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30th March

 Updated: BBFC suggests further extensions to Dangerous Pictures...

Causing actual massive harm to men, women, and children in the name of preventing a one in a million chance of porn causing otherwise innocent men to become rapists
Link Here
home affairs committee Fascinating to see all these moral high grounders and gender extremists debate the rather unproven harm of porn whilst glorying in the chance to put men in prison. As if this doesn't cause actual massive harm to otherwise law abiding men, their wives and their children. Not to mention the tax payers who have to foot the hefty bill to trash these people's lives

Public Bill Committee for the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill
Third Sitting, Thursday 13 March 2014

David Austin : My name is David Austin. I am the assistant director at the British Board of Film Classification, responsible for policy and public affairs. The BBFC is the UK's independent regulator of film and video content. We operate online and offline. Our interest in clause 16 is whether it will have any impact on our classification of sexually violent and abusive pornography, particularly as we are under a legal obligation under the Video Recordings Act 1984 not to classify any content that is illegal.

Murray Perkins : I am Murray Perkins. I am a senior examiner at the BBFC. I have responsibility for day-to-day classification of pornographic works and a particular expertise in those pornographic submissions.

Committee member Dan Jarvis : Do you think there are examples of sexually violent material that would not be captured by the Bill as drafted?

David Austin : Yes, there are examples of sexually violent material that are not caught by the Bill. There are a number of areas of violent and abusive pornography that are not caught. It might help if I list one or two of those areas.

Clause 16 clearly talks in terms of realistic and explicit depiction of rape in pornography. We deal with quite a large number of pornographic works every year and have done for many years. Some of these feature clearly fictional depictions of rape and other sexual violence in which participants are clearly actors, acting to a script. These works may include scenes of relentless aggressive abuse, threats of physical violence with weapons and forced acts of sex. Depending on how realism is interpreted in future -- certainly it has been interpreted very narrowly in the past, but I understand that the Government will amend some of the explanatory notes to the Bill on realism -- that may change.

Another area where we cut porn on harm grounds under the Video Recordings Act relates to abduction scenarios where individuals are shown bound, kidnapped, struggling with bonds, and whimpering -- shown as victims restrained against their will with no other context. We also cut grooming scenarios which feature the grooming of individuals portrayed as youthful, sometimes youthful and vulnerable --sometimes they may have the appearance of children, although they are not children but adults -- by characters in dominant roles. Animation is another area which we cut. There is a Japanese genre called hentai which is a pornographic genre which features things like incest, underage sex and forced sex. They may be realistically animated but you could argue that they are not realistic in the terms of the Bill. The fact that animated images can be harmful is already accepted by Parliament in the Coroners and Justice Act where pseudo images of children in sexual abuse situations are illegal.

The final area relates to explicit rather than realistic. We remove from pornographic works sexually violent content that in our view is harmful, where, for example, you cannot see the explicit act of penetration but the viewer is led to believe that this is a rape scenario, albeit acted. We remove that content.

Dan Jarvis : Do you think there would be merit in explicitly referring in the Bill to those extreme types of pornography?

David Austin : One of the things that we need to bear in mind in relation to this Bill is that although clause 16 is tightly defined, the offence is one of possession, and when we cut in the physical world, on a physical DVD, the offence is one of supply. The Bill is part of a wider approach to aligning protections online and protections offline. We understand that, following a consultation by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport published in July 2013, the Government will bring forward legislation to deal with exactly the kind of content that I have just described to make this content illegal on UK video-on-demand platforms. That will align our standards on harm, which are based on research, with the standards applied by Atvod, the Authority for Television on Demand, which is the UK regulator of UK-hosted video on demand. That legislation would cover UK-hosted content that I have just described.

Committee member Sarah Champion (Rotherham) (Lab): Mr Austin, you mentioned as a throwaway that child abuse and child grooming were covered under other legislation. Could you expand a little on that? Is it strong enough as it stands?

