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The Posession of Extreme Pornography...

Parliamentary 2nd Reading debate of the Dangerous Pictures Bill


12th October
2007
   Parliamentary Bollox...
   
Summary of the 2nd Reading of the Dangerous Pictures Bill

House of Commons logoJackboots Straw introduced the Criminal Injustice & Immigration Bill and Nick Herbert responded for the Tories.

David Lepper got up and waxed lyrical about the various newspapers who’d helped in the campaign and the 50,000 signatures which had been raised. He described how extreme pornography had fuelled the fantasies of Graham Coutts. According to him the law didn’t go far enough, as he would like to see the sites themselves tackled at source.

Salter made an intervention and added that 180 signatures had been gathered from MPs against sites like necrobabes and hangingbitches. He pointed out that no new offence as such was being created as this material was already illegal to publish under existing OPA law.

Lepper continued by welcoming the Tory commitment to support this part of the bill. He proposed the passage of this law as a memorial to Jane Longhurst.

Paul Beresford stated that he’d like to see computer generated imagery included. Though it was fairly unclear if he was talking about child porn or extreme pornography by then.
As he seemed to begin on the latter subject but end on the former.

Martin Salter then rose and began demanding ‘Justice for Jane’. Coutts had confessed to beign an addict to violent porn. He repeated that the material was already illegal to publish in the UK. Women abroad were being ‘captured, raped and killed’ for sexual entertainment and profit.

The law was well-crafted, sensible and well thought through. He insisted this was not a new level of censorship. Weird people (sado masochists were belittled and their ‘munches’) could still go about their weird business. But there was no need for them to place their stuff on the net. He had no need to see it. Neither had the public. Those of an unbalanced mind who could be tipped over the edge don’t have a need to see it.

Ideally he’d like to see the law go further. He’d like to see blocking mechanisms. All PCs fitted with blocking mechanism, just like cars have seatbelts. He’d like to see the law go after the credit card companies whose business lubricates this vile trade. He then read out a letter from Liz Longhurst which stated that, had it not been for the corrupting effects of this sites Jane Longhurst would still be alive.

Charles Walker declared he was concerned. Suggesting that the restrictions were not as good as they could be. He stated that he’d been told that extracts from a film such as Hostel II could be deemed illegal under this law. Then it is madness that such a film should be on general release!

Harry Cohen very briefly touched on the issue before dedicating himself to his main subject of youth offenders. He said he was worried about the wording of ‘appears to be’, saying that this could catch all sorts of things within the law.

Evan Harris read out a previous statement by Liberty that extreme caution should be used in legislating morality. The state should justify its reasons for such law, especially as most of the material would be consensual. There was no evidence base for some of this material needing to be banned. If it were already illegal under OPA, why were the OPA definitions not being used, instead of these new and much wider definitions?

 

13th October  Update:  Extremely Thoughtful...
   
Dr Evan Harris contributes to parliamentary debate

House of Commons logoA few more details on the contribution to the 2nd Reading debate by Dr Evan Harris MP-Lib Dem:

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, which 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.

 

19th October    Criminal Injustice and Immigration Bill: 2nd Reading...
   
Relevant points from Hansard

House of Commons logoJack 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 | Hansard source

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 caused.

...

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 | Hansard source

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 material.

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 technological advances."

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 source

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 it.

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 Members.

"Dear Martin,

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 trade"

Here he is talking about snuff movies, despite there being no evidence that these movies were ever made.
Typical grandstanding.

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?
Totally outrageous.

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 House.

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 harassment offences.

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 years.

...

Charles Walker (Broxbourne, Conservative) Link to this | Hansard source

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 or genitals".

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 assertively.

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 criminalised.

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",

which

"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.

 

22nd October  Update:  Dangerous Discussions...
   
Dangerous Pictures Bill in committee

House of Commons logoTranscripts of the 4 sessions so far.

Relevant points:

  • First sitting (Oct 16)
    Q50 Harry Cohen and MoJ minister Maria Eagle
  • Second Sitting (Oct 16)
    Q138 Jan Berry Chairman of the Police Federation gives evidence, questioned by Charles Walker & Vernon Coaker.
  • Third Sitting (Oct 18)
    nothing on extreme porn
  • Fourth Sitting (Oct 18)
    Q19 Gareth Crossman of Liberty questioned by Harry Cohen