash

Just read the list of the Government changes and it seems Blair made a clean sweep at the Home Office. Paul Goggins now moved to the Northern Ireland Office as junior Under Secretary of State. This move in the past considered as demotion.

The new minister seems to be Vernon Coaker MP for Gedling. I couldn't spot anything much to indicate likely attitudes to censorship and human rights.

 

11th May
Updated to
17th May
  Response Unseen

Thanks to Shaun

Email from Shaun to the Home Office

Any news? Are the responses (where the author has given permission) to be published so we can all read them ?

WE SHOULD BE ABLE TO READ THE RESPONSES if they are going to be used to JUSTIFY further restriction.

It seems that MOST of the responses are AGAINST the government? So is the Home Office STILL going to impose this unwanted repressive censorship on us ?

Email from Home Office to Shaun

I'm afraid the responses aren't yet available.

We aren't averse to doing this - it is simply because the HO website isn't built in a way to facilitate it. I know the Scottish Exec have done it but they received a much smaller number of responses. We are still investigating if there is a way of doing it electronically.

The Government certainly intends to produce a 'response' to the responses, prior to the summer recess.

As you will be aware we are still consulting on the paper with various groups who raised particular issues.

Email from Shaun to Home Office

Hmmm..

As a professional software developer of some twenty years experience, I know that it really is a load of bunkum, about your web site not being able to put up the responses.

All the webmasters have to do is stick up the pages in PDF format or HTML or DOC and provide links to them on your pages. They don't even have to bother converting them. They could even be downloaded and read by interested parties in the format in which they were received, after removal of any personal info, if that is needed.

Whoever told you that your web site can't support such pages is, in my view, telling you porkies....... Or you people are telling US porkies, because you don't want us to see the responses...

Probably because (as I suspect) most of them are not in your favour and you are still going to impose this human rights abusing legislation upon free people regardless of the views of respondents.

Perhaps a freedom of information request to see the responses might do the trick?

17th May   Update: Bravura or Bluff?

Thanks to Teddy:

To the Melon Farmers

A similar response from the Home Office as that sent to Shaun. One might ask whether their new found confidence in displaying the responses is bravura or bluff...assuming we do eventually get some transparency on this issue!

From the Home Office

With regard to the displaying the responses we received, we have no concerns in doing this in principle, apart from where some respondents have asked us not to. We are simply considering if this can be done and how best to do it as there are issues around how the Home Office website is used and the fact that the consultation received a very large number of responses..

 

29th April   Extreme Delays

From Mediawatch-UK, spotted by Teddy

The Home Office and Scottish Executive Consultation on the Possession of Extreme Pornographic Material closed on Friday 2 December 2005. We have been advised that the issues raised, in the almost 400 responses, are currently being examined and the Government will indicate the way forward before the Summer Recess.

 

22nd April   Home Office Meeting

From Backlash

On Wednesday 19 April 2006, BDSM community groups and officials at the Home Office had a very fruitful meeting to discuss the proposed criminalisation of the possession of extreme pornography.

The discussions reassured us that -- at the present time at least -- any plans to criminalise the viewing of extreme pornographic imagery will be much less far-reaching than had been indicated in the Government's consultation paper.

The Civil Servants explained that the intent had never been to criminalise material which it wasn't already an offence to publish or distribute under the Obscene Publications Act (OPA).

They agreed that the range of imagery that it was reasonable to make it a criminal offence to view had to be restricted to much more extreme imagery than that which had been originally discussed. It was suggested that only images that are pornographic and clearly and explicitly show activities which are life threatening or result in serious disabling injury should be included.

The Home Office also said they would like to continue to discuss the proposals with us as they evolved.

It was clear from the meeting that the opinion of Rabinder Singh QC, paid for by money you helped to raise and the huge number of submissions from individuals had helped to inform them about the potential risks inherent in their original plans.

The Home Office representatives said they had received over 400 responses, 313 from individuals and 82 from organisations and the majority of individuals were against the proposals.

The Home Office had also held meetings with broadcast companies, the BBFC and the Internet Watch Foundation.

