Straw (Lord Chancellor, Ministry of Justice)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
Let us take part 6 of the Bill, which relates to the possession of
extreme pornographic material. Ten years ago, the internet was in its
infancy, Google was not even a word in the English language and
possession of pornographic material was by proof of control of the
physical material—silver oxide photographs on paper, celluloid film or
video tape. Distribution, too, was by physical means. Now we have the
internet, and along with the innumerable benefits that it brings have
come significant risks to public protection. Information, photographs
and videos can be shared instantaneously across the world, but so too
can deeply offensive, violent and illegal pornography.
We believe that those who produce and publish this vile material in the
UK are already covered by current legislation, but we need the new
offences created by part 6 for those who possess it, because the makers
and distributors are very often operating across borders, from eastern
Europe, the United States and elsewhere.
Martin Salter (Reading West, Labour)
Has the Secretary of State had the opportunity to meet Liz Longhurst
from Reading, who has campaigned tirelessly for three years for
precisely this measure to clamp down on extreme internet images, which
she and many others are convinced directly led to the murder of her
lovely daughter, Jane, in Brighton three years ago?
Jack Straw (Lord Chancellor, Ministry of Justice) Link to this |
Thanks to my hon. Friend, I have indeed had an opportunity briefly to
meet Mrs. Longhurst, and I would like to pay tribute to her on behalf of
the whole House, and to express our sincere condolences for the grief
that she and her family suffered as a result of this terrible murder of
her daughter, Jane. I would also like to applaud the campaign that she
has so skilfully and resolutely waged. I hope that the clauses in part 6
will at least go some way to meeting her concerns, although nothing, of
course, can bring back her daughter or take away the grief that has been
Nick Herbert (Arundel & South Downs, Conservative)
Let us dwell briefly on the elements of the Bill that we can agree on.
In relation to the pornography offences, we support the principle of
clause 64, which implements measures to combat possession of images that
are both extreme and pornographic. We also support the principle behind
clause 67, which relates to the penalties applied for possession of
extreme pornographic images, and clauses 68 and 69 relating to indecent
photographs of children. As usual, we will need to look at the drafting,
but the whole House will share a determination to protect children from
paedophilia and society from images that could provoke violence. I pay
tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Sir Paul
Beresford), who has worked tirelessly to promote more robust action in
relation to those issues.
David Heath (Somerton & Frome, Liberal Democrat) Link to this |
I want to make two brief points in conclusion. The first is about the
provisions on extreme pornography and prostitution. The abolition of the
term "common prostitute" is certainly welcome. However, I wonder why we
are revisiting the Sexual Offences Act 2003 so soon. The Lord Chancellor
said that times have changed since 10 years ago; yes, they have, but
they have not changed as much since four years ago. It seems odd that we
are revisiting an issue that we thought had been dealt with by a
definitive Act, following careful scrutiny. I shall carefully consider
what the Lord Chancellor says on the subject, but it strikes me as odd
that, having established a consolidating measure, which was carefully
argued through the House, we are revisiting it so soon.
We all want to stamp out homophobic hate crime. The degree to which we
can support any amendment will depend on the terms in which it is put,
but I hope that there will be no doubt that the Liberal Democrat Members
will support a workable solution—one that does not compromise people who
are simply professing faith or expressing themselves in ways that we may
not agree with, but are nevertheless not intended to incite crime.
In conclusion, we wish to support some measures in the Bill; there are
some about which we will argue strongly in Committee and no doubt return
to on Report. I welcome the attitude expressed by the Lord Chancellor in
some respects; there are issues on which he is prepared to listen, and
he has already made a concession on one important element of the Bill.
We will seek to amend that which is wrong. We will apply reasoned
arguments and try to restrain the authoritarian instincts of the
Government in the interests of justice and the protection of the public.
Those are the paramount considerations. We do not intend to vote against
the Bill this evening, and we will listen carefully to what the Minister
says about the programme and carry-over motions.
