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 2002: April-June

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11th June   Spider Sense vs Spider Censor

From Ananova

The owner of an independent cinema chain is celebrating after persuading two councils to allow thousands of children to see the new Hollywood blockbuster film Spider-Man.

Trevor Wicks, 44, owner of the Hollywood chain, which has five cinemas across East Anglia, convinced councillors in Dereham, Fakenham and Cromer, Norfolk, to downgrade the film's classification from a 12 to a PG (Parental Guidance). Mr Wicks thinks his success could persuade other cinema owners across Britain to ask councils to change the classification. It is not the first time district councils have changed the classification given to films by censors.

Mr Wicks argued that the BBFC had been wrong to impose a 12 classification because Spider-Man contained scenes which were no more violent than Lord of the Rings, which had a PG rating.

Members of Breckland District Council and North Norfolk District Council, which license local cinemas, agreed to reclassify after watching a special showing of Spider-Man, which goes on general release later this week. But they said the film should contain a warning that some scenes might be unsuitable for children aged under eight.

 

18th May

  Stretching the Law Further

Notes for Committal Proceedings in the Bow Street Magistrates Court (30th/31st May 2002).

Overview

  • The defendants are charged with a number of counts relating to the control of prostitution and/or living off immoral earnings. These charges arise out of their various involvement with brothels and in particular, a company known as Net Knowledge.

  • In relation to this company, the defendants are charged with offences of Living off Immoral Earnings, contrary to Section 30 of The Sexual Offences Act 1956.

  • It is understood from Instructing Solicitors that it is solely the charges relating to Net Knowledge which are the subject of challenge at the contested hearing on 30th/31st May 2002.

  • It is further understood that the only issue at committal is whether or not the service being provided by Net Knowledge amounts to prostitution.

Summary of Evidence

  • The named defendants controlled or owned Net Knowledge, which specialised in managing websites. Those websites provided access to pornography. In addition, however, they provided customers with access, via an internet chat room, to live sexual performances by one or more performers.

  • Those performers were located in 2 rooms situated within the offices of Net Knowledge. Each room contained a video camera trained on the area where the performance was taking place, along with a monitor and a keyboard.

  • The customer, by the use of his own keyboard, was able to email the performers requesting them to carry out specified sexual acts. Equally, the performers were able to reply. The events were transmitted live to the customer, although on occasion, Net Knowledge chose also to videotape selected performances (see exhibit).

  • The performers engaged in a wide range of activities, including masturbation on both themselves and others, oral sex, the anal and vaginal insertion of various objects and sexual intercourse.

  • Throughout the performance, the customer's computer would be connected to the website via a premium rate telephone line. The provider of that service would periodically account to Net Knowledge for its share of the revenue thereby generated.

The Presentation of Evidence

  • We will of course, be seeking to commit this case on the entirety of the evidence which has been served to date. However, given our understanding that the live issue will be whether the service provided by Net Knowledge amounted to prostitution, we propose to deal at committal only with that part of the evidence.

  • (paraphrased). Videos seized from the premises will be played along with various recordings of officers accessing the website.

The Law

  • (paraphrased). The Sexual Offences Act 1956 does not define the term "prostitution". The simple definition provided by the Oxford English Dictionary defines a prostitute as "someone who engages in sexual activity in return for payment".

  • (paraphrased). Case law confirms little restriction on the term "prostitution". R v MacFarlane (1994) said that prostitution includes making an offer of sexual services. R v De Munck (1918) said that prostitution includes acts of 'lewdness'

 

(How often have you heard people in authority say that if you don't like a law then see your MP, go through the proper channels and get it changed. But until then, obey the law.

Of course this doesn't apply to the prosecuting authorities. It seems obvious to me that the current laws are not relevant to the Net Knowledge website. Instead of requesting that the Government consider new laws to cover new technology they try to stretch old laws.

It seems to me beyond belief to rely on a dictionary quotation to override the common sense and common usage version of the word prostitution. The Oxford English Dictionary is used in schools etc and clearly has to be careful about explicit language, hence a vague, coy and overly generalised definition.

And fancy having the gaul to even think of presenting a 1915 precedent to laws on sexual morality...it buggers belief. If these extensions are to be accepted then half the country are prostitutes. All strippers, porn actors, mainstream actors paid for bedroom scenes, newspapers and newsagents who publish small ads from escorts, girlfriends who accept the cab fare home etc).

Update: Stretching the Law Less Far

7th June 2002

Good news, the case against Net Knowledge was dropped on Thursday of last week by the CPS and costs were awarded out of central funds.

 

22nd April   Stringfellow without the String

Based on an article from The Evening Standard

Naked tabledancing is coming to the West End after a nightclub won a bid to scrap the ludicrous rule forcing its performers to stay partly clothed. Westminster council's licensing chiefs approved a request from Peter Stringfellow to end the policy stipulating that all tableside dancers must wear at least a Gstring.