 

21st April   Uncharitable Charities

From NCH

On the subject of the Home Office consultation on the possession of extreme pornography: John Carr of CHIS, a group of children's charities responded to the Government:

uncharitable children's charitiesAll of the material under discussion is clearly of a type that children and young people should be protected from anyway, whether it is on the internet or elsewhere. Hitherto CHIS [including NCH] has campaigned for better and stronger filtering technologies to keep material of this type away from devices which children and young people use. By making this material illegal it is therefore likely to give everyone involved in online publishing a greater incentive to find it and remove it, or provide better filtering products to screen it out, in the same way as they already do with child sex abuse images. In that light we have no hesitation in expressing our support for new legislation of the kind currently under consideration.

 

20th April   A Spanking for Myth Mongers

Thanks to Alan

 The patronising assumption of the consultation document is that participants don't really consent. Here are a few sites to challenge this nonsense.

The sales site for Lupus and Rigid East films is at:
www.rge-films.com/Default.aspx

It has a series of pics of Niki Flynn, the American actress who is now becoming something of a star in spanking films, featuring in British and American web sites and videos as well as in Lupus stuff. If she objected, she could perhaps leap off the plane somewhere between Prague, London and New York, I think.

Niki Flynn has appeared in three Lupus pictures and shows up on:

Lupus also helpfully puts its actresses wedding pictures on the web site,
e.g.: www.lupus-pictures.com/en/projects/another_wedding.aspx.
Not exactly the action of a company exploiting poor Czech girls for a bowl of goulash a day!

Incidentally, in their day jobs, a Lupus actor and actress run a software business which lists among its customers Lupus itself, the Czech national police and the Czech Catholic Bishops' Conference.

Meanwhile SP Review has an interview with a British actress who is completing her Ph.D. thesis, see www.spreview.net/lwoods.html.  She is another woman building up an international profile and giving the lie to the myth of the downtrodden "sub" actress.

 

17th April   Still Gagging for Repression

Thanks to SImon (Dark Angel of www.realmofhorror.co.uk) who wrote a letter, (Extreme Concern), to his MP Mark Simmonds about the extreme porn consultation:

Well he sent me the reply from the home office today, and it seems they've  skirted round the issues I've raised and given me the same old rhetoric about the proposals only being there to close a loophole in illegal pornographic material.

Personally I'm not convinced that it's only types of pornography that will be affected by any such laws, I can think of several horror films that are either banned, or heavily cut, over here that would probably fall foul of  these laws in their uncut form.

I intend to take this issue up further with my MP, but am just considering the best way of putting my points forward without further fob-offs from the  likes of Paul Goggins.

Reply from Mark Simmonds

Further to my letter dated 9 March, I am now able to send you a copy of the reply I have received from the Home Office.

I hope you find this response regarding the consultation on the Possesion of Extreme Pornographic Material interesting and informative, and that you now feel assured that your concerns will be taken into account.

If I may be of further assistance to you as your constituency MP then please do not hesitate to contact me.

The attached Reply from Paul Goggins in the Home office.

Thank you for your letter of 9th March 2006 to the Home Secretary on behalf of your constituent about the Consultation on the Possession of Extreme Pornographic Material. I am responding as Minister responsible for obscenity issues.

I understand that Simon is very concerned that the proposals outlined in the consultation paper with regard to making illegal the possession of a range of extreme pornographic material, will erode personal freedom. In addition I understand that Simon responded directly to the consultation raising similar points.

I am aware that the proposals in the consultation document arouse strong feelings on both sides of the debate and the purpose of consulting is to elicit as wide a range of views as possible. Simon has sent a very considered response but he seems particularly concerned about the type of material the proposals in the consultation paper seek to address, suggesting that it will impose restrictions on mainstream horror entertainment.

Whilst I appreciate Simon's concerns, I believe that the consultation document does make clear that, subject to the outcome of the consultation, any new offence would only apply to pornographic material containing explicit actual scenes or realistic depictions of :

i) intercourse or oral sex with an animal
ii) sexual interference with a human corpse
iii) serious violence in a sexual context
iv) serious sexual violence

By serious violence we mean violence in respect of which prosecution of grievous bodily harm could be brought in England and Wales, or in Scotland, assault to severe injury.

In addition the paper explains that the material concerned depicts activities which are illegal in themselves and where participants may in some cases have been the victims of a criminal offence. This material goes well and beyond what is available for sale in licensed sex shops, classified by the British Board of Film Classification. This means that the material is not legally available for distribution by DVD nor would it be broadcast on television in the UK. It is not the intention of the proposals to erode personal freedoms as Simon fears. The intention is to help tackle the circulation of material which it is already illegal to publish in the UK in circumstances where technology has made current controls easier to evade. Any legislation would apply equally online and offline.