David Lepper (Brighton, Pavilion, Labour)
I shall be brief, Madam Deputy Speaker. I wish to confine my remarks to
clauses 64 to 66 in part 6, which deal with extreme pornographic
Jane Longhurst, my constituent, was a respected and dedicated teacher at
a school for children with learning difficulties in my constituency. It
happens to be the last school where I taught before I retired from
teaching, but we did not work there at the same time. Obviously, Jane's
murder caused concern throughout the whole community. During the trial
of Graham Coutts, there was horror at the revelations about how she had
died and the circumstances surrounding her death. Everyone was shocked.
I believe that it is because of the determination of Jane's mother, Liz
Longhurst, and other members of her family and the responsiveness of
Ministers of this Government that those clauses are before us tonight. I
welcome that. Liz Longhurst decided that her daughter's death should not
go unmarked and that the extreme pornographic images that had fuelled
the fantasies of the man who was twice tried for Jane Longhurst's
murder—the family had to go through the horror of a trial twice—had to
be dealt with. She launched a campaign, which, I am glad to say,
received the backing of Amnesty International as part of its campaign
against violence against women.
The campaign, aspects of which I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for
Reading, West (Martin Salter) will want to discuss if he has the
opportunity, received the backing of local newspapers. I must pay
tribute to The Argus newspaper, published in my constituency, and
particularly to Phil Mills, who was its chief crime reporter, although
sadly no longer.
The campaign led to a 50,000-signature petition calling for action being
presented in the House. There has been determination on the part of Mrs.
Longhurst—the fact that we are discussing the issue is a tribute to
her—and on the part of many of the predecessors of those on the
Government Front Bench. I pay particular tribute to the former Home
Secretaries, my right hon. Friends the Members for Sheffield, Brightside
(Mr. Blunkett) and for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke) for the sympathetic
way in which they listened to the case for legislation that we put to
them. I also pay tribute to other Ministers who have dealt with the
matter—in particular my hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe and Sale,
East (Paul Goggins) and the Under-Secretary of State for the Home
Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Mr. Coaker).
We were determined that something should be done to tackle the
pernicious trade in violent internet pornography. I welcome the way in
which the Government have responded to the campaign. The provisions
before us tonight do not go as far as many of us want, but they tackle
an important aspect of the issue: the possession of those awful images.
In doing so, they fulfil one of the requirements that the Lord
Chancellor said in his opening remarks is an underlying principle of the
Bill: to make sure that the law keeps pace not only with changing
patterns of crime, but with technology and the way in which it affects
patterns of crime. I wish we had proposals before us tonight to tackle
at source the internet sites that purvey this material. However, that
needs a degree of international co-operation that, sadly, despite the
determination of Ministers, we have not yet been able to achieve—in the
same way as we have achieved international co-operation to tackle child
pornography. That is a further stage of the campaign.
The provisions do tackle possession. I ask the House to consider the
comments of Jim Gamble, the chief executive of the Child Exploitation
and Online Protection Centre and, at the time he made the comments, the
lead for the Association of Chief Police Officers in this area of
criminality. He said:
"Legislation is only truly effective if it develops step by step with
The provisions start to address the issue of how the internet can be
used to supplement this area of criminality and build on the
fundamentals of obscene publications legislation.
Martin Salter (Reading West, Labour)
Will my hon. Friend also pay tribute to the Reading Evening Post for its
support of the Longhurst campaign? More importantly, does he recognise
that the campaign achieved the support of 180 MPs, who signed early-day
motion 583 on the murder of Jane Longhurst and internet sites promoting
necrophilia? We are talking about some of the most obscene and
disturbing material, including internet sites such as Necrobabes, Death
by Asphyxia, and Hanging Bitches. Does he agree that the provisions will
not make a new offence of anything that is not already illegal? We are
talking about material that is already illegal under obscene
publications legislation. It is merely the possession of the images that
will become a new criminal offence.