David Austin : It was in reference to animation. We have not seen the updated explanatory notes on the Bill -- I do not know whether they have been published yet. The notes that we have seen do not talk about animated content. It is possible to argue -- do not know how the courts will interpret it -- that animation is not realistic, even though it is getting more and more realistic all the time with computer-generated imagery. CGI images of children and animated images of children in sexual abuse situations are illegal under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, so that would take care of animated depictions of child abuse, but it does not take care of animated depictions of rape of adults, for example.

Sarah Champion : But are animated or real films of child abuse and child grooming covered under current legislation?

David Austin : That is covered in other legislation, yes.

Update: Press and politicians pick up on BBFC suggestions to extend the definitions of Dangerous Pictures

30th March 2013. See  article from  express.co.uk

daily express logo The Daily Express Writes:

David Cameron vowed  to ban pornography involving simulated rape and said that online videos would be subject to the same rules as those sold in sex shops.

However. MPs were astounded when David Austin, assistant director of the British Board of Film Classification, revealed that actors who are clearly following a script could avoid falling foul of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which is making its way through Parliament.

As the Bill stands, an image will be banned if it portrays something in an explicit and realistic way . So-called blue films are not, however, usually renowned for their realistic plot lines.

Austin said:

There are examples of sexually violent material that are not caught by the Bill. Clause 16 clearly talks in terms of realistic and explicit depiction of rape in pornography.

Addressing MPs, Labour's shadow crime and policing minister Diana Johnson said:

What the Government is doing is welcome and it's important but at the moment it doesn't go as far as the Prime Minister originally promised. His pledge was to ban material that was so extreme that it would be banned from licensed sex shops. We're not talking about role-play here but hardcore pornography portraying rape and violent abuse.

In a letter seen by the Sunday Express, Mr Cameron promised to take action to end loopholes by amending the Bill.

 

27th March

 Commented: Crimes Against Political Correctness...

Government supports amendment to increase the penalties for internet insults
Link Here  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
House of Commons logo The government is supporting calls for harsher penalties for internet insults. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has backed Conservative MP Angie Bray's demands for changes to the law.

According to the Evening Standard , Grayling agreed that the legislation needed to be tightened to protect victims from malicious comments being directed at them via social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.

Offences under the Malicious Communications Act currently only carry prison sentences that are no longer than six months, because such cases are heard at magistrates' courts. The proposed amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, which will be discussed in Parliament on Thursday, could change that, presumably by allowing Crown Court scale punishments.

Comment: If we want to live in a society without offence we will live in a society without free speech

27th March 2013. See  article from  indexoncensorship.org

Kirsty Hughes, CEO of Index on Censorship, said:

Index is deeply concerned at the government's apparent intention to deepen the criminal penalties for grossly offensive communications sent through the internet or social media. Just last year, the then Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer put out a very sensible set of guidelines to limit the number of arrests for social media posts that may be offensive to some but did not constitute a criminal offence. Now we are going backwards. Offence is a subjective concept and if we want to live in a society without offence we will live in a society without free speech.

Offsite Comment: Free speech will suffer if politicians get tough on offensive tweets

27th March 2013. See  article from  theguardian.com by Robert Sharp

Thanks to online abuse, MPs may be about to remove our right to be offensive. But giving offence is a vital part of democracy

...Read the full article

 

21st March

 Commented: Suffocating the Adult Industry...

Culture Media Sport Committee calls for the prosecution of adult websites viewable by children
Link Here
Culture, Media and Sport select committee The cross party Culture, Media and Sport Committee has published a report on Online Safety.

Conservative MP John Whittingdale, chair of the committee and pro-censorship sound bite provider for the tabloid press, said the current relatively unfettered access to adult pornography online represented a failure to protect children. While more regulation is not necessary, he said:

Those who profit from the internet must demonstrate the utmost commitment to protecting children and should be prosecuted and penalised if they don't.