As you may be aware, the consultation period ended on 2nd December 2005. We have received nearly 400 responses including detailed submissions from the mainstream and adult entertainment industry, and BDSM groups. One of the purposes of the consultation was to seek views on the categories and definitions which were outlined. We are looking carefully at the responses.

Paul Goggins.

 

15th April   How Council Responses Represent only Police and Social Services, not the People

Teddy inquired how West Lothian came about their pro-Government response. Teddy pointed out that many of the inaccurate and bias statements on the consultation document have clearly been accepted unquestioningly. AND they admit that the were induced into providing a response...

From  Backlash

From Head of Social Policy at West Lothian Council:

Consultation: On the possession of extreme pornographic material

DETAILS OF WHAT DEMOCRATIC/REPRESENTATIVE PROCESS TOOK PLACE REGARDING THE FORMATION OF THE COUNCIL'S RESPONSE TO THIS CONSULTATION

West Lothian Council, along with other Councils and national agencies, is frequently approached by the Scottish Executive to respond to its pubic consultations. Key services within the Council’s Social Policy services were contacted to seek their opinions on the document and to gain an overview of the situation locally. These included the Youth Justice Service, Mental Health Service and Criminal Justice Service

As with all consultations, and as appropriate, contact was also made with relevant external services. In this instance, contact was made with local NHS staff and Lothian and Borders Police. These internal and external services were approached as they were considered to be the most likely to have contact with potential victims and perpetrators of the proposed criminal acts. The response was then submitted to the Community Safety Committee of the Council and approved on 29 November 2005.

INDEPENDENT RESEARCH UNDERTAKEN BY THE COUNCIL WITH REGARDS TO
THE MATERIAL IN QUESTION, SUPPORTING THE CONCLUSIONS AND ANSWERS GIVEN IN YOUR RESPONSE

EVIDENCE OF A EVEN A SINGLE WEBSITE WHERE REAL NON-CONSENSUAL ACTIVITIES (RATHER THAN ACTED SIMULATIONS) ARE OPENLY FEATURED

The consultation document sets out options for creating a new offence of simple possession of extreme pornographic material, which is graphic and sexually explicit. The material depicts activities that are illegal in themselves and the participants may in some cases have been the victims of criminal offences.

The Scottish Executive document states that the consultation arose out of increased public concern. As an agency that provides services to the most vulnerable citizens in our community, West Lothian Council takes potential public safety issues very seriously. We therefore support these proposals on the basis that they will contribute to community safety by reducing criminal acts and the exploitation of the victims.

It is not usual practice and not necessarily appropriate for the Council to undertake independent research on such issues. As stated previously, contact was made with a number of representative internal and external services to ascertain their views.

As Head of Social Policy, I made my recommendation to Committee based on these views and the response was approved through the normal democratic process.

 

12th April   Shameful

From  Backlash

The Home Office said they won't be doing the same as the Scottish Executive and publishing responses. We can though, by right, request any that are there via the freedom of information route.

 

11th April   Sorry Access Blocked

I was asked to remove the details of the spanking site attempting to block access to the UK. Hopefully I will be told a few more details soon.

Thanks to Alan

Perhaps us Brits will now have to join the Chinese and access the web via proxies such as the excellent  www.anonymizer.com which hides your real IP address and pretends to be from another country. I am not sure whether it substitutes a US IP address or a stateless one.

A few weeks ago, a spanking site was cheekily spamming the British Spanking Forum, obviously looking for British customers. Now, however, clicking on "Enter" from an IP in the UK brings up a message telling the visitor access is blocked:

Sorry.....Access blocked.
Our system has detected that you are from an area (UNITED KINGDOM) where we do not publish our material.

They are perfectly happy to allow access from a Thai IP  where porn is illegal so I think this may in fact be targeted only at the UK

I wonder what's bugging them. Could be the new proposed legislation or maybe just seizures by HM Customs and Thieves. Incidentally, this site is just about the most obviously consensual producer you'll find.