David Lepper (Brighton, Pavilion, Labour)
I welcome my hon. Friend's intervention and agree with the points that
he makes. I also welcome the commitment of Members on the Opposition
Front Bench to support at least this part of the Bill, if not other
aspects of it. Building on what my hon. Friend said, the explanatory
notes that are available to us all make it clear that the intention of
these clauses is not to restrict makers of narrative films or
documentaries, or artists. The provisions are quite specific about the
need to prove in court—and, I believe, to have the permission of the
Director of Public Prosecutions to take the matter to court—that the
intention of those involved is very different from that of people
producing works of fiction in a more mainstream way.
I welcome the fact that the Government have responded to the strong
demand from the family of Jane Longhurst and all the organisations that
have supported Jane's family. None of us can really know the anguish
that Mrs. Longhurst and other members of her family have been through
over the four years since her daughter's death. However, we have before
us tonight legislation that, in some small way, when eventually passed,
will be a memorial to a dedicated teacher and a wonderful daughter.
Martin Salter (Reading West, Labour) Link to this | Hansard
I rise to support the Bill, which contains many measures that we welcome
in my constituency. I particularly welcome the commitment that we had
from the Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, my right
hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), to introduce a new
crime outlawing homophobic hate crimes, which will be welcomed by many
in the Christian community and across all other faiths.
I really want to talk about part 6 of the Bill, which is the culmination
of a three-year campaign to try to bring justice for Jane Longhurst, who
was brutally murdered by Graham Coutts, a self-confessed addict of
violent internet pornography. We do not want justice for Jane through
the criminal justice system, because Coutts is doing a very long time in
prison and both of his appeals, I am delighted to say, have been
rejected. We want justice for Jane through the parliamentary system
because, frankly, the internet has changed everything.
The extreme material that will be outlawed by the Bill covers acts and
imagery that are already illegal under the Obscene Publications Act. But
that legislation was introduced in an age before computers and the
internet to deal with newsagents and publishers. We cannot go after the
publisher of material if it is from an internet site whose server may be
based in Guatemala and contains, produces or puts into cyberspace images
of young women being captured, raped live on camera and sometimes killed
to feed this evil trade and to promote private profit and sexual
gratification. We have to go after the imagery itself. We must build on
the successful legislation that has outlawed images of child
pornography. If we cut that end of the market, we start to deal with the
trade, and that is exactly what part 6 of the Bill—a part that is well
crafted, sensible and well thought through—seeks to do.
I have received opposition, as have my hon. Friend the Member for
Brighton, Pavilion (David Lepper) and others, from groups claiming to
represent the bondage, domination and sado-masochistic communities. I
have learned that they organise themselves into munch clubs—I do not
want to go any further into that. Let me make it clear to them that
nobody is seeking to introduce a new level of censorship; we are talking
about imagery that is already illegal. If people want to do weird things
to each other they still can, but I say, "Don't put it on the internet."
I do not need to see it and nor do my constituents—and, more importantly
and seriously, those of an unbalanced mind who could be tipped over the
edge by violent and extreme imagery do not need to see it, and we do not
need to live with the consequences of their actions if they were to see
Those of us who have been involved in the issue and this three-year
campaign on it are aware of the background, but it might be useful if we
were to set out some of the steps that have led to us being, I hope,
able to celebrate the start of the passage of these measures into
legislation. The House has not had an opportunity to debate this issue
in full since the Adjournment debates secured by my hon. Friend the
Member for Brighton, Pavilion in May 2004.
On March 14 2003, Brighton schoolteacher Jane Longhurst was horrifically
murdered by a self-confessed addict of violent internet pornography. The
murderer, Graham Coutts, admitted watching sites featuring necrophilia
and violence against women only hours before he killed Jane. He was
jailed for life and his appeals against the convictions were rejected.
