Section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 comes into force on 26 January and makes owning extreme porn pictures a criminal offence punishable by up to three years' imprisonment.
An image is deemed to be extreme if it is grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character and portrays in any way an act which threatens a person's life, or which results or appears likely to result in serious injury to
someone's genitals or breasts.
Members of Britain's BDSM (bondage, domination and sado-masochism) community, as well as those in the gothic and alternative scenes, complain that they are being unfairly targeted. I firmly agree that images of non-consensual activities which
involve violence should be criminalised but this is a badly worded law that risks criminalising thousands of ordinary people, said Claire Lewis, a 35-year-old disabled rights activist from Manchester who has set up the Consenting Adult Action
Network (Caan). The Government seems to be convinced that if people like us look at pictures for too long we'll end up turning into abusers. That's outrageous.
Caan campaigners plan to burn their pornography collections outside Parliament. A second group, Backlash, is hiring lawyers from the leading human rights firm Bindmans to contest cases when they come to court.
Myles Jackman, Backlash's legal adviser, said: Ultimately it will be up to a magistrate and a jury to decide what constitutes extreme pornography but the wording is so impossibly vague it could constitute anything. Take the phrase
'life-threatening'. There is, I understand, a genre of porn known as 'smoking pornography' which you could argue combines pornography with a potentially life threatening act.
Its supporters include the photographer Ben Westwood, eldest son of the fashion designer Vivienne. He fears some of his pictures, which often show images of people bound and gagged, could be outlawed in the new year. I simply don't believe it
is the Government's business to interfere in people's sexuality. What particularly offends me is that these laws were brought in without any consultation whatsoever with the people they affect. That is not a democracy.
The law is a significant change in direction for policing pornography in Britain because it shifts the burden of guilt from those making the pornography to those viewing it.
Enthusiasts of gothic horror and burlesque shows – which often feature pseudo-violence such as fake knives and participants covered in mock blood, say they are concerned that their artistic creativity will be stifled.
There are also concerns about how the law will be policed. Caan has taken a dossier of images to three major police forces: not one could yet say which pictures would be deemed illegal. One month ahead of the legislation being enacted, the
Association of Chief Police Officers has yet to draw up any guidelines on how it is to be policed.
The possession of extreme porn will become illegal on 26th January 2009.
CANN have produced a short summary of what people may consider deleting to stay within the law:
There is still understandably a lot of panic and fear both around what to delete and how to delete it. Hopefully we'll have a detailed guide to ‘How to delete your porn' on the website in the new year. But as a rough guide…
What Should you Delete?
We just don't know for sure, and neither does anyone else (including lawyers we have spoken to), so here's the rough overview:
Images have to be realistic. (photographs, unrated films, clips from rated films, good cgi, photorealistic art)
AND images need to be pornographic. (but context on your computer, or in a collection, can MAKE it deemed to be pornographic/used for sexual arousal).
AND the image needs to show some level of ‘serious' harm to breasts anus or genitals that isn't qualified exactly, or a life threatening activity (ie involving threat with a weapon)…and we presume things like asphyxiation.
AND the image needs to be judged “grossly offensive” by a jury.
The definitional detail just won't start to evolve until there have been instances tried in court.
If you want to be sure not to fall foul of this act… delete everything you have that has any level of violence or threat in it… we all have to make our own judgement call on this.
How Do You Delete It?
For images in your computer:
If you are non-techy just delete the stuff.
If you are techy, you need to delete stuff beyond your own abilities to retrieve it.
Consenting Adult Action Network (CAAN) has been seeking official guidance for individuals uncertain whether material in their possession would fall foul of the extreme porn law,
Both police and the Ministry of Justice have told concerned individuals to send such material to the IWF for assessment.
However, the IWF poured cold water on this idea, pointing out that such material was wholly outside their remit. A spokeswoman for the IWF said: Our role is that of an assessment and takedown body: we are not there to provide classification
advice for the public.
