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Customs Seizures Since 2000

HMRCCustoms are a law unto themselves as you pass through the red/green channels. If they say something is obscene then it is obscene. There is very little you can practically do about it.

In  Autumn 2000, Customs revised guidelines about what is considered obscene ie anal and vaginal fisting, urination, defaecation, sado masochism and bondage, material involving children or animals, and also material depicting rape, excessive violence or animal cruelty. However more standard hardcore is now legal and will no longer be seized by customs. See below for further details on  what is now legal to import

Customs were far more active prior to the recent guide line changes. Previous tales of woe are archived...lest we forget!

Anyway, as something of a public service I shall try and collate a list of films that have offended the most arbitrary of censors in the land. 

Also Customs horror stories at Day Tripper [see Other Pages on site menu]

 

Allowances

Just a note that may be of use when importing videos etc via the post . If the value is less than £18 there is no duty to pay. (If the goods are unsolicited gifts there is no duty to pay until the value reaches £36) . The limit is £145 if you are personally importing the goods (ie travelling with them).

Law

Another very important consideration is that Customs are allowed to confiscate (ie steal) an entire consignment if any part of that consignment is judged obscene. This applies to both postal packets and good you are carrying with you. Therefore do not take unnecessary risks by packaging up mainstream films with those that Customs are likely to have problems with.

After having got through the red and green channels, the nightmare does not stop there. The "Writ of Assistance" gives Customs a carte blanche to enter any home without judicial approval and seize anything they believe to have been imported contrary to a prohibition.

To be knowingly concerned with the importation of obscene material is a criminal offence, Another offence is possession of imported obscene material, even if the importation has occurred somewhere higher up the distribution chain, even without even knowing it. Police, or customs officers would be well within their rights to kick down the front door of the customer at 6 in the morning, and search the premisies. It's a stupid law I know, but it's one that the police do enforce.

Pornography (Updated Guidelines since Autumn 2000)

Here is a letter Customs sent when outlining their new guidelines from 2000

I can confirm that customs has now revised its criteria for assessment of obscene material. This follows a judgement by the court of appeal which led the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) to publish new guidelines for its issue of R18 certificates. Customs will therefore no longer seize material depicting sexual activity between consenting adults which falls within the BBFC published guidelines. This will avoid conflict with The Human Rights Act, and existing European legislation and will sustain our policy of seeking to maintain common standards as accepted by the courts, and other enforcement agencies.

Sexual acts which are excluded from the BBFC criteria for R18 certification will continue to be considered obscene. This includes anal and vaginal fisting, urination, defaecation, sado masochism and bondage. We will also maintain controls on material involving children or animals, and also material depicting rape, excessive violence or animal cruelty.

The current Customs guidelines now state that they allow porn which depicts the type of consensual sexual activity between adults which can be legally purchased in the UK .

The BBFC determine what material is allowed to be legally purchased in the UK so their guidelines determine what is permitted for import

The following content, subject to the above, is permitted in R18 videos/DVDs sold in UK sex licensed sex shops:

  • aroused genitalia
  • masturbation
  • oral-genital contact including kissing, licking and sucking
  • penetration by finger, penis, tongue, vibrator or dildo
  • non-harmful fetish material
  • group sexual activity
  • ejaculation and semen]

These guidelines make no distinction between heterosexual and homosexual activity.

The following content is not acceptable:
  • any material which is in breach of the criminal law including any material judged to be obscene under the current interpretation of the Obscene Publications Act [notably fisting & pissing in sex scenes, pissing is fine if there is no sexual activity]
  • material (including dialogue) likely to encourage an interest in sexually abusive material (eg paedophilia, incest, rape) which may include adults role-playing as non-adults.
  • the portrayal of any sexual activity which involves lack of consent (whether real or simulated). Any form of physical
    restraint which prevents participants from indicating a withdrawal of consent
  • the infliction of pain or physical harm, real or (in a sexual context) simulated. Some allowance may be made for mild consensual activity. Penetration by any object likely to cause actual harm or associated with violence
  • any sexual threats, humiliation or abuse which does not form part of a clearly consenting role-playing game. Strong abuse, even if consensual, is unlikely to be acceptable.

Horror

As more and more notorious horror films get BBFC certificates then so the scope for theft from customs diminishes. Of course there is still a lot of scope remaining for theft. Customs randomly open packages but of course target packages from well known horror suppliers such as Xploited. Perhaps a very simple measure one could take to reduce chance of seizure is to ask suppliers not to use their standard address labels but to write the address by hand or else use a blank label.