Anyone who saw the CCTV images broadcast on regional television of
Coutts revisiting the storage unit where he kept Jane Longhurst's body
can be left with no other impression than that dark and evil forces were
at work in the mind of that individual. Jane's mother, Liz, comes from
Reading, which is why I am involved. She is convinced that had it not
been for the corrupting effect of extreme internet sites her daughter
would still be alive today.
Outside Lewes Crown court on the day that Graham Coutts was first
convicted of Jane's murder, Liz Longhurst appealed to the public and
politicians to begin a campaign to protect vulnerable people from
extreme images of the rape, torture and murder of women for sexual
gratification and private profit. On March 8 2004, there was an event in
Reading to mark international women's day, at which the Jane Longhurst
campaign against violent internet pornography was launched. It attracted
the support of 180 Members of all parties for early-day motion 583, and
50,000 people signed a national petition which it was our privilege to
present to Parliament as part of the consultation that was launched by
previous Home Secretaries. We attracted the support of Amnesty
International; that support was crucial in building a high profile for
this campaign. Much more needs to be done, but this is a good start.
Ideally, we would like blocking measures that prevent access—they now
exist—to be brought in. We would like all PCs to be fitted with a
blocking mechanism before they are sold on the open market—as cars are
automatically fitted with seat belts. An obvious measure would be to go
after the banks and credit card companies whose processing of payments
lubricates this evil trade.
It will be fitting if I end by quoting from a letter that Liz Longhurst
sent today to me—in fact, she really sent it not to me, but to all
I am thrilled to realise that on Monday there will be the Second Reading
of the Criminal Justice Bill which contains proposed legislation
concerning extreme violent pornography.
This is largely the result of your support"—
and that of my colleagues—for
"the Jane Longhurst Campaign and the petition which gathered a
substantial number of signatures...I am very grateful too for the active
support of David Blunkett and Charles Clarke, successive Home
Secretaries, and Paul Goggins and Vernon Coaker who were inspired to
incorporate the necessary measures into this Bill."
I would like all Members to reflect on her concluding words:
"If these measures can be enacted, I feel this will be a fitting
memorial to my lovely daughter Jane who was murdered by a man addicted
to extreme violent internet pornography."
I urge all Members to support this Bill and to help not only to protect
vulnerable people from the consequences of extreme pornographic imagery,
but to truly achieve justice for Jane once and for all.
Rob Devil: "produces or puts into cyberspace images of young women being
captured, raped live on camera and sometimes killed to feed this evil
Here he is talking about snuff movies, despite there being no evidence
that these movies were ever made.
This guy supports the part of the CJB that will introduce what is
essentially a 'thought crime' into the law.
Three years for simply posessing an image?
Desmond Turner (Brighton, Kemptown, Labour)
The Government have already legislated to provide for an offence of
incitement to racial hatred and to religious hatred, and that has paved
the way for protection on the grounds of sexuality. In Northern Ireland
of course, the offence of incitement to hatred on the grounds of
sexuality has already been instituted. That was done by the Minister of
State, Ministry of Justice, my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn
(Mr. Hanson) in his previous incarnation as a Northern Ireland Minister,
and it has incurred virtually no controversy nor has it led to a rash of
frivolous prosecutions. In other words, it has been accepted and
understood, and we should extend that offence to the rest of the UK.
It is only right that the protection that we already afford to potential
victims of hatred because of their race should be extended to gays,
lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals who are as unable to choose their
sexual identity as they are to choose their race. I note with sadness
that the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), who
spoke on behalf of the Opposition, did not tell us what approach they
will take to the provision. It would be nice to know whether they will
support a measure that I hope will have universal agreement in this
It is not intended that incitement legislation should lead to a rash of
prosecutions in the rest of the UK. Rather it should set out the basic
principle, which should deter all but the most ardently homophobic, that
it is not socially acceptable to incite hatred against gays, lesbians,
bisexuals or transsexuals. They have equal civil and human rights with
anybody else. Indeed, incitement to hatred for whatever reason should be
totally unacceptable in a civilised society.