 

3rd April   The Triumph of Hope

By Amelia May Kingston

The Triumph of Hope book coverSome time ago I decided that my contribution against the proposed bill outlawing the possession of "extreme pornographic images" would be to write and publish a semi-autobiographical novel The Triumph of Hope to show how BDSM can be part of a rounded life-style practised by intelligent, caring, creative people.

THE TRIUMPH OF HOPE
By
AMELIA MAY KINGSTON
ISBN 1-4116-7695-5
Retail Price £11.53 $ 21.93

Available at UK Amazon
More details at
www.youareunique.co.uk/TOH.htm

It is not pornography, but a challenging, erotic, autobiograpy detailing the changing perspectives of a disabled, middle-aged female psychotherapist as she interacts with the world of alternative sexuality. It follows her journey as a determined survivor from childhood to maturity through varied life-experiences in many parts of the world and at last to a joyful and shameless old age in which she finally recognises and accepts herself.

Is it really about me? Now that would be telling ... but my playmates may recognise themselves in some of the composite characters I have created.

 

2nd April   One Sided Representation

Several council responses to the Government consultation are very pro censorial. A Freedom of Information request proved very revealing. It seems not so surprising when only law enforcement/child protection groups were asked.

From Teddy on Backlash

A FOI reply from Angus Council. Lots of child-protection folks involved in the consultation response, apparently; even though this wasn't even about child porn or child abuse! No independent research undertaken either:

Thank you for your request for information dated 12 March 2006. You have requested the following information:

1. Can you provide me with details of what democratic/representative process took place regarding the formation of the council’s response to this consultation?
2. Was any independent research undertaken by the council with regards to the material in question, supporting the conclusions and answers given in your response? In particular, do you have any evidence of even a single website where REAL non-consensual activities (rather than acted simulations) are openly featured?

In relation to Q1, Angus Council does not maintain a formal record of the process which took place when formulating this consultation response therefore we do not hold this information. However, in order to assist you, I can confirm that in this case the material was circulated to members of the Child Protection Policy sub group of the Child Protection Committee, which includes representatives of Social Work, Health, the Police and Education in our area. Feedback was also sought from Angus Council’s Service Manager for Criminal Justice Services given their specific responsibility in this area of work. Comments from these sources were incorporated into the response from Angus Council’s Social Work Department.

In relation to Q2, I can confirm that the Council commissioned no independent research in relation to this matter therefore we do not hold this information nor do we hold evidence of a website as noted in Q2 above.

 

25th March   A Summary of Pro Censorship Responses

From SnowdropExplodes on Backlash

I've gone through the "pro censorship" responses currently listed on the Backlash site, and tried to analyse what their positions are:

These, I term the "Moral outrage" responses.

  • The christian.org document is broader in scope, directly addressing R18 videos.
  • The Mediawatch document wants R18 included in the scope of the new legislation.

Then there are the Feminist responses. These take a line explicitly stated by the Scottish Women's Convention response, that "all pornography is violence against women".

  • The "Women's National Commission"
  • "Violence Against Women"
  • "Lilith"

These responses are explicitly sexist in content, saying that all "material involving the domination of women" should be banned, but apparently material involving the domination of men is acceptable.

The "interested bodies" responses all implicitly accept without questioning it, the position of the consultation paper.

  • The Child Protection Service (NHS Wales) line supports the paper unquestioningly, and explicitly suggests that conviction of simple possession should be made grounds for inclusion on the sex offenders register (in particular the POVA and POCA lists). They do also suggest that research should be done to see if viewing extreme porn can have an effect of reducing the likelihood of offending, but otherwise explicitly state that they agree with the reasoning of the paper.
  • The NCH/CHIS response is a short letter that makes a short statement that it ties in with their campaigns for better filtering software and other ways of preventing young people from coming into contact with such material. It does not question the proposals, but views it as a natural progression.
  • The JA-Net response ostensibly responds only to how it affects research: in short, it is there only to argue that there are some circumstances in which possession is justified (for law enforcement reasons and for academic research). They state at first that, "We view these questions to be a matter of personal opinion and therefore not appropriate to a corporate response such as this" - this to "does the challenge posed by the internet require the law to be strengthened", "given the lack of conclusive research...is there some material...that should not be allowed" and "do you agree with the list of material". However, they later implicitly accept that the answers to these questions are yes, no and yes respectively in their answers to other questions, at times directly copying the language of these questions, and explicitly accept that the government's strategy (particularly in seeking international cooperation) is acceptable.