Booze & Cigarettes

If there is one sure way of encouraging corruption it is allow law enforcement bodies the power to impose enormous fines which effectively bypass the usual protections afforded by the court system. In their darkest hour, the Government seem to have granted the power to to impose an on-the-spot penalty of one's car. And as one may expect, HM Customs & Excise have abused this power with an unprecedented enthusiasm to criminalise Brits who just want to save a few Euros.

Anyway this is a little off topic for the Melon Farmers so I suggest those that required more information on the horrors of customs by drilling down into Day Tripper

 

Material Still Being Seized

It has now been a while since Customs were forced into accepting that adult consensual porn was no longer to be seized. However they have retained a list of activities that they still consider obscene. So it comes as no surprise to find that Customs are still keenly seizing material which they consider breaks their guidelines as described in their letter reproduced below.

Customs will no longer seize material depicting sexual activity between consenting adults which falls within the BBFC published guidelines. This will avoid conflict with The Human Rights Act, and existing European legislation and will sustain our policy of seeking to maintain common standards as accepted by the courts, and other enforcement agencies.

Sexual acts which are excluded from the BBFC criteria for R18 certification will continue to be considered obscene. This includes anal and vaginal fisting, urination, defecation, sado masochism and bondage. We will also maintain controls on material involving children or animals, and also material depicting rape, excessive violence or animal cruelty.

The inclusion of fisting in the list immediately poses a few problems. Why is fisting considered obscene whereas an equally sized dildo is acceptable. The BBFC far more sensibly referred to prohibitions on inserting objects in terms of harm to the participants. However the issue of most immediate concern is that of bondage and S&M. The Customs guidelines seem to leave S&M as liable to an absolute ban, no mention of degree. Clearly a lot of very mild material may involve S&M imagery yet comes nowhere near harmful. Is it still to be banned?

Therefore the interpretation of these guidelines can only be judged against practical examples of what Customs actually seize and prosecute. Since the change of guidelines the following seizures have been reported to me.

 

Imported DVDs

In early 2003 the BBFC website introduced the following FAQ for advice on imported DVDs

It is legal to import foreign DVDs for the sole use of the importer. However, consumers should be aware that if an unclassified video or DVD is purchased within the UK via a non-UK website, the arrival of that video or DVD in the UK constitutes part of a 'supply' within the meaning of the VRA. Although you will not be liable to prosecution (provided that the work is not obscene or otherwise illegal), Customs and Excise are entitled to seize any unclassified videos and DVDs ordered from abroad because the 'supply' of unclassified works to consumers within the UK is illegal under the VRA.

It seems that the media industry had put together the suggestion but it didn't really convince people that such seizures would be legal. Customs had decided that they would only seize DVD that they considered illegal due to content and in addition they report suspected commercial quantities located to Trading Standards etc.

After further enquiries about this advice the BBFC have now changed their FAQ to:

It is legal to import foreign DVDs for the sole use of the importer, provided that (i) those DVDs are not to be resupplied in the UK and (ii) those DVDs contain nothing in breach of the Obscene Publications Act or other relevant laws.

An explanation about the BBFC perspective at the time of the original advice:

1. It is illegal to 'supply' an unclassified video recording in the UK (unless, of course, it is exempt from classification). 'Supply' is defined by the Act as supply in any manner, whether or not for reward, and, therefore includes supply by way of sale, letting on hire, exchange or loan (VRA Section 1(4)). It is, of course, not illegal to buy, order or own an unclassified video work. The jurisdiction of the VRA naturally applies only within the UK and, with regard to prosecution, only suppliers based within the UK can be prosecuted. However, the fact that suppliers based outside the UK cannot be prosecuted does not necessarily mean that 'supplies' coming into the UK from outside the UK are not in themselves illegal. Any unclassified video work in the process of being 'supplied' within the UK is being supplied illegally. There is no exemption in the VRA with regard to works being imported for private use. Indeed the only mention of import/export in the VRA comes in section 3(4)(iii), which exempts videos being supplied from the UK to addresses outside the UK. There is no reciprocal exemption.

2. If you buy a video whilst you are abroad and then bring it back to the UK, that is perfectly legal (provided the video contains nothing illegal). This is because the 'supply' part of the transaction has already taken place outside the UK. In other words, when the video enters the UK it is already your personal possession and is no longer a product in the process of being 'supplied'.