The report particularly concurs with ATVOD's suggestion that adult websites that can be viewed by children should be prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act on the grounds that such material depraves and corrupts children. But given that millions of kids have already viewed such content, and there is no real sign of any mass child depravity, then this legal contention is provably bollox.

A selection of the committee's recommendation relating to censorship are:

  • 8. We welcome the Government's decision to include pornographic depictions of rape in the definition of extreme pornography. It has been illegal to publish such images for many years; outlawing their possession is long overdue.

  • 9. There is clearly a need to obtain wider international consensus and cooperation in relation to combating criminally obscene adult material and terrorist material and we urge the Government to use all the influences it can bring to bear to bring this about within a transparent, legal framework.

  • 10. We believe that the existing obscenity laws already proscribe the publication of adult material in ways that make it readily available to children. However, we are concerned that no prosecutions have been brought despite the proliferation of pornography sites which make no attempt to restrict access by children. We welcome the Government's declared intention to legislate to clarify the law in this area. However, in the meantime, we urge the prosecuting authorities to use the existing law to crack down on the worst offenders in order to put pressure on all suppliers of hardcore pornography to make greater efforts to ensure that such material is accessible only by adults.

  • 11. The Government should seek agreement with other European Union Member States to ban on demand programme services that make pornography readily available to children. We further urge the Government to engage with other international partners, particularly the USA, with the aim of securing a similar outcome more widely.

  • 12. We believe that, as part of its existing media literacy duties, Ofcom has an important role in monitoring internet content and advising the public on online safety. However, we are anxious to avoid suggesting a significant extension of formal content regulation of the internet. Among the unintended consequences this could have would be a stifling of the free flow of ideas that lies at the heart of internet communication.

  • 13. Providers of adult content on the internet should take all reasonable steps to prevent children under 18 from accessing inappropriate and harmful content. Such systems may include, but will not necessarily be restricted to, processes to verify the age of users.

  • 14. We have no reason to suppose that Nominet has either the resources or inclination to police the internet. Age verification, while ideal, is not the only way of preventing children from accessing unsuitable content. However, we believe that no .uk site should offer unimpeded access to adult pornography to children. This should be made a condition of registration.

  • 15. Site blocking is highly unlikely to be a suitable approach for adult pornography or violent material much of which is legal (at least if it is unavailable to minors) and which is prevalent on the internet. However, blocking should be considered as a last resort for particularly harmful adult websites that make no serious attempt to hinder access by children.

  • 16. We welcome the introduction of whole home filtering solutions that prompt account holders with a choice to apply them. We encourage all internet service providers to offer their customers this valuable service. Ofcom should monitor the implementation of this filtering and report back on its level of success and adoption.

  • 18. We agree that the availability and performance of filtering solutions must be closely monitored, both for efficacy and the avoidance of over-blocking. It should also be easy for websites inadvertently blocked to report the fact and for corrective action to be taken.

  • 19. Websites that provide adult content should signal the fact clearly to enable filters better to take effect. A failure on the part of the operators of such sites to do so should be a factor in determining what measures should be taken against them.

  • 20. Filters are clearly a useful tool to protect children online. Ofcom should continue to monitor their effectiveness and the degree to which they can be circumvented.

  • 21. We welcome the introduction of ParentPort but believe Ofcom should seek to promote and improve it further. For example, more use could be made of it to collect data on complaints concerning children's access to adult material.

  • 22. We further recommend that Ofcom regularly reports on children's access to agerestricted material, particularly adult pornography and the effectiveness of filters and age verification measures. Ofcom is well-placed to fulfil this role given the work it does on its Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report.

  • 23. We note comments on the state of, and access to, sex and relationships education. We are aware this is a politically contested subject but believe the Government should take into account the views of the young people who gave evidence to us of the value and importance of good quality mandatory sex and relationship education as policy develops. In the mean time, teachers have many opportunities to use their professional judgement in advising children both on online safety and on respect for each other. We believe there is scope for providing teachers with clearer signposting of the advice and educational resources that are already available.

