An anime fan has made legal history as he was convicted of having illegal pictures of cartoon children. Robul Hoquei is believed to be the first UK victim of the Dangerous Cartoons Act hauled before court over his collection of Japanese Manga and anime.
He admitted 10 counts of possessing prohibited cartoon images of children at Teesside Crown Court .
His barrister Richard Bennett said: These are not what would be termed as paedophilic images. These are cartoons. And he noted that such banned images were freely available on legitimate sites. He said:
This case should serve as a warning to every Manga and Anime fan to be careful. It seems there are many thousands of people in this country, if they are less then careful, who may find themselves in that position too.
Police found the images when they seized Hoque's computer from his home on June 13, 2012, said prosecutor Harry Hadfield. He said officers found 288 still and 99 moving images, but none were of real people.
Hoque was given a nine-month prison sentence suspended for two years.
Comment: More dangerous drawings
The article claims this is the first time that "dangerous drawings" charges under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 (C&JA) have been brought solely in regard to Japanese anime/manga style images (presumably as opposed to things like
"Simpsons porn" as in another recent case). There were other charges originally brought but subsequently dropped, and the nature of these charges suggests that the accused was possibly already under a supervision order following his prior
conviction for possession of indecent pseudo-photographs of children, which is also mentioned in the article. So this is a convicted sex offender, a convenient piece of low-hanging fruit on which to see if charges under Section 62 of the C&JA could
be made to stick.
In the end, the accused entered a guilty plea, which given his situation seems understandable as it probably helped him to avoid prison. However, I am again concerned at some of the reporting from the courtroom, which suggests once more that the bar for
conviction under this law is being set far too low. When the initial draft of what was to become the C&JA was first introduced into Parliament, there was considerable disquiet among some MPs and peers because of the possible impact of Section 62 on
freedom of expression and genuine works of art. In response, it was stated on behalf of the Government that the wording of the Act was intended to catch only those images at the "upper end of the scale", images that would already be criminally
obscene under existing legislation. To me, the wording makes it quite clear that the criminal obscenity of an image needs to be established in order to secure a conviction, but the article's description of some of the images in question leaves me in
considerable doubt that this wording is being applied correctly.
The most chilling comment, though, comes from the defence barrister, who is reported as warning every anime and manga fan in the country to be careful lest they put themselves at risk of prosecution. If that is how the C&JA is now being interpreted
then it clearly has gone way beyond its original intended scope. I can only hope that the first person charged under this Act who dares to enter a "not guilty" plea somehow manages to assemble a defence team that is up to the task of proving
that this has happened.