In respect of indecent material featuring child abuse, our remit covers sites hosted both in the UK and overseas. We will refer sites hosted here to the police for further action, and where we deem sites hosted abroad to contain potentially
illegal material, they will be added to the list of blocked sites that we provide to ISPs.
That is not the case with Obscene material: nor will it be the case with extreme porn. With those categories, our remit will only go so far as to refer sites hosted in the UK to the appropriate authorities.
A Register reader has been left baffled by the reaction of her local police force when they were asked what exactly is likely to constitute an actionable image when the extreme porn laws come into force in January.
Although the Ministry of Justice has issued its own guidelines the message has yet to filter down to local forces. The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act comes into force in late January.
Confronted with any ‘abnormal' sexual behaviour, Labour's first instinct is to criminalise it.
If you liked Monty Python's Meaning of Life , you probably liked Mr Blackitt. Who? He's the bluff northerner who reduced the entire protestant religion to just one simple issue: according to Mr Blackitt, the main significance of Martin
Luther's protest in 1517 was that four hundred years later I can wear whatever I want on my John Thomas.
Not only! His long-suffering wife is amazed to learn that this religious dispensation extended to French ticklers too. There's a lesson here for politicians: one I was reminded of recently when talking to a long-term gay activist. He acknowledged
that Labour in office had done many positive things for the gay community. “All the same”, he added ruefully, “they don't really want to know. Talk to them about gay rights in terms of sex and sexuality and they get very nervous.
“They are happiest thinking of homosexuals as a bunch of victims, discriminated against on social and economic grounds for an accident of birth. Mention the mechanics of the act: juxtapose words like ‘cock' and ‘bum', and they suddenly become
very deaf indeed.”
The Ministry of Justice promised to provide public guidelines to the new extreme porn legislation this week and – behold! –
here they are .
They have been greeted with some degree of criticism from those opposed to the legislation, on the grounds that they add little new to what was already known and fail to make matters as clear as they could. Much of this criticism, however, is as
much to do with the substance of the law as the guidelines.
A classic example of the I oppose censorship BUT ... syndrome!
Note that Coutts looked tense. Well, you could knock me down with a feather. Err, he was facing the prospect of a life sentence. Pretty daunting, even if he was guilty. (If Coutts was the victim of a miscarriage of justice, he's not a
cuddly one like some young mum framed by a dodgy paediatrician, but I have my doubts about this case.)
Note the arrogance of the author's concession that consumers of this material...may not all kill . If they did all kill , wouldn't we expect far more frequent cases like this? For the production of the pornography to be viable,
there must be many more customers than Coutts.
Pleased to see, though, that the people responding on the web site seem far more rational than the author.
The Criminal Justice and immigration Act 2008 introduces a new offence, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland of the possession of extreme pornographic images.
This document provides general information for members of public on the new offence of possession of extreme pornographic images in Part 5, Sections 63 to 67 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. These sections are due to come
into force on 26th January 2009 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
As well as providing information about the offence, this document is intended to answer some of the more frequently asked questions about the offence. It should be read in conjunction with the Explanatory Notes on the Act published on the Office
of the Public Sector Information (OPSI) website.
The recent Erotic Awards honoured three politicians
Lord Richard Faulkner
Labour peer who defended the rights of sex workers, their clients, and extreme pornography, during the debate on the Criminal Justice Bill 2008. Regarding pornographic images that are said to be ‘extreme', he said, ‘I was left with the question
of whether their possession is so threatening to society that it is worth turning people into criminals and sending them to jail,' and decided, ‘I really cannot imagine that any useful purpose is served by creating criminals out of the people who
John McDonnell MP
Politician who took a brave step by arranging for sex workers to join politicians and academics to discuss the laws surrounding sex work in the House of Commons Committee Room 10. This momentous meeting, on Wednesday 16th January 2008, was called
by the Safety First Coalition, and the committee room was bulging with people and enthusiasm. Ten peers came to inform themselves in preparation for a debate in the Lords on the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill. The Bill introduced an
offence of persistent soliciting and compulsory ‘rehabilitation' against sex workers. These sections of the Bill were eventually dropped. One of the speakers, outspoken pioneer Swedish sex worker Pye Jakobson said of the event, ‘This was the day
in my life when I knew I was making history.'