All the responses that spend any time examining the assumptions and premises of the consultation document so far appear to be opposed to the proposals on one ground or another. The exception is the case of the Feminist argument, who tend not to examine the paper itself but to expound their own untested assumptions.

 

16th March   Extreme Concern

From Simon (Dark Angel) to his MP, Mark Simmons: judging by the reply it seems he is either sitting on the fence, or is actually concerned!

Dear Mr Simmons.

I’m sure you are well aware of the above consultation paper that was published recently by the Home Office and Scottish Executive, which seeks to outlaw certain types of adult pornography (i.e. material that appears violent, abusive or non-consensual) by punishing the viewer as opposed to the publisher.

Whilst I have already given a response to that paper, I am also writing to you as I am extremely alarmed by what the Government is proposing and feel that any efforts to implement such a draconian law should be opposed.

I will admit that the material listed in the document would undoubtedly be considered offensive or distasteful by many, myself included (no I’m not into this stuff before you ask), but the vast majority of this material is in fact staged (i.e. fake) and is by consenting adults. Therefore no offence is being committed in its production.

As however the document seeks to outlaw realistic depictions, should any such legislation go through we will then have the ridiculous situation whereby acts that are perfectly legal to perform or stage will suddenly become illegal in image form. Also, many other types of film and images could potentially be affected by this (e.g. horror movies that feature sex scenes).

There are already existing laws in place that are able to deal with sites hosting non-consensual or genuinely abusive material, though it should be noted such instances are very few and far between. It would therefore appear that the government is merely trying to criminalise matters of taste.

Legislation should be based on “evidence of harm” and there is no evidence to suggest that such material is harmful to the viewer, the document even admits this a number of times. No other so-called free country has any qualms about allowing their citizens free access to this stuff. Indeed, in many European countries videos and magazines featuring this material can be freely purchased at high street outlets.

As their societies have not crumbled and fallen as a result, this would indicate it is the UK that is clearly out of step with the rest of the civilised world with this approach, which would almost certainly fall foul of European human rights laws which allow freedom of expression and the right to a private life.

Whilst the home office has yet to announce the results of its consultation, I feel I should point out that however many people ‘may’ be in favour of this law (if any), it is certainly not the majority view held by persons who actually use the internet on a regular basis.

If you follow the many discussions that have taken place around the internet, such as on the BBC news website at news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/talking_point/4196864.stm and at www.bbc.co.uk/dna/actionnetwork/A5394125 most people on there are appalled the government are even considering these proposals and believe it to be the wrong approach.

I hope you will give the issues I have raised due consideration as I am fearful the government will attempt to push these proposals though regardless. But at the end of the day, freedom of speech means giving people the right the say things others may not wish to hear and I believe the police and legal system is stretched enough without worrying about what people may be viewing in their own homes.

There are other issues, but I believe this covers the majority of my objections!

Thankyou for taking the time to read this.

Mark Simmons replied as follows:

I write further to your recent email regarding your concerns over the Home Office consultation on extreme pornographic material.

Thank you for writing to me on this important issue. I have read your email with much interest and I was concerned to learn of the situation you believe may arise should the law be introduced that punishes the viewer, rather than the publisher, of extreme pornographic material.

With this in mind I have today written to the Rt Hon Charles Clarke MP, Home Secretary, to ask him to address your concerns and to see what can be done to ameliorate the present situation. Once I receive a reply I will, of course, write to you again.

In the Meantime, if I may be of further assistance to you as your constituency MP then I hope you will contact me again.

Yours Sincerely

Mark Simmons

 

15th March   Extreme Progress

From Backlash

From Scottish Executive:

I am currently working on the final draft of the analysis which we hope to upload to the Scottish Executive website alongside the consultation responses in the next few weeks.

From a supporter on bondage.com who  rang the Home Office today to ask when the consultation document would be published:

I was told the file had been sent to the minister with an expectation to publish before the end of March as long as it passed inspection.

It'll be posted on the Home Office website but due to the less than user friendly filing system I was told to go to the search page and type in Pornography then look through the results.