  • 31. Ofcom should monitor and report on complaints it receives, perhaps via an improved ParentPort, regarding the speed and effectiveness of response to complaints by different social media providers.

Offsite Comment: A barrister also asks whether hardcore porn really depraves and corrupts

comment 20th March  2013. See article from wired.co.uk

The government would need to establish that viewing ordinary adult pornography is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt its audience. Whatever your views about pornography, this is a high threshold and would need to be backed up with reliable evidence -- for example, from child psychologists and teachers.

...Read the full article

Offsite Comment: MPs, stop bundling child abuse in with pornography

comment 21st March  2013. See  article from  wired.co.uk by Liat Clark

Every time the government rampages about legal online pornography in the same breath as online child abuse content, it is damaging

...Read the full article

 

20th March

  Even more extensions turned down...

Dangerous Pictures Act discussed in House of Commons committee
Link Here
House of Commons logo Freeworld comments:

It's depressing reading the minutes of the CJCB committee deliberations on the extension to the Dangerous Pictures Act (DPA). The only crumb of comfort for haters of totalitarian law is the government, from what Jeremy Wright the Justice minister was saying, seem determined that the definitions in the DPA extension remain tight (penetration, in and out, realistic etc), that it conform to the rules applying to the other material covered in the existing act, and there won't be any category widening to catch even more types of material (he actually mentions the disquiet about the whole policy represented by this sort of law which was expressed in the original DPA consultation by many - though, naturally, he fails to mention the need for a new offence was rejected overwhelmingly by respondents). Tabled amendments 14, 28 and 29 would make the law very broad indeed. However, they are gone, for now, the amendments were withdrawn.

The Bill committee discussed amendments to extend the definition of banned extreme pornography.

Amendment 14 extended the definition of realistic depictions of rape to include 'simulated' depictions.

Amendment 29 extended the scope of rape from non-consensual penetrative sex to any real or apparent non-consensual sexual activity.

Amendment 28 extended the scope of extreme pornography to include: adults portrayed in such a way as to make them appear under 18; depictions of incest; and sexual activity incorporating sexual threats, humiliation or abuse.

During the debate Sarah Champion called for animated images to be included in the prohibited depictions of rape.

Jeremy Wright, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, spoke for the Government in opposition to the extensions:

I think that we are all conscious of the fact that in discussing the clause and the amendments, we must strike a delicate balance as legislators. We are talking about the most extreme and disturbing images, but also those that, although distasteful to most, might not warrant the intervention of the criminal law. We must therefore be careful to balance our distaste, and in some cases disgust, against the personal sexual freedoms of consenting adults to behave as they wish without undue state interference. We must also bear in mind the existing criminal law in related areas.

I think that Ministers and everyone else should be humble enough to accept that we may not have got everything right, but inevitably, wherever we decide to draw the line, there will be disagreement about whether we have drawn it in the right place. There will be those who say---they have already said it during the course of this Committee's deliberations---that we have not gone far enough on the offence; others will say that we have gone too far. I do not think that there is a good argument that we have gone too far; we will certainly always consider whether there is further action that we can take.

In relation to the amendments, it may be helpful for me to explain why I do not support the particular direction that the hon. Member for Barnsley Central has taken, but do not for a moment dispute that his intention is to ensure that we have the right balance, exactly as the hon. Member for Hammersmith set out. I think that I indicated that amendment 14 is unnecessary, given that the clause already covers the depiction of real or simulated non-consensual penetration where that is pornographic and obscene. To come to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon about what is realistic and what is not, and to deal with what the hon. Member for Barnsley Central said, we intend to reconsider the explanatory notes to see whether we can bring greater clarity, particularly on the point that the offence we have in mind would cover both staged and real depictions of rape or other penetration. However, I do not believe that the wording in amendment 14 is the right way to bring that additional clarity.