James Tait, spokesman for the Covent Garden Nutter Community, which opposed the application, said: We think Westminster council missed an opportunity to set some standards for the area here. They have put all kinds of conditions on what may or may not be done within the club but they could have simply said no to nudity. This is a place where people both live and work, and sex on a stick is not the kind of thing that is wanted around here. We will be fighting to make sure that this ruling does not set a precedent in the West End, as we are very concerned about what other people might be planning."

Peter Stringfellow, who gave evidence for several hours during yesterday's all-day hearing, said: I will be holding a meeting with my girls tonight and we will do a proper launch of the new policy in about three weeks' time. None of my girls will be forced to dance naked if they don't want to, and no touching will be permitted by customers whatsover. There has always been a degree of nudity in Westminster but we are living in a different world now and have to move with the times. I think a lot of clubs will probably do the same as me, if they're allowed.

Stringfellow made the application after claiming that Camden council's policy of allowing dancers full nudity was putting him at a competitive disadvantage. Camden has seen an increase in tabledancing clubs in the past two years as a result of its more relaxed regime. Glenn Nicie, operations director at Mayfair tableside dancing club For Your Eyes Only, said his club had now put in its own application for fully nude dancing.

Councillor Frances Blois, chairman of Westminster's licensing subcommittee, said: We are satisfied that Stringfellows is a well-run and managed club. There were no police objections to this variation of the current licence and we have granted the variation until the end of May. At that time the licence renewal will be required to be heard before the licensing sub-committee. Our committees decide every individual case on its merits and council enforcement officers will continue to carefully monitor the premises.

 

21st April   Stretching the Law

An interesting case is coming up regarding a British Women Webcam - committal proceedings at Bow Street Magistrates Court next month.

They are prosecuting the owners with "living off immoral earnings" on the basis that the viewers directed the participants to engage in lewd acts. The Clubs and Vice Squad are really stretching the intent of the legislation to the limit on this one. Stretching it to 200 miles in fact. There is a camera, a computer screen and 200 miles of telephone wire seperating the consumer and the participant.

It is surely going to be an important case as the police are clearly abusing the law somewhat in their interpretation. On the other hand if they get away with it an awful lot of adult entertainment could be eroneously branded as prostitution.

It must be pretty tough on the defendant, he has already suffered the intimidation of 6am police raid simultaneously at home and office. Now he will be the focus of an over zealous prosecution trying to establish a new weapon for the enforcement agencies. I guess the obvious defence is that there is no case to answer, but that sounds the sort of thing that can spiral up to higher courts.

(It would be interesting to have a webcam set up in the vice squad headquarters, we could maybe get to see how such mean minded nastiness evolves).

 

21st April   Degeneration in Nottingham Council

From the Nottingham Evening Post

Council lawyers have launched a court bid to block Nottingham's first supermarket-style sex shop.

The council claims that the Adult Gift Shop, in Hockley, is not wanted by local residents. In a virtual re-run of the council's battle to keep the Teasers lap-dancing club from opening - the city council is taking the matter to the Crown Court. A council spokesman said the latest court action could cost the city 26,000.

Council leader Graham Chapman said: Residents don't want it and we don't think that was taken into consideration. We have had a petition against it from local people. We believe it will lead to a degeneration in that part of Hockley, rather than regeneration.

Mr Bloom appealed to Nottingham magistrates after the city council refused to grant him a licence in November, on the grounds that he had insufficient experience of running sex shops. Last month, Nottingham Magistrates' Court granted shop owner Charles Bloom a sex establishment licence for the Goose Gate outlet. Deputy district judge Peter Veits then granted Mr Bloom his licence and ordered the council to pay 6,000 of his 11,000 costs. Now the council is maintaining that the judgment was "against the weight of evidence". Mr Bloom vowed to battle to keep his licence, adding: We will fight the council through the courts - all the way to the top if necessary.

The city council wages war on anything adult and blocked the opening of the Teasers lap-dancing club in The Meadows. But the council seem to let their owns views override the rights of the people without adequate justification and an ombudsman's report criticised the council's handling of that application. The council had to pay thousands in legal fees, as well as agreeing to pay 2,500 to club developer David Morgan for his time and trouble. The council is still negotiating over paying Mr Morgan's costs, which he says were 38,000.

 

14th April   Subject to Censorship

From The Guardian

TalkSport DJ Tommy Boyd has been fired after failing to block on-air remarks  from a caller who said he would like to shoot the royal family, just hours after the death of the Queen Mother.

The former children's TV presenter and his production team were this week informed they had lost their jobs at the station. A spokesman for the radio station confirmed the decision, adding: It's very unfortunate, but we had no choice.

The Radio Authority received a complaint from a listener to the live broadcast who heard a man call for the royal family to be shot. Boyd, his producer and technical operative sat speechless after the caller - who claimed to be a republican - said he would like to shoot the fucking lot
of them
, on the Sunday night following the announcement of the death of the Queen Mother.

The presenter and his team failed to activate a "dumper" button - an emergency button that allows radio stations to cut offensive broadcasts from air within a seconds-long delay - in time to stop the broadcast. It was either a gross error of judgement, or one of the three people in the
studio failed properly to monitor the output,
said the spokesman.

 

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