3. By contrast, if you order a DVD from abroad and it is sent to you in the UK, this is technically illegal. It is true that you have not committed any offence yourself (because buying unclassified material is not in itself an offence). It is also true that the supplier cannot be prosecuted because he is outside UK jurisdiction. However, the video is still in the final stages of 'supply' when it enters the UK (rather than being an item you already own) because the supply is not complete until you actually receive the goods. Because it is illegal to 'supply' an unclassified video within the UK, the supply of that video to you within the UK is illegal under the VRA. Customs may therefore legitimately intercept and confiscate an item that is part of an illegal 'supply'. Obviously, this is an offence without an offender, so nobody would actually be prosecuted. However, because the 'supply' itself is illegal it can be stopped before it reaches you.

4. It is worth emphasising that this is not the BBFC's policy. Blaming the BBFC or writing to the BBFC will do absolutely no good. In fact, the Board will simply point any complainants to the BBFC website and to Customs and Excise. The Board will NOT comment any further on this. The Board has no jurisdiction over what does or does not enter the country. Nor is the BBFC responsible for the VRA or its interpretation. The Board's website merely reflects advice received from the relevant enforcement agencies (Home Office, Customs and Excise). If anybody wants to complain about this they should do so to the authorities who are actually responsible for this area. The Board's website seeks to offer the most comprehensive advice possible and it would be misleading not to at least mention this possibility. Otherwise, if Customs were to intercept a package in this way, the person importing the tape or disc could legitimately complain that the BBFC website misled them.

5. Finally  Customs and Excise's position is that, although this power to seize uncertificated titles exists technically, they have no intention of enforcing it. So, in practice, there's actually nothing to worry about. It really is nothing more than a technicality that the BBFC is simply obliged to mention.

 

Waived Through

 

May 2004  Sadomania

From a reader

Was a little surprised this morning, as a dvd we’d bought from a seller on eBay in the USA arrived here safe and unseized – *after* being examined (and resealed) by customs at Mount Pleasant. The title in question, namely, Jess Franco’s Sadomania, released on the nice Blue Sunshine label. Not sure how extreme it really is (not watched it yet), but when it quite clearly says, “banned outright in the UK” and plenty of references to containing scenes of extreme violence, and “perverse!” on the front. For a movie that purportedly contains a scene of bestiality with a dog and woman (albeit fake), are customs becoming a little more lenient? Sure beats the time we had a limited edition of Cannibal Holocaust seized a couple of years ago.

Well, whatever it is, it’s a turn up for the books, and nice to see some customs officers either can’t read, or are actually quite nice and more tolerant people than we have been led to believe in the past. Thanks guys

 

May 2004

 Fist Salute

Thanks to Phil

I bought a few DVDs whilst in Amsterdam in January and was duly searched when I arrived back at Gatwick.

I thought my number was up when the C&E guy found them but he didn’t turn a hair. The DVDs were all fisting in various forms – and he looked to make sure – but he just said that so long as there was nothing really nasty such as children or animals (“etc.” was the implication), then no problem. I was on my way. Was this normal procedure or was I just lucky ??

 

May 2004

 Thumbs Down to Thumbs Up

Thanks to Mark

Searched by HM Customs' officers at Eurotunnel on Friday 14th May 2004

Last night, having driven back from a day trip to Amsterdam I was pulled over by HM Customs at Eurotunnel.
Politely, they asked where I had been and for what reason. I explained that I had been on a buying trip for my on-line sex shop www.specialorders.co.uk and had purchased a large quantity of adult magazines. I was asked to provide details of the magazines and I was able to produce a detailed receipt from my wholesaler. The customs' officer said that there were some "teeny" titles which required further examination. He asked me to stay in my car while 7 officers were called to each open a box of magazines. Two female custom officers and five male officers set to work examining the contents. Occasionally they would pass a magazine to another officer, possibly to determine whether the content was acceptable. After about 10 minutes the boxes were sealed with "Opened by HM Customs & Excise" sticky tape and returned to the boot of my car. In the meantime another three officers were searching my car for drugs, they made a thorough search inside, under the bonnet and under the car. I was quite pleased when they found £5 of lose change under my back seat, especially as I am about to sell the car.

The officers were courteous and polite and I did not feel intimidated but then again I was 99.9% sure that all the magazines were within the R18 BBFC guidelines. I was able to ask what kind of magazines would have landed me in trouble and was told that bestiality and child porn were the main subjects. I asked if a magazine featuring fisting and watersports would have been confiscated and was told that they would fall into the grey area and might well be confiscated. I would then be required to apply to the courts for a judgement on whether they were obscene.