Amendment 28 would extend the parameters of the existing offence. It would widen the scope of the existing extreme pornography possession offence to cover depictions that appear to portray incest, under-age sexual activity and scenes involving sexual threats, humiliation or abuse. Now is probably the best time for me to provide some background on the law as it stands.

It is an offence under section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 to possess an extreme pornographic image. Depending on the content of the image, the offence is subject to a maximum sentence of either two or three years' imprisonment. The offence is narrowly targeted, for good reason. Hon. Members will recall that the original offence was created by the then Government following a full public consultation, and it is deliberately targeted at the extreme end of the scale. Material prohibited includes pornographic images---images that can reasonably be assumed to have been produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal---which are grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise obscene and which explicitly and realistically depict necrophilia, bestiality or violence that is life threatening or likely to result in serious injury to the anus, breasts or genitals.

To conclude my remarks on the development of section 63 of the Criminal Justice Act 2008, during the public consultation, there was considerable concern among respondents and in Parliament that the offence could have a serious impact on people's private sexual behaviour and personal freedoms. The offence was carefully and deliberately constructed with these concerns in mind. The offence focuses on the high end of the scale---for example, possession of images depicting extreme sexual violence and serious physical harm. It was never the intention that the offence should be used to censor depictions of all activities that may appear distasteful or that would not, for example, appear in a film classified by the British Board of Film Classification.

As the Committee will be aware, following a recent campaign led by women's groups the Government have decided to extend the parameters of the offence to capture extreme pornographic images depicting rape and other non-consensual penetrative sexual activity. This is a relatively modest but important extension to the offence. It brings the offence more in line with that applicable in Scotland, but remains focused on the original intent. It is clear from what members of the Committee have said that there is concern to ensure that children are protected from sexual abuse and exploitation depicted in these images. I understand and share that concern.

I must make it clear that the Government consider the protection of the country's children from sexual abuse a top priority, and we are always open to and appreciative of suggestions to strengthen the law where necessary. However, to extend the offence to cover depictions of apparent under-age sexual activity is unnecessary. Although images of children are not specifically excluded from the parameters of the Government's extended extreme pornography offence, we already have a range of offences to cover the possession of indecent images of children, with suitably robust sentencing levels and much lower thresholds for the content of the images themselves. It is, for example, already an offence under the Protection of Children Act 1978 to take, make or permit to be taken, distribute, or distribute with a view to possession, any indecent photograph or pseudo-photograph--- an image which appears to be a photograph---of a child under the age of 18. These offences carry a 10-year maximum prison sentence.

It is also an offence under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 to possess an indecent photograph or pseudo-photograph of a child under the age of 18. That offence carries a five-year maximum prison sentence. In these cases it is a matter for the jury to decide on the age of the victim appearing in the images.

Section 62 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 created a new offence to criminalise possession of a prohibited image of a child. That offence attracts a maximum three-year prison sentence. This comes to the hon. Lady's concern. A prohibited image excludes an indecent photograph or indecent pseudo-photograph of a child, which is covered elsewhere, as I have outlined. In effect, that offence targets non-photographic pornographic images---in other words computer generated images, drawings and so on---that depict the graphic sexual abuse of children. It follows therefore that images of incest involving children would fall foul of the existing law. So I can assure the Committee that our laws are now fully equipped to deal with images of the sexual abuse of children.

In addition, although I find the depictions of sexual threats or humiliation and simulated acts of adult incest deeply distasteful, as I am sure does everyone else, there are others---competent adults---who do not share our views. In a liberal democracy, the law intervenes only when necessary. It would be stretching the definition of necessary to include these extensions. I do not feel that it is appropriate to broaden the terms of the existing offence any wider than the Government propose.

It is important to state that the extreme pornography offence is one of simple possession, not of publication, dissemination or broadcast. The publication of obscene material is covered by other legislation, including the Obscene Publications Act 1959, but the law should be slow to intervene in simple possession and should do so only where there is a real need. I believe that depictions of rape constitute such a need but that a wider case for prohibition is not made out. I am grateful for the support shown for our proposal across the Committee, but for the reasons explained I am convinced that it is both unnecessary and inappropriate to extend this offence to cover the images that this amendment would capture. I cannot therefore support it.