This is a piece of legislation whose time has come. It will complete a
raft of legislation on equalities that the Government have pursued over
the past 10 years. I shall not recite the whole list, but outstanding
examples include equalising the age of consent, rights to enter the
forces, civil partnerships and the banning of discrimination in the
provision of goods and services on grounds of sexuality. The pressure
group Stonewall, which has provided invaluable support as well as
putting pressure on the Government, has seen its agenda virtually
completed. With incitement to hatred for reasons of sexuality, we have
the final piece of the jigsaw on the table ready to be inserted.
If anyone still doubts the need for protective legislation, they need
only look at what is happening around them. Look for instance at some of
the allegedly Christian websites in the UK. Christian Voice speaks of
"young people who are being drawn into a lifestyle characterised by
disease, degradation, death and denial."
A site called Gay Conspiracy links homosexuality with paedophilia, which
is a dreadful, ignorant libel on a significant section of our community.
Some reggae groups have published lyrics urging the torture and murder
of lesbians and gay men. Some record companies and artists have
undertaken not to perform such material in future, but others have not
and no legal action has yet been taken to prevent the sale of such
material in Britain. The offence of incitement to hatred on the grounds
of sexuality would rightly render such content liable to prosecution. Of
course, the dear old British National party has also made homophobia a
political campaign and promulgated the specious link between
homosexuality and paedophilia.
Hate crime is a rising issue. In many London boroughs, the Metropolitan
police report an increase in homophobic hate crime and the trend is
rising throughout the country. In my city of Brighton and Hove, the
figures for homophobic crime reported to the Sussex police show an
increase from 135 in 2005-06 to 184 in 2006-07. That is just one city.
The majority of those cases were assaults, followed by public order and
In Brighton, we are fortunate to have a police anti-victimisation unit.
One of the sergeants who works there said:
"As always the figures themselves tell an incomplete story. We believe
that there is still a degree of under-reporting particularly amongst
those who are victims of homophobic crime."
The Home Office estimates that as much as 90 per cent. of homophobic
hate crime goes unreported.
Most of the House would agree that the case for action has been firmly
established. If the Lord Chancellor wants any help with drafting, I can
offer him a ready-drafted complete new clause for the Bill, but I am
sure that he is already on the case.
I conclude by repeating my gratitude to my right hon. Friend for
promising action, and that gratitude will be mirrored, especially in my
constituency of Brighton, Kemptown, by a large section of the community.
I am proud of what the Government are proposing. I am proud of all that
my Government have done in the field of equalities over the past 10
Charles Walker (Broxbourne, Conservative) Link to this | Hansard
My last point relates to the possession of extreme pornographic
material. I, too, am concerned about what comes over the internet; there
is some horrible, nasty and unpleasant stuff. Clauses 64 to 67 are not
as good as they could be—there is potential for contradiction; for
example, in the case of a film called "Hostel Part II", which I have not
seen but that has been reported on by a number of people I trust. From
beginning to end, it depicts obscene, misogynistic acts of brutality
against women—an hour and a half of brutality—yet that film has been
passed by the British Board of Film Classification for public release to
people aged 18 and over.
I understand that, although the Bill will not make that film illegal, it
could make it illegal for someone to take stills from that film, because
they could be deemed to have a purely pornographic nature. If it were
deemed that stills from a film such as "Hostel Part II" were of a
pornographic and unacceptably violent nature, it seems madness that that
film should be allowed on general release. I hope that, as the Bill is
considered in Committee, we will look at those concerns to ensure that
that part of the Bill is as watertight as it can be.
Harry Cohen (Leyton & Wanstead, Labour)
I support much of the Bill, but I want to raise two separate matters. I
shall be brief, because of the time available. First, I should like to
mention sex. Clause 64(6)(b) mentions an image of an act
"which appears to result...in serious injury to a person's anus, breasts
I agree with virtually all the clause, and I understand the motivation
behind Liz Longhurst's campaign, but my problem is with the phrase
"appears to". That will catch all sorts of things that it should not. I
have several examples, but time precludes me from raising them. The
Government should consider that sub-paragraph, which could be
problematic for the future.