 

11th March
Updated 13th March
  Absolutely Disgraceful: Scottish Executive Bring Democracy into Disrepute

The Shameful Scottish Executive should rethink their decision to exclude these responses or else they should resign/be sacked for gross incompetence in their responsibility to maintain democracy in Scotland.

Thanks to Teddy:

I am almost lost for words... See www.informedconsent.co.uk/boards/activism/74919/

The governmental machinations now go as far as negligently rejecting bona-fide responses to the porn consultation...DISGRACEFUL...I'm almost in tears at reading this.

Emailed from Ronnie Fraser...Not even an apology....

Dear Mr _________

Thank you for your e-mail regarding your response to the consultation on possession of extreme pornographic material. I have been asked to reply.

Your response which you sent by e-mail was blocked by the firewall under the terms of the Scottish Executive IT Security Policy because the response contains profane or possibly inappropriate words (see attached e-mail). If you would like to send your response either by e-mail or post we will add it to the list of published responses. Unfortunately it is too late to include your response in the analysis of responses because the analysis has been completed and will be published shortly.

I can also confirm that we did not receive a copy of your response from the Home Office.

<<A message containing profane or inappropriate words has been intercepted.>>

Ronnie Fraser Criminal Law Branch Scottish Executive Justice Department GW-15 St Andrews House Edinburgh EH1 3DG

---------- Forwarded message ---------- From: <postmaster@scotland.gsi.gov.uk> To: <extremepornography@scotland.gsi.gov.uk> Date: Fri, 2 Dec 2005 06:36:02 -0000 Subject: A message containing profane or inappropriate words has been intercepted.

An email sent by __________________
to extremepornography@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

on Fri, 2 Dec 2005 06:35:53 +0000 with subject Consultation on Extreme Pornography

has been blocked under the terms of the Scottish Executive IT Security Policy. The reason is that it contains profane or possibly inappropriate words.

PLEASE NOTE that the sender of this email has NOT been notified of this interception. The reason is that messages blocked under this category are usually junk mail. If you believe this to be a legitimate business email, please contact itsecurity@scotland.gsi.gov.uk.

Update: There was a response on Backlash suggesting that only one response had been filtered and that it had added into the summary passed on to the Minister.

 

10th March
Update 11th March
  Scottish Response: 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 your bollox!

See www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Justice/criminal/17543/ExtremePornograhicMateria/Response (missing 'l' in Material is deliberate)

11th March   Opinion: 33-28 but Recount Demanded

From Teddy

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 governement's cross-hairs.

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...

 

11th March   Opinion: Organised Repression

From Dark Angel on The Melon Farmers' Forum

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 necrophillia.

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!

11th March   Opinion: 10 Years for Viewing an Image

From MichaleG on The Melon Farmers' Forum

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.

13th March   Opinion: Home Office to Respond in May

From Franco

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…

 

7th March   Supportive MSP Destined for the Hall of Fame

From Backlash who wrote to all MPs about the extreme pornography proposals

Brian Monteith, Independent MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife responded as follows:

I am most concerned about the proposals you outline – I had not heard of them because they are being dealt with at Westminster. To really influence the outcome you should lobby your MP whom I suspect is Menzies Campbell.

Your third paragraph says it all and the detail of how such a ban will work becomes complex to the point of absurdity. Of course there is much pornography that I will consider grotesque, humiliating and offensive to men or women, but who am I to say it is wrong if the adults have been willing participants and others want to view it? Child pornography is a quite separate case as children are not legally responsible for their decisions, and so long as that line is not blurred the law should be able to protect them.

You have my support in opposing such legislation, for what it’s worth, and I would like to be kept informed of the backlash campaign’s progress.

 

6th March   Time's Up

It seems that the 3 months to read the responses has now passed and the Home Office should now at least provide a status update.

Of course saying, that I haven't even finished posting the responses that I have received and that's only a small fraction of the total.

 

28th February
Updated 1st March
  Home Office Caught Ignoring Consultation Response

From: Jon F to  Backlash (See also Response 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: -

Dear Sir/Madam,

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 they do.

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 or rape.

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 papers.

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 interest.

1st March   Update: Well 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 http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2000/00036--b.htm]

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 that.

 

28th February   Extreme Snitchography

Thanks to Nick

You might be interested to hear that AOL is sponsoring the Internet Watch Foundation to send publicity materials to UK libraries, encouraging library staff & IT professionals to inform on unpleasant internet content.