Baroness Sue Miller of Chilthorne Domer
Defended the rights of sex workers and clients, and extreme porn, during discussion of the Criminal Justice Bill 2008. When absolutely no concessions were made, she withdrew her amendments in order that she could bring them back on a third
CAAN (Consenting Adult Action Network) extends a warm welcome to Human Rights Campaigner and co-ordinator of OutRage!, Peter Tatchell, who is the latest high profile supporter to align with their cause.
This follows their successful demonstration in Parliament Square on Tuesday, when they joined forces with Ben Westwood, in their continuing campaign against government attacks on individual sexuality.
Explaining his decision, Peter Tatchell said: The government has gone way beyond a legitimate desire to stop sexual exploitation. It is now legislating in ways that violate the sexual human rights of its citizens.
The current bill outlawing so-called extreme pornography will criminalise images of sexual acts that are perfectly lawful.
There is no evidence that Harriet Harman's proposed outlawing of soliciting for sex will help rescue the victims of sex trafficking and enslavement. It will merely drive sexual abuse and exploitation further underground, making it even harder to
regulate and police.
Clair Lewis, for CAAN, said: Our focus is on sexual interaction between consenting adults. We have a simple statement of principle, which politely asks government to stay out of our bedrooms. Unless sexual activity is non-consensual, it is no
business whatsoever of government what adults get up to in private.
Despite this, recent legislation – not only on extreme porn, but also on safeguarding vulnerable people – is designed to criminalise and exclude from jobs anyone whose sexuality does not meet the Government's approval.
Twenty years ago, a common accusation levelled at the Gay community, was that children were not safe left in the company of homosexuals. We now recognise this for the bigoted nonsense it always was. Yet government today are attempting the same
trick when dealing with consenting adults whose sexuality does not conform to their preferences, despite the fact that what an adult does in private bears no relation to children's safety, whatever the adult's sexuality.
Feminists are split over government plans to ban so-called extreme porn with some groups arguing censorship is not a real solution to the wider social problem of violence against women
Many have argued against the proposals though; on 22 October a handful of protesters demonstrated outside parliament calling for the government to “ban crime, not sex”.
This opposition is deeply disturbing, Sasha Rakoff, director of lobby group Object argues, in a society where one in three women experience male violence, and where sexual violence has become increasingly main streamed in the porn industry and
wider society. That abuse of women is unacceptable is not up for debate.
Laura Schwarz of Feminist Fightback said: To focus on porn as the primary cause of violence against women is not only reductive and simplistic but politically dangerous. It prevents a more in depth analysis of the causes of sexual violence and
ignores other forms of violence - police violence, state violence or the violence of the capitalist system.
Avedon Carol, of Feminists Against Censorship (FAC) goes further: This legislation only has value in a police state because it does not do anything to prevent violence against women. It suppresses sexuality, which can only create more problems
Carol claimed: It happens every time there is a real concern about violence against women, the government think they can soothe it by eliminating pictures of violence against women. It's not tackling the real issue.
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has extended its remit and now urges web users to snitch on illegal and obscene adult content online. Previously the organisation had laudably concentrated on child abuse images
The awareness campaign comes in response to IWF research which suggests 77% of people who find illegal content do not know how to report what they have seen.
Sarah Robertson, a spokeswoman for the IWF, said that in 2007 the organisation handled 34,781 reports from members of the public who stumbled across illegal content.
It was the IWF that reported the sex fantasy text story that is currently being prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act.
Models wearing chains, stockings and gags have been led around Westminster in protest at laws to make owning extreme pornography illegal.
From next year, possession of images such as those depicting a threat to life or serious injury to a person's genitals will be banned even if staged by actors or special effects.
