Customs are supposed to be an enforcement agency of British law but they seem
to think they are somehow above the law. When they attain this level of arrogance it is
only a small step before they are specifying the law on a per case basis (where a
bit of ready cash helps sway that interpretation). The Home Office should step in urgently
and ensure that Customs aren't allowed to corrupt the law for their own dubious purposes.
Many thanks to Shaun Hollingworth for making inquiries into this
After reading the latest report on the Melon Farmer's censorship site which today
reported that HM Custom's and Excise currently have no plans to relax their (frankly
ridiculous) obsession with import restrictions on consensual adult videos, I decided to
enquire into the matter for myself.
I therefore rang the appropriate customs department on (020) 7620 1313 [Ask for Paul
Firstly I spoke to Mr. Hussain Chowdery, who deals with pornography, at Customs. He
said they would continue to seize all pornography which
entered the country, and the position had not changed at all. As far as they were
concerned the material was still being found to be obscene, by the magistrate's courts in
I told him that they had a duty to justify any restriction imposed upon the freedom of
expression of the British people. I said he understood my argument but that it was clearly
a matter for the Home Office to decide, and things would not change until the home office
told them to change.
On to Birol at the Home Office. (020 3273 3787)
He said that it was a matter for Customs, but they HAD agreed to review the
guidelines..... They had attended various meetings where such policy was decided, he said.
He said that customs could not restrict the personal importation (for personal use) of any
material which is legal to trade in, within the country, even if such trade was in
restricted conditions. He did hint that customs may be just being careful about what they
say... But it certainly WAS a matter for them, and not a matter for the Home Office.......
He told me I was the third to complain about this since Tuesday.....
OK then. This time back to Customs, and a word with Andrew Macnamara (SP) at Customs
and Excise. This Scottish chap was adamant that the position of Customs was correct.
"We are seizing material which has been found to be obscene by the courts" he
said. "Magistrate's courts" I reminded him. "Where they tend to be more
conservative with a small 'c' and rubber stamp the decisions of customs. We have this
circular and risible regime where magistrates find material obscene because customs say it
is, and customs use that as an excuse to maintain prohibition." Mr Macnamara then
reminded me: "You can always test it in court". "Wonderful" I replied.
"So I have to potentially break the law to test it do I ?"
I then got EXTREMELY angry and said to him "Well I hope you are happy with your
part in what clearly is a blatant HUMAN RIGHTS abuse. You are required to define exactly
WHAT is restricted and WHY it is restricted. It has to be more than necessary, and
He said "Yes, we seize material which is found obscene by the courts..." I
asked how much of the material could *possibly* be obscene, if it was now to be classified
for sale in the country. He said that was a matter for the BBFC, and nothing to do with
customs, who simply went on the view of the magistrates court. (Who of course simply go on
the view of Customs officers....)
I told him "I should *not* have to plead with you for my freedom. YOU must tell me
WHY it needs to be taken away from me." I said I was sick of this country, and for
two pins I would move to Spain where people have something called freedom of expression
but my wife didn't want to go and live there...... So I would have to choose between my
marriage and my freedom.
He went very quiet, when I realised I was so offended by the whole situation that I
really was prepared to leave my country because of it...... All he could say, was that it
was my right to challenge them in the courts... But of course I would have to potentially
break the law first....
This is why it is a clear HUMAN RIGHTS abuse. Human rights law, implies that laws
restricting freedom of expression should be "clear enough so the ordinary person
knows what the law is...... and of course why it is.... "
That certainly doesn't mean that such a person has to possibly break the law, (as they
imply) before he/she can be sure what the law is.. It should be therefore be defined
unequivocally using defined terms.
It really is a matter of principle. People in any kind of free society really should
have restrictions on them fully justified, and those restrictions clearly defined. One
should not have to break the law, to test it. That is the approach of autocrats, despots
and power mongers everywhere.
If the authorities don't seem to know either what the law is, and who is responsible
for it, by playing pass the buck and ping pong, how on earth can the ordinary citizen know
? That they admit that it is clearly open to challenge on various grounds means that it
really isn't clear at all. A human rights violation then. And the United Nations have
declared it so. I really hope the authorities in this country are proud of that. I know