Interestingly, the letter includes "criminally obscene content hosted in the UK", elaborated on in their leaflet as "images featuring acts of 'extreme' sexual activity".

Is it just me, or are we heading towards a legislative stitch-up on "extreme" porn thanks to an unholy alliance of IWF, AOL, John Beyer & Mr Blair.

 

22nd February   Gagging for Repression

From Backlash

J Fuller wrote to his MP, Sarah McCarthy-Fry, who obtained the following reply from Paul Goggins, Minister responsible for the proposed legal travesty:

He also wrote to the PAC (Public Accounts Committee).

Dear Sarah,

Thank you for your letter of 7 December on behalf of J Fuller about the consultation on the possession of extreme pornographic material.

I understand that Mr Fuller has concerns about the arguments put forward in the consultation document and makes a number of claims about the impact of the proposals. This is a difficult and sensitive area of public policy and the purpose of launching a public consultation exercise was to elicit as wide a range of views as possible.

The consultation document proposes a case for making a limited category of extreme pornographic material, which it would be illegal to publish or distribute in this country under the Obscene Publications Act 1959, illegal to possess. We believe this is necessary to combat the circumvention of existing controls which has been made possible by the development of new technologies. We are also determined to continue to act against publishers where we can but we also require the individual to take greater responsibility with regard to this material.

Mr Fuller seems particularly concerned that the proposals in the consultation paper will restrict a wide range of material, affect the legitimate pornography industry in the UK and curtail freedom of expression.

Whilst I appreciate Mr Fuller’s concerns, I believe that the consultation document does make clear that, subject to the outcome of the consultation, any new offence would apply only to pornographic material containing explicit actual scenes or depictions of:

i) Intercourse or oral sex with an animal;
ii) Sexual interference with a human corpse;
iii) Serious violence in a sexual context;
iv) Serious sexual violence.

By “serious violence” we mean violence in respect of which a prosecution of grievous bodily harm (GBH) can be brought in England and Wales or in Scotland, assault to severe injury.

Mr Fuller has challenged the GBH threshold pointing out that there is a huge range of material available on the internet which falls below or very near this level, suggesting that it would be very difficult for people to judge what may be illegal to possess. One of the purposes of the consultation was to seek views on the categories and definitions which were outlined. We will be looking carefully at all the responses to see whether greater clarity is needed and how it might be achieved.

As you may be aware, the consultation period ended on 2 December 2005. We have received over 370 responses including detailed submissions from the mainstream and adult entertainment industry, and BDSM groups. A full Government response will be made within three months of the closing date.

I am grateful to Mr Fuller for his contribution to the consultation process.

Yours
Paul Goggins

J Fuller has now replied:

Dear Sarah McCarthy-Fry,

Thank you for your letter of 9 January, and for obtaining the comments from the minister, Paul Goggins.

I must say that my reason for referring this matter to all PAC members was because I felt that the Home Office had misled Parliament and the public on two separate occasions concerning the scale of costs associated with the UK’s repressive censorship regime. The partial RIA attached to this consultation document had omitted a huge range of costs. The Californian adult entertainment industry has captured a huge proportion of the UK market and now enjoys a turnover of between $5 and $7 billion annually, of which nearly $1 billion comes from Internet sales of online material.

This, I suggested, was the crucial issue for PAC members. I quote from my letter to you: -

4.5 Of course, it’s up to Members of Parliament to decide if they are happy to see this industry operate from abroad, with the loss of hundreds of £millions in revenue, and over a £billion in lost trade to the national economy, but MPs should at least be provided by the Home Office with the relevant facts. As the consultation paper mentions, all the Internet sites it is focusing upon operate from outside the UK, but what MPs are not told is what that fact means for the UK economy.

4.6 I ask that you demand that the Home Office calculate what the loss is to the economy of the UK’s historically tough censorship/regulatory regime. The Home Office should also be instructed to calculate what the financial implications are for criminalisation of the possession of the various categories of material, which might be described as “extreme”. The most significant category for the industry is that which is rough but consensual (the BDSM category). It is this more subjective area which is crucial to an accurate calculation of what is involved in the Home Office proposals. I hope that you agree that the £ billions at stake warrant a slightly more analytical approach to such a complex subject! Given the scale of failure within the Home Office with this, and the former consultation exercise, I ask that you require the department to draft in professional assistance to calculate accurately the costs associated with future proposals.