Demonstrators opposite Parliament described this as the government interfering with people's sex lives.
The demonstration, organised by the Consenting Adult Action Network, was led by photographer Ben Westwood, son of fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood.
He paraded two "slaves" - models called Jade and Dolly Blowup - across the road from Westminster underground station and around Parliament Square, with police having to hold up the traffic.
A group of about 20 marchers carried placards with messages including No to thought crime, Penalise crime, not sex and Depiction harms no-one.
Westwood said to the BBC: Why are the government doing this? I think they are just mucking about. They want to seem as though they are doing something to help society, that they must seem strong on law and order.
Coming from a government that lied about going into war in Iraq, that seems strange. There are more important issues to be debated than this.
I think that people might be worrying that what they have got in their video collection might be breaking the law. People are going to get a bit nervous.
I hope our demonstration does change some minds.
Campaigners say the new law risks criminalising thousands of people who use violent pornographic images as part of consensual sexual relationships.
Bruce Argue, of the group Esinem, said: We want to draw attention to what is an unfair and ill-thought-out law.
The Protect Our Children Act of 2008, S. 1738, signed into law this week by President Bush, allows ISPs to compare the "hash mark" - a unique digital signature - of each image file (even video) or document passing through its system
with a list of the hash marks of known child porn images, and to report any hits to the FBI or other appropriate government agency.
Digital Entertainment has come up with a gadget known as CopyRouter, which ISPs could place in their data stream. According to an article on msnbc.com, CopyRouter's function is to compare the hash mark of each file passing through the ISP's
computer system with the government's list, but it also takes the further step of blocking any flagged files it detects and substituting a file provided by law enforcement which contains a warning, The hardware also has the capability of
reporting the attempt to access the file to the government, together with the IP address of the file's intended recipient.
CopyRouter uses deep packet inspection, which MSNBC which can detect hash marks in real-time as the data is flowing through the system. Brilliant Digital claims that its unit can detect the hash mark of an encrypted file for comparison
with the hit list.
Now, if it were simply the ISP itself that decided to use CopyRouter or some other child-porn detection software or hardware, and it made its users aware that it intended to scan all files flowing through its system, that would not present any
constitutional problems. But there are a few flies in the ointment.
But if the ISP does its snooping on the sly, without informing its customers, that's clearly an invasion of privacy - and if it did so at the request of some government agency, that's a Fourth Amendment violation, since it would be a warrantless
search - and it's unclear whether Cuomo's attempts simply to browbeat ISPs into performing the searches constitutes a similar violation.
Brilliant Digital thinks it can get around these problems because its CopyRouter doesn't look at the document itself, just its hash mark.
The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) has expressed concern over what it sees as prior restraint of speech if an ISP blocks files based on the hash list.
You can't declare speech, or images, illegal without judicial proceedings, CDT's John Morris said: That creates enormous First Amendment problems. You can't have an agency or outside firm acting as judge and jury on these images...
Interestingly, the nutters of Morality In Media (MIM) also object to the law - because it doesn't go far enough. If S. 1728 comes up for a vote, it will pass easily because Congress can't do enough to curb sexual abuse of children, wrote
MIM president Robert Peters in a press release: But if Congress is ready to spend hundreds of millions of additional dollars to curb sexual abuse of children, why doesn't it also spend several million to fight 'adult' obscenity?
A couple of thoughts about some of the politicians and journalists who are so keen to use the criminal law to enforce sexual morality.
One is that many of them were not so many months ago celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Wolfenden Report. Unfortunately, however, they seem to view it through the blinkers of what I might call "homosexual exceptionalism".
Wolfenden wasn't just about homosexuality. Its underlying principle was that the criminal law ought not to interfere in issues of sexual morality, even if the behaviour concerned appeared strange or reprehensible. While gay men and lesbians are
now accepted in society, defended from persecution and permitted to register civil partnerships, the state otherwise seems to be in headlong retreat from the Wolfenden principle.
