I am not sure how the sensationalisation from the press
will take hold but perhaps the following may provide a reasonable indicator
of the response from the authorities:
In March 2003, Graham Coutts strangled 31 year old Jane Longhurst with a
pair of tights and then hid her body in a storage unit, keeping it as a
‘trophy’ and visiting it regularly for over a month.
The prosecution said Coutts was a frequent viewer of violent pornography
on the internet and suggested an “obvious parallel between the images he
chose to access on his computer and the scene that confronted him at the
storage location…..he acted out for real on the unfortunate Jane Longhurst
the fantasies on his computer, the strangling, the killing and raping of
The trial ended today when a jury returned a ‘Guilty’ verdict and Judge
Richard Brown sentenced Coutts to a minimum of 30 years saying:
seeking perverted sexual gratification by way of your sordid and evil
fantasies, you have taken her life and devastated the lives of those she
loved and of those who loved her.
The remit of the IWF includes assessing potentially illegal adult &
obscene material submitted to us via our Internet ‘hotline’. Adult Content
is governed under the UK Obscene Publications Act and any prosecutions and
sentencing relating to such content, are at the discretion of the judge, in
each individual case.
Obscene Publications Act 1959
Adult websites can be cited in criminal cases, however, the Act is a
complex piece of legislation, which is not necessarily easily defined,
explained or enforced.
There is different legislation applied to adult content all over the
world, in terms of what is legal and illegal.
Legislation over internet content, comes under the jurisdiction of the
country of source, therefore the IWF and UK Law Enforcement Agencies can
only control material hosted in the UK.
At the IWF we do sometimes receive complaints about websites & material
which contains adult content, but unless they are hosted in the UK and may
potentially be ‘borderline extreme’ in terms of content, i.e. it is unclear
as to whether the images may be illegal, it is not within our remit to
further investigate these sites.
In those cases, our highly trained Internet Content Analysts may feel
they warrant additional scrutiny by the UK Police and forward them to the
relevant law enforcement agency. They then decide whether any prosecution
may be actionable in a UK court of law.
It is our view, that if the two websites cited in this specific case,
were hosted in the UK that we would have referred these sites to the UK
Police for further investigation under the Obscene Publications Act.
Child abuse images are generally thought to be globally unacceptable so,
in the main, there are clear guidelines and legislation internationally, on
possession and distribution of such images.
Such content is governed under more specific legislation:
Protection of Children Act, 1978 (England and Wales)
Civic Government Act, 1982 (Scotland)
In relation to child abuse images, the UK ISP’s are stringently regulated
under this UK law.
They work with the IWF on a 'notice and take down' mechanism and as such,
the percentage of UK hosted potentially illegal content has been reduced
from 18% to 1% since 1997.
Due to the increasing diversity in social attitudes, 'adult' content, the
context in which it is viewed & possessed and any 'influence' it may have,
is very difficult to govern.
This may go some way to explaining the difference in legislation and
Government & Industry attention & resource covering ‘adult’ & extreme
‘adult’ content, compared to child abuse images.