The titles that I brought back with me were: Anal Sex, Mega Climax, Blue Climax, New Exciting, Teenage Sex, Busen Extra, Heisse Biester, Dildo Girls, Teenyland, Reissen Titten, Teeners from Holland, Seventeen Dirty Teens, Seventeen Teenage Sperm, Seventeen Teenage Masturbation, Seventeen Anal Teens and Seventeen Teenagers, Seventeen Schoolgirl, Seventeen Special, Seventeen Lesbian Teens, Kinky Sex, Busty Slags, Anal Addicts, Filthy Threesomes, Lesben, Anal Luder, Abgespritzt, Schwanger, Big Mammas, Big Tits, Pleasure, Teenage Schoolgirls, Lesbian Lover, Lesbian Love, Color Climax, Rodox, New Cunts, New Climax, Private, Pirate, Sex, Triple X.

 

Seizures

 

March 2008    Seizure Set Pieces...
   
Murder Set Pieces stolen by UK Customs

Murder Set Pieces DVD coverSergio wrote to the BBFC regarding import of the banned Murder Set Pieces, a 2004 US horror film by Nick Palumbo

The BBFC replied:

By supplying an unclassified work to a customer based in the UK, technically an illegal transaction has been committed under the Video Recordings Act 1984.

However, it is not a customs offence to import an unclassified work unless it contains material which may breach UK criminal law, such as the Obscene Publications Acts and The Protection of Children Act 1978. In addition, UK customers purchasing DVDs from abroad must ensure that the works are for their own personal use, and should be able to prove this if challenged.

You may like to know that we received a couple of reports from members of the public who tried to import MURDER SET PIECES last year, and their copies were seized by HM Revenue & Customs. This action was taken by customs long before our decision to refuse the work a certificate.

 

April 2006  Customs Thieving Black Hole

From The Melon Farmers' Forum

Tokyo Lucky Hole book coverI had a book seized from Germany once, Noboyushi Araki - Tokyo Lucky Hole. It is out of print and I won it on ebay. HM Customs seized it. When I pointed out to them that it was at one time freely available in any Waterstones in any High Street and you could freely buy more explicit stuff in the National Gallery, they kept it anyway.....bastards.

Reprinted and now available again at UK Amazon

Review from Amazon US

Araki is not for everybody. If you are turned off by nude, erotic images, then you should probably avoid it. If you are disgusted or horrified by candid documentary footage of the sex industry then again, you will want to avoid this book.

I liked this book for several reasons. In the first place, the photographs--regardless of how you feel about the subject matter--are quite good. More importantly the collection of a whole accomplishes something important. It reveals the various sex clubs and love hotels of Tokyo in the 1980s within a normal social context. Pictures of salary men fondling a gogo dancer are mixed with normal shots of a crowded street or a restaurant. The message here is very clear. The sex industry is not only a product of society, but also it is a part of society.

I have been interested in prostitution ever since reading Foucault's "History of Sexuality" and "Power/Knowledge". Foucault argues that prostitution is form of regulating society. If people must have their sexual urges then fine--let them go to some shameful secretive area and pay for it. But don't let them experience sexuality on their own terms.

Once can clearly see this in Araki's photographs. Salary men with still wearing their ties sit around a circular stage watching a topless dancer. Some draw lots to see who can go on stage to perform sexual acts with her. Why are these men doing this instead of going out, and having an affair with someone? The answer is simply that it is more productive for Japanese society to have these men work long hours and come to a highly regulated place for release.

Araki's work is more of a documentary than anything else. It is not meant to stimulate anyone in a pornographic manner and it is not meant to glorify its subject matter. Araki places the Japanese sex industry in a realistic and somewhat humorous context. This is probably what makes so many readers uncomfortable.

 

September 2005  Underground Thieves

From a reader

H.M "thieving" Customs confiscated August Underground supposedly due to the 'scenes of torture-gagging-mutilation'

August Underground  is a 2001 US Horror video by Fred Vogel with the Tagline: "The sickest film ever made" It is available on DVD from Xploited Cinema.

From a review on Hollywood's Burning

August Underground is a new independent film from a pair of Pittsburgh filmmakers who took that one sequence from Henry and expanded it to feature-length. The filmmakers behind August Underground posit a very real scenario that a pair of completely morally bankrupt young men, who could very well live next door to any of us, get a hold of a video camera and start to tape their crimes. Through the camera-eye, we see The Big Guy rape, bludgeon, terrify, humiliate a half-dozen men and women. The Cameraman participates as far as his free hand will allow, only dropping the camera once to give his friend a hand.