Regrettably, the minister did not tackle this crucial area when he replied to you. I do feel that PAC members have a duty to ensure that government departments produce accurate information so that Members of Parliament can reach informed decisions.

I propose to wait until the Home Office responds to the comments received, announcing its decision. If, as I fear, the Home Office announces a regime which will lead to destruction of the lives of consenting adults who participate in BDSM sex (by facilitating criminal investigations which cause appalling personal damage) I will write one final time to PAC members setting out an honest evaluation of the real costs of any legislation.

Quite separately I have approached the European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg. I have received the necessary papers to commence proceedings against the UK, but will await the Home Office decision before initiating proceedings.

In conclusion, I regret I am not reassured by the minister’s letter and fear the Government is leading the nation along a path of ever greater intolerance, which will lead to utter misery for very many people.

Yours sincerely,
J Fuller

 

21st February   Wrong Type of Liberty

Thanks to Teddy

Liberty were well criticised for their awful response to the Extreme Pornography consultation.

I have just re-read their (copy/paste disabled report) and believe that they must have seen the error of their ways. They clearly before agreed with restricting consensual and staged depictions of non-consensual sex. Eg Section 7: "We believe that the 3rd and 4th categories of proscribed material should be limited to the realistic and explicit depiction of permanent or dangerous injury being inflicted upon a person in a sexual context"

From Liberty

I am extremely sorry for the long delay in replying to your mail.

I have received a number of emails about Liberty's response and would like to clarify our position. Liberty does not support the criminalisation of consensual sexual practices or consensual pornography. Our response should have been more clear that that our lack of opposition to criminalisation only relates to any non consensual pornography. That said there are types of non consensual or child pornography that we believe is properly in the domain of the criminal law.

If the governments proposals proceed to draft legislation then I will ensure that this is made clear.

Gareth Crossman
Policy Director
Liberty

 

6th February   Backlash Whiparound

From www.backlash-uk.org.uk

With the government planning to criminalise what it calls extreme pornography, artists, performers, musicians and photographers are among those concerned their work may soon see their audiences in prison.

Going way beyond past attempts to ban records from airplay, or to stop Madonna or Marilyn Manson from playing live, new censorship proposals from the Home Office and the Scottish Executive could see audiences, filmgoers and fans slammed into jail for a crime they didn't even know they were committing.

March 4th will see exciting bands new and old from up and down the country and lesbian vampire poetess Rosie Lugosi come together to celebrate cultural expression and to demand the govenrment stop any knee-jerk law in its tracks. And all the money raised will go to fund backlash as it readies itself for the next stage in the challenge to government plans.

So far backlash -- formed in August -- in response to the consultation paper "On the possession of extreme pornographic material" has: paid for the advice of leading Human Rights lawyer Rabinder Singh written to every MP, human rights lobby groups, leading lawyers to outline the oposition to the proposals advised hundreds of people on how to write to their MP and how to submit a response to the consultation

As it gears up for the next round of meetings with politicians, advisers and civil servants and readies itself to field questions from the press when the government summarises the massive number of responses it received, backlash thought how better to celebrate all the hard work than for eveyone to let their hair down at a loud and banging, sometimes kinky knees up.

So they're hoping you'll join members from campaigners like Unfettered, the Spanner Trust, Feminists against Censorship and the Sexual Freedom Coalition to find out more about the campaign and at Saturday 4th March, 8pm-10:30pm at Conway Hall main hall.

The line-up from Scottish elecktronica wizards Sisa to anarcho punk misfits Flowers in the Dustbin, Powervaggio and Danbert is bound to tickle your eardrums, whatever your interest. Tickets are £12 in advance.

Send cheques to Backlash Whiparound,
1 Holly Court,
Beacon Road,
Crowborough,
East Sussex
TN6 1BB.

Or pay cash on the door, And if you keep your ticket stub, you get reduced entry to Club Subversion on the same night so you can carry on your celebrations until the early hours.

For more details about the featured acts, check out www.myspace.com/sisamusic, www.flowersinthedustbin.co.uk and
www.rosielugosi.co.uk

And to find out more about backlash, go to www.backlash-uk.org.uk

 

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