Secondly, whenever politicians and journalists have a fit of morality, we can rejoice at the sight of a variety of jagged stones being thrown around glass houses. For example, David Blunkett contributed an article to the Sun in support of the
Dangerous Pictures Act. If Blunkett thinks three years' porridge is appropriate for somebody masturbating over the wrong sort of pornography, what sentence might he recommend for a man who commits a really grave breach of sexual morality - such
as, for instance, siring a bastard on another man's wife? What of Julie Bindel, so anxious to impose sexual morality that she would throw a man in jail for engaging the services of a prostitute? Has she ever considered that some of her
fellow-moralists might take a far dimmer view of her persistent lesbian relationship?
Consenting Adult Action Network (CAAN) is a loose-knit network of groups and individuals who believe in the right of adults to express themselves sexually with other adults, without interference from government.
We run campaigns on issues as they arise. Not every supporter of CAAN agrees with every campaign we run. We ask only that supporters sign up to a simple statement of principle:
We believe in the right of consenting adults to make their own sexual choices, in respect of what they do, see and enjoy alone or with other consenting adults, unhindered and unfettered by government.
We believe that it is not the business of government to intrude into the sex lives of consenting adults.
We are aware that no matter how we draft such a statement, there will be dissent: for example, we believe there is debate to be had on the issue of "harm"; but equally, a society that tolerates two grown men beating each other up in the
confines of a boxing ring is not well placed to lecture adults on a shared interest in sado-masochistic sex.
Outwardly, the UK is more open, more sexually liberated than ever before. Behind the headlines lies another story: ten years of government progressively clamping down and criminalising behaviour that harms no-one, but offends the sensibilities of
Ministers who are still uncomfortable talking about real sexual activity.
Our aim is to create a counterbalance to the current moral majority in government.
Over the past ten years, Government has been passing more and more laws. One consistent theme to this non-stop stream of law-making has been an obsession with tightening up rules that are intended to micro-manage our sexual activity.
criminalising the possession of images depicting perfectly legal sexual activity
putting in place a Committee of Public Safety whose job it will be to vet nearly half the workforce - and remove them from their jobs if they possess any porn that is sexual and violent in nature
proposing to make it a criminal offence for an adult
to pay for sex
clamping down on lap-dancing and other erotic displays
Each of these proposals, in isolation, represents a serious erosion of personal liberty for no better reason than the government are uncomfortable with the activity involved. Taken together, and in combination with a great deal more government
tinkering in this area, they begin to look like a serious attempt to return the UK to a Golden Era of sex-free purity.
CAAN is currently most active on two of these issues - although in fact they are closely related.
we are asking the government not to commence the extreme porn law, passed in the Criminal Justice Act 2008.
we are asking the government to think again about its witch-hunt that began with provisions in the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 allowing it to sack approximately half the workforce for possessing sado-masochistic material of any
The first of these pieces of legislation criminalises individuals for possessing material that is produced for the purposes of sexual arousal, depicts realistic violence, and is grossly offensive. The legislation itself has already been exposed
by many commentators as ludicrous:
it is believed to breach the Government's own Human Rights' Laws
it will criminalise individuals for owning pictures depicting wholly legal and consensual activity
it is inconsistent, with some of the most (theoretically) harmful material allowed - and up to three years in jail for less harmful material
it actually encourages behaviour that is far more dangerous and, if the government's own publicity is to be believed, more likely to lead to sexual violence.
In terms of its effects on the growing BDSM (Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, Sadism and Masochism) communities in the UK it is likely to be equally disastrous
it is already souring relationships with the police, and therefore is likely to make future policing of the scene far more difficult
it is having a chilling effect on individuals prepared to write about safe practices, thereby increasing future risk
it is law that will encourage blackmail
it is replacing material produced by individuals with experience and a genuine dedication toward their activity with commercial material produced by companies that have provided significant financial supporters to New Labour in the past
worst of all, there is evidence already that the Government attack on this lifestyle is impacting upon safety and leading to greater risk for vulnerable people involved (case studies available on request).