What becomes even more horrifying, as the film goes along, is that, as in Henry, these crimes were not committed just for the camera. The pair had been running rough-shod over others long before the 'record' button was pressed, but the camera is heightening the reality for them. The pair are totally believable, which makes it all the more chilling. They giggle when a female victim begs for her life as they beat and humiliate her. The Big Guy wretches at the stench in his basement, coming from the rotting blood and shit of his prey, vomits as he saws off the arms and legs of one guy who'd been dead a bit too long. The camera then becomes their constant companion, even after these opening scenes of depravity.

Don't be thrown off by the movie's low-tech look, either. This is intentional. Indeed, the filmmakers had originally designed the film to be seen as a fourth-generation dub, something you might find discarded on a bus. They wanted viewers to think they'd stumbled onto a snuff film. The biggest problem they pair are going to encounter are the so-called "raincoat crowd". These are the viewers who want to live out their own misogynistic fantasies through movies, the ones that keep the sleaze-soft-core rape-n-murder people in business. It will be a while before August Underground is perceived as something other than exploitation. Once it is appreciated for the gut-wrenching a difficult movie that it is, then it will start to earn a following.

 

June 2005   Terrorists & Thieves

From a reader

I think I should tell you that a recently rejected video by the BBFC, Terrorists, Killers & MiddleEast Wacko's is likely to be seized by customs. I've tried to import it and it was seized. They considered it to be "Indecent or Obscene and therefore prohibited".

The seizure was thanks to Mr. Graham and customs in London, Thank you and enjoy my film and the £25 I was out on getting it.

 

September 2004  Bums & Thieves

I wonder on what grounds HM Customs & Thieves justify their action. Since when does the BBFC's view of potential harm stretch to 'obscenity' which would then would make it seizable?

From a reader:

I recently bought 2 dvds from the US, and I have had them seized by customs and excise. I am an adult, and I think I have the right to watch what I want. The DVDs are the bumfights ones, which I bought from www.bumfights.com

For background about Bumfights:

2002 reality Video by Mickey, Ryan & Jamon McOckner (Delectable)

Almost legendary video where supposedly drunken bums are paid to fight and perform stunts.

Rejected by the BBFC in 2003 with the following statement:

Bumfights - Cause for Concern consists substantially of camcorder footage of homeless people ('bums') being abused, assaulted, and humiliated. These scenes are intercut with footage of street brawls and soft pornography.

Under the Video Recordings Act 1984 the Board must have special regard to any harm to those likely to view a video and to any harm to society through the behaviour of those viewers afterwards. The Act singles out particular elements as being potentially harmful including criminal behaviour and violent behaviour or incidents. The BBFC guidelines for '18' rated works state that the Board may "cut or reject... any detailed portrayal of violent or dangerous acts which is likely to promote the activity" (page 16). The Board's guidelines for violence also state as particular concerns "callousness towards victims, encouraging aggressive attitudes [and] taking pleasure in pain and humiliation" (page 9). In the Board's view, the video breaches these guidelines by exploiting the physical and other vulnerabilities of homeless people.

The Board considered the possibility of cuts. However, given the extent of the unacceptable material, cuts were not considered a viable option on this occasion.

 

March 2004  More Holocaust

Thanks to Graeme

My Cannibal Holocaust DVD's have been seized by customs. I thought this was out of the ark in 2004 - since laws have been relaxed - but obviously not.

 

March 2004

 Horse Thieves

Thanks to SimonEmanrelle in America

I just want to let you know UK Customs has confiscated my dvd copy of Emanuelle in America I bought on the ground that it is "obscene". I guess they issue their usual letter saying that should I take it further I need to write to them with the a help of a solicitor, like most people I don't want to fork out thousands to argue my case over something for about £10. Incidently you can buy the same dvd through UK based Amazon.co.uk and if it is perfectly legitimate there I don't see any problems why customs is having such a problem.