Evan Harris (Oxford West & Abingdon, Liberal Democrat)
I would also like to associate myself with the remarks made by the hon.
Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Dr. Turner), who has a long tradition of
campaigning on matters to do with equality on the grounds of sexual
orientation. He is not entirely right that the Government's record on
this matter has been uniformly good, because they started off very badly
and slowly. However, recently their performance has picked up a lot,
particularly with regard to the goods and services provisions, including
those in Northern Ireland, which the Minister of State, Ministry of
Justice, the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr. Hanson) was involved in
and which were pretty tough—in fact, the judicial review found that they
were a little too strong in certain areas.
I feel—I speak as the president of Liberal Democrats for lesbian and gay
equality—that there is a real problem with homophobic hate crime and it
is right that there should be an offence of incitement to homophobic
hatred. The only question that remains for me, and I suspect for
colleagues on the Liberal Democrat Benches, is how that is balanced
against free speech. It is regrettable that we did not have this offence
before the offence of incitement to religious hatred, since I think that
the incidence is greater. The best ways to tackle homophobic hatred are
through proper, balanced sex and relationships education in the national
curriculum that makes it clear that one cannot and should not stigmatise
lesbian and gay people, and by tackling homophobic bullying far more
As the Lord Chancellor himself accepted, there will have to be a debate
on the wording of any offence, in order to ensure that people with whom
I disagree, often coming from a religious perspective, do not find that
their words are criminalised. The hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown,
mentioned Christian Voice, which speaks about
"young people who are being drawn into a lifestyle characterised by
disease, degradation, death and denial."
That is rubbish, and it is offensive—there is no doubt about that—but
criminalising it would create major problems. It is far better to
debate. I do not believe that people who hear pastors go out and commit
violent criminal offences. I think that it is often thugs, and people
who grow up believing that gay people should not have full rights, who
commit those offences. I believe that we can find a compromise that will
protect the ability of some religious organisations—and we are by no
means talking about the majority of Christians, for example—to spout
words that I think are horrible nonsense, but that should not be
Finally, on the issue of extreme pornography in part 6 of the Bill, as
Liberty says in its briefing,
"Extreme caution should be exercised when new criminal laws are imposed
with the intention of imposing a subjective opinion on what is morally
acceptable...the state should be required to provide justifications for
legal restrictions on pornography, and to demonstrate that a proposed
measure does not go further than is necessary."
Liberty goes on to say that it is vital that
"legitimate and undamaging behaviour is not unintentionally criminalised
by carelessly drafted, over-broad criminal offences."
It is concerned
"about the breadth of the proposed new offence",
"might criminalise people who cause no harm to others and who possess
pornographic material involving consensual participants."
Ministers have not provided an evidence base for some of the material
that will be covered by the measure. Despite the eloquent testimony that
Members have given about an individual case, if we do not have evidence
that the material causes harm, it is right that the House should subject
the proposals to close scrutiny. We must ask why, for example, the
Obscene Publications Act definition is not being used, and why another
definition, which, it is argued, is broader, is being used. I can see no
reference to compatibility with the Human Rights Act 1998 in the
Government's explanatory memorandum, either; that will need to be
tested. I would be grateful if, in his response, the Minister set out
the evidence that justifies the measure. I understand that time is
limited, so I shall leave my remarks there.
David Hanson (Minister of State, Ministry of Justice) Link to
this | Hansard source
Today's debate is about looking at a range of issues to prevent crime
and secure a reduction in reoffending. The Bill achieves a great deal. I
remind the House that it comes against the background of crime coming
down by 35 per cent. since 1997, of the risk of victim coming down to 24
per cent. and of a 40 per cent. increase in the number of offences
brought to justice. That contrasts with the Conservative party, under
which crime doubled. I commend the Bill to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time.