The second piece of legislation is having an even more disastrous effect on individuals whose sexuality does not fall within the norms prescribed by government. At the very last minute, in 2006, government amended the Safeguarding Vulnerable
Groups Act to give it the power to exclude from a wide range of jobs anyone with a serious interest in sado-masochistic material.
The effects of this legislation are already being felt, as individuals wishing to pursue a career in areas as diverse as plumbing, teaching and admin find themselves quizzed at interview about their sexual interests. The clear implication is that
anyone with bdsm interests is no longer welcome as part of the workforce or as a volunteer.
Organisers of next week's demo against laws on extreme porn and the government's s&m witch-hunt were quite taken aback by the vehemence of some members of the Fourth Estate.
Press releases went out through the usual channels, and one landed on the desk of Ruth Gledhill, the Times Religion Correspondent. Incensed by the very idea that perverts might expect to be permitted any Rights at all, Ms Gledhill shot back a
Well I won't be taking my young son anywhere near oxford street next week. Nor will I ever be buying any more Vivienne Westwood fashion items.
Thank goodness for the good sense of our Government.
(Why she should be concerned about Oxford St is unclear, as the Demo is happening in Westminster).
Unperturbed, the organisers at CAAN sent a background briefing on why they were taking this action, accompanied by the comment that at a personal level we think your approach is making life more dangerous for a lot of people, as this briefing
Swift as a divinely inspired bolt from on high, Ms Gledhill snapped back: My approach making life more dangerous????! U take the biscuit u r really scary.
Oh dear. It looks like the Times Religion section won't be carrying any approving coverage of CAAN's actions in the near future.
Anyone wishing to engage La Gledhill in further debate may wish to visit her
A group campaigning against the Criminal Injustice and Immigration Bill, which comes into force in the new year, is stepping up its campaign and Jacqui Smith is to be its primary target. The campaigners' argument is with the part of the bill
that will make it illegal to possess extreme pornographic images . This amounts to censorship.
Leading the charge is artist Ben Westwood, son of fashion designer Dame Vivienne, who says: It's a breach of human rights.
This column has learnt of a plan by Westwood and his friends to project a large image of Jacqui Smith, gagged and tied to a chair, on to the Houses of Parliament. It is, perhaps, important to point out that this is a composite artwork put
together by Westwood, not a genuine picture of the Home Secretary. It's slightly silly, admits my source. But it also makes an important point about Smith's attempts to gag artists and members of the fetish community.
The exact date of the proposed stunt is a secret in case anyone tries to interfere, but I understand it will take place towards the end of November.
Other opponents of the bill include the rather more strait-laced campaigning organisation Liberty, 40 serious academics who question the research behind the bill which suggests viewing such images can affect behaviour, and - pleasingly - the
International Union of Sex Workers. It's quite a coalition even for Smith to take on.
Interview with Liz Kelly for a bit of background into how biased one of the main contributors to the 'research behind the bill']
A If you thought Scotland might be a safe place to stash your collection of dubious erotic artwork when legislation on extreme porn comes into force, think again.
Proposals announced last week by the Scottish Executive suggest that far from being a haven for smut, Scotland is soon to become an even tougher regime for those with "forbidden" interests.
Will this cause issues of enforcement? We spoke with the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), which is in conversation with the Home Office about enforcing the legislation in the rest of the UK. Its view is that there will be no problems. Any
extension of the remit to cover extreme porn is likely to be limited to monitoring UK sites that were producing material that potentially fell foul of the new legislation.
There were very few sites likely to meet the extreme porn criteria, and these would simply be referred to the appropriate authorities for further investigation. The IWF currently has no intention of compiling a block list of extreme pornographic
Whilst this measure may not - yet - see different filters on your PC according to whether you live north or south of the border, it does raise the question of whether the day might come when material legally downloaded onto a laptop in London
could lead to your arrest and imprisonment in Edinburgh.