 

February 2004

 Customs Holocaust

Thanks to Paul

Cannibal Holocaust DVD coverJust to let you know that I have also had my Cannibal Holocaust nicked by Customs. Got a letter last week. Mine was the two disc limited edition as well. I bought mine from www.xploitedcinema.com in the US

 

January 2004
Update April 2006

 Dead End Thieves

Thanks to Roger

Cannibal Holocaust DVD coverI recently tried to import Cannibal Holocaust and Last House on Dead End Street from the States. Customs duly seized both titles and sent me the seizure letter. I have noticed over the past three or four months that every other one of my parcels had been opened by customs and checked. With the volume coming in from the states surely this was no accident? Just a matter of time before they struck "gold"

The Cannibal Holocaust DVD was a 4000 limited edition, hope they enjoy it

Update: April 2006: Last House on Dead End Street passed uncut by the BBFC

 

January 2004

 Authentic Thieves

Thanks to Jeremy

I've bought a legitimate DVD copy of a Cazzo Studios (Berlin) film Authentic Adventures (1997) - some pissing, some restraint, some fisting, but no blood nor kids. I've already seen it on VHS on two separate occasions in the UK - and could easily acquire an unauthorised copy from friends or via Kazaa. This would be a breach of copyright so decided to
purchase an original from www.iem.fr in Paris.

Customs have seized it as "indecent & obscene". Who are they protecting? I've already seen the film, and can get a free unauthorised copy any time I want.  I already perform the acts depicted in the film before dozens of men in sex clubs in the UK.

The film is freely available in Western Europe, and one Dutch web site even displays a price in UK sterling, which clearly implies readiness to sell to the UK.

The actions of HM C&E is therefore going to exacerbate the trade in pirated copies of such porn.

 

January 2004

 Punishment by Thieves

It is certainly a bad state of affairs when HM Customs & Thieves steal goods that even the censorial eBay allow.

The DVD The Image aka The Punishment of Anne as bought on eBay has been seized the DVD on supposed grounds of obscenity

 

December 2003  Cannibalising our Rights

Why is is that HM Customs & Thieves are allowed to inflict real harm on people merely for the ludicrous crime of watching totally fictitious harm?

Thanks to Marc:

Well, what can I say? I went to a website a few weeks ago (www.xploitedcinema.com) and purchased the 2 DVD Limited Edition of Cannibal Holocaust...

DVD FEATURES:
DVD 1
Newly re-mastered (picture and soundtrack) 16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen presentation, English Audio

DVD 2
Fully scored still and artwork gallery
2 Interviews with Ruggero Deodato
3 Theatrical Trailers

Booklet with photos and Ruggero Deodato Filmography and Biography, Approx. 140mins. including extras

Needless to say I was very upset by this since, a) it was an x-mas present, b) it cost me twice as much in terms of shipping to get it here in time for x-mas, and c) who has the so-called "right" to tell me that - according to the HM Customs & Excise letter - what is "obscene and illegal material"?

So there I was, overlooking this silly letter from these silly people, and I went from place to place, website to website looking for evidence to support myself, and in my defence of explaining that this particular DVD is not "obscene and illegal" at all.

What else does it say in the letter? Here's the best part - apparently, if I wish to respond to the letter and claim my DVD, and say that it has been confiscated unfairly then I should consult my solicitor first. i.e. If I complain I'm going to be taken to court. However, if I do not make any claim for it by a certain date it will be passed over and all necessary procedures brought against me will be dropped.

Here are the questions I put to the table - Do we live in Nazi fucking Germany? and, Who the fuck has the right to tell me what I'm allowed to watch? I mean, I'm a mature adult and the BBFC apparently...

"Support the right for adults to choose what they wish to view".

...So why wasn't I allowed to view my DVD? Why the fuck was it confiscated?

Ok, forgive the words from an irate citizen of 1930's Germany...Britain, I mean. But can you understand why I'm annoyed?

I think it's yet another incredible example of our so-called "western, civilised freedom" being taken away from us.

 

September 2003  Guinea Pigs

It seems that HM Thieves & Excise have taken a break from car theft and decided to pursue a few video traders for a while. I bet they didn't provide any justification for harm as is required by European law. Respect for the law is hardly the forte of Customs.

Thanks to Paul:

I had 2 DVDs seized last year. admittedly I was apprehensive about directly importing them myself. They were the first 2 Guinea Pig DVDs from the USA / Unearthed films.

I spoke to customs then and they seemed to have a list of forbidden acts (in this case : eye gouging). though clearly, even by their admission, not real, the customs guy I spoke to said they could seize items that were 'unrated'. Clearly, many titles, including mainstream Hollywood films are released in 'unrated' state - perfectly legit.

They had viewed the films and seized them before,... they in fact informed me they were actively watching the supplier I used and had opened it specifically because he sent it.

 

March 2003
 Customs Gagged

A fair amount of main stream porn from the likes of Rocco Siffredi contains a fair amount of rough sex such as gagging, spiiting and slapping. The BBFC routinely cut such scenes hence opening it up for Customs to thieve such material. It makes it very easy for Customs to pick up on such films if it features in the title. It has been reported to me that the following films have been recently thieved so I suggest that other buyers should be a little carfeul of the titles:

Gag Factor
Throat Gaggers 1
Slap Happy
 

January 9th 2003   Customs Raid for Import of PG Film

Thanks to a reader suffering an outrageous over reaction from Customs. It must be horribly worrying to be harangued by an incredibly powerful organisation who feel that they can make up laws to suit themselves. I had a look at a few online reviews of the film and can confirm that it is widely considered as a charming and mainstream film without even a suggestion of anything to be worried about.

I have a novel idea that is probably not too expensive compared with a barrister. Why not submit the film to the BBFC for classification. They will no doubt give it careful consideration and consult a few 'experts'. Their decision would surely be authoritative in the courts.

I thought you might be interested in my case. In May, I ordered from America a single copy of You Are Not Alone, a famous gay coming of age drama made in Denmark in 1978. It includes no sexual situations whatsoever, the only controversial aspect being a little nudity of the two main characters, two boys in their early teens. When released in Denmark in 1978, the film was given an "A" certificate...that means it was considered suitable  "for all age groups"! (It could have been rated "12" or"16"). It is still shown in schools in Denmark to promote tolerance of homosexuals.

The result has been a catastrophe. Customs seized the video and used it as an excuse to raid my house. Some images of nudity of minors were found (nothing remotely sexual) and I was charged. The school where I had worked with no problems for 10 years was informed and I was sacked, bringing to an end a 20 year teaching career. Then all the charges were dropped!

In October, for no real reason, more charges were brought (almost the same as the previous ones). I have a chance of winning the case, either because my house should not have been raided on such a slender pretext or because the images are so mild. Although this case is only in the Magistrates' Court, I am employing a barrister to represent me. The case will be heard on Jan.31st. I would appreciate any words of encouragement or, even better, some practical advice. I am outraged at this assault on my privacy.

I have since found out that Customs do not necessarily consider You Are Not Alone to be illegal. It was merely enough for them to be suspicious about a 'serious arrestable offence' for them to subject people to the trauma of a raid.

Remember the item from a couple of years ago in a Home Office Circular It re-classified the import of indecent material (not even obscene and not even necessarily confined to child issues) as a 'Serious Arrestable Offence'. The change of classification means that Customs can instigate raids  as these are enabled for serious offences. The Home Office explained in a Letter, that due to a technical difficulties, it was impossible to distinguish child porn from other material and so we had to trust the authorities to only use this power where child porn is concerned.

Customs are simply not the organisation to warrant such trust. They have absolute power without any effective rights of appeal. It was only this year that Customs were found to have been illegally setting duty paid import quotas on drinks and cigarettes and punishing transgressors by stealing their cars.

So it appears that we are all liable for Customs raids even if importing a Playboy magazine or totally innocent non sexual child images in the likes of Pretty Baby.

 

February 17th 2002   Emanuelle and the Last Seizures

Thanks to Floyd

I recently had a parcel seized at Dover Customs which contained Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals, 3 xxx porn dvd's, 2 cd-rom games and a Hollywood VCD. The whole parcel was confiscated and I received the regulation "Obscene and Offensive" material letter.

However, on the letter they had wrongly stated that of the items seized apparently "4 contained Horror". I wrote to customs contesting the whole seizure saying that they hadn't stated which of the dvd's were the one(s) causing the problems and that surely they couldn't just seize material that they just suspected of containing something "obscene" without even knowing the facts and in particular couldn't seize items that were plainly NOT illicit.

Anyway, as a complete surprise, the parcel was returned to me today.. albeit missing Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals! I was going to write to them to ask why they hadn't returned this dvd also, but I just noticed over at the BBFC website that Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals has just been granted a certificate but WITH cuts. This is what is listed on the BBFC site: To obtain this category cuts of 1m 58s were required. The cuts were Compulsory. Cuts required to sight of woman's nipple being sliced off, sexualised rape and sexualised evisceration of women.

So I think I'll leave the contesting of Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals as it'd be a futile move.

 

February 17th 2002   Nights of Terror with Thieves

Thanks to Jonathon

HM Customs & Thieves have seized the following videos with the following explanations

  • Emmanuelle and the Last Cannibals - Scenes of cutting off of a nipple and various flesh tearing 
  • Zombie 3 (released in the UK in a heavily cut cinema version, Nights of Terror) - Cannibalism and Decapitation

 

December 2001   Pissed Off

A DVD on personal import called Fist & Piss Partners was seized by Customs.

How is that the insertion of a fist is somehow obscene when the insertion of 4 fingers is OK? It is a very dubious claim that insertion of a fist is obscene when the insertion of other things is not. The only acceptable criteria surely should be related to size, shape and any actual pain or harm caused. But Customs officers are simple people who are unable to judge harm for themselves, they need easier to follow guidelines, hence the trumped up accusation of obscenity.

 

  Returning Stolen Goods

Many thanks to a reader who reports on a success in retreiving goods theived by customs. It does strike me that European law is being broken by imposing a law where it is impossible for the ordinary subject to know whether they are breaking the law or not.

Just thought I'd drop you a line after having successfully stopped those buggers at Customs Dover from destroying my imported House on the Edge of the Park DVD.

Basically, what happened was this: A friend of mine in Holland agreed to trade his House on the Edge of the Park for my Manhattan Baby DVD. Obviously, my dvdDVDarrived in Holland with no problem at all. However, all I got in return was a nasty letter from Customs in Dover informing me that they had seized my DVD on the grounds that it was indecent and obscene.

On receipt of this letter, my friend and I both wrote separately to Customs, Dover, asking for them to return the DVD to Holland as the film in question is not banned over there. You see, when someone refuses to pay duty on an item, it gets automatically sent back whence it came. So, I argued that in the case of this DVD; that same rule should apply. We also said that the DVD was technically still the property of a Dutch citizen as I'd not paid for it yet. That same Dutch citizen wanted his DVD back.

Our last line of defence was that neither of us knew that the film was banned over here, as no official list is available. We both claimed that we would have never knowingly tried to import a banned film, and both asked for help in identifying which films are banned so as to avoid any future problems. That was approx. 3 weeks ago.

Today, I received a letter back from Customs stating the following: After consultation with our Criminal Justice and Pornography Section it has been agreed to exceptionally allow the export of this DVD If you wish to import this type of material it may be useful to contact the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) on 0207 4400299 before placing an order.

 

  Videos/DVDs
  • Shock, Latex - High production value porn that is set in the S&M domain. Mainstream, not specialist stuff. In fact Latex has already been given an uncut R18 certificate and so Customs are definitely way out of line here.
  • Nekromantik - A low budget film featuring necrophilia but arty enough to have played at the ICA arts cinema. No one accused them of obscenity
  • GG Allan: Hated - Punk documentary which certainly features excrement and urination. However it can't be too extreme as it is readily available in US shops such as Borders
  • Evil Dead Trap - I guess this offends the excessive violence clause but it is readily available in many other countries without causing grief there.

Books/Magazines

  • Customs are very keen to prosecute regarding magazines featuring bondage (Bondage Life, etc), piercing (PFIQ and the British Piercing World which both apparently feature scenes of S&M) and, bizarrely, the British Divinity magazine published by David Flint (two issues one of which, according to them, features S&M and the other which features animal sex!)
  • Also considered are books of photographs by Araki (S&M and paedophilia apparently), Joel-Peter Witkin (vaginal fisting), and things like Apocalypse Culture, etc.
  • Mainstream porn magazines featuring "vaginal fisting" urination are also up for grabs
  • Books by the artist Trevor Brown seem to command particular interest eg Evil, Trevor Brown and My Alphabet These all supposedly contain images of paedophilia, dismemberment, urination and bondage. Maybe someone should notify every bookchain in Britain and also amazon.co.uk. (see http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/4309903584/qid=970915858/sr=1-7/026-5471075-7291607 for example).
  • Another bizarre item capturing Customs attention is the ChapmanWorld catalogue from their ICA exhibition (published in Britain by the ICA of course).
  • Books by Peter Sotos, Total Abuse & Answer Me 2 are not well regarded by Customs especially as these are only published abroad. Other books with similar material by the same author are apparently OK because they are published in the UK.

Quantity

It is not only the contents that have a bearing on the issue, quantity also counts. Any more than a few items may be construed as to constitute supply or distribution which carries heavier penalties.

On a final more positive note, one area where Customs aren't too keen to get involved is that of the internet, It seems that downloading doesn't constitute importation.