Amendment 29 would broaden the scope of the extreme pornography offence to cover the portrayal of sexual activity with real or apparent lack of consent. Again, I am afraid I think the amendment is too broad. I understand the intent, but the effect would not be as the hon. Member for Barnsley Central wishes. The amendment would have the effect of bringing within the parameters of this tightly drawn offence the possession of extreme images that depict any non-consensual sexual activity. That would arguably capture relatively low-level sexual contact such as kissing and touching. Of course, we are not here to defend non-consensual sexual activity in any form, but I do not think it is appropriate to target the depiction of the broader spectrum of such activity in this offence.

Finally, as I have stressed, the Government's proposal continues, in the manner of the original offence, to target the most extreme images and those that cause the most concern. It is not the intention to capture images that could depict relatively low-level acts. I hope, in view of what I have said, that the hon. Member for Barnsley Central will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

The amendments were withdrawn and Clause 16 was accepted as part of the Bill as written.

 

18th March

  Extreme Censors...

New Labour shadow ministers show their nasty censorial colours
Link Here
labour logo the current and soon to be extended prohibitions on 'extreme' porn are inevitably not enough for New Labour. Shadow ministers, Diana Johnson MP, Dan Jarvis MP and Helen Jones MP want more:

A year after the prime minister's announcement we have Clause 16 of the criminal justice and courts bill which will add realistic depictions of rape to the list of banned forms of pornography. While this is a welcome step, we need to be clear that this falls a long way short of equating offline and online restrictions. The government's proposal will not ban violent pornography that doesn't include penetration (and it's important to remember we're only talking about hardcore porn, not normal films, documentaries, or art). Nor will the government's plans ban videos where the actress is portrayed as being a child or even depictions of rape which a normal, non-aroused, individual would not find realistic.

This means that hardcore porn showing a woman being raped at gunpoint --crying and protesting throughout -- could avoid the ban if it was badly acted (and, let's face it, isn't all porn badly acted?). It would also mean that a video of a woman bound and gagged while being assaulted would not be banned unless it also showed penetration, regardless of how realistic it seemed. Nor would it do anything about the increasing number of videos portraying underage sex. These are pornographic videos featuring women over-18 who look far younger.

Normally these women will be very small, totally flat-chested and have all traces of pubic hair removed. Their immaturity is emphasised by clothes associated with pre-teens and childlike behaviour and speech. These girls are intended to look pre-pubescent. This is often highlighted by pairing them with male actors in their 50s or 60s who they will have sex with. It looks just like child abuse but it's perfectly legal and readily accessible from Google.

Banning such content would not be about criminalising porn-viewers, but it would be about preventing easy access to material which normalises sexual violence and abuse. Just as internet companies have acted to make it harder to access child abuse, they need to do the same for extreme porn. Politicians can set the agenda on this.

..Read the full article

 

15th March

 Extract: Moral Panic...

Sex and Censorship submission to parliament arguing against extensions to the Dangerous Pictures Act
Link Here

sex and censorship logo Response to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill

1. Submitted on behalf of the Sex & Censorship campaign.

2. Written by Jerry Barnett and Dr David Ley, a psychologist specialising in sexuality. Dr Ley's website is at: http://drdavidley.com/ Summary

3. This is a response from Sex & Censorship, a campaigning body, to the non-consensual pornography provisions (Clause 16) in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.

4. Sex & Censorship was set up in 2013 by Jerry Barnett, in response to growing concerns over the censorship and repression of sexual expression in the United Kingdom. Jerry has been an advocate for free speech and sexual freedom for a number of years. We are a non-profit organisation that aims to counter moral panics in the media and campaign for policy-making that is evidence-based and not driven by moral agendas.

5. Clause 16 is an amendment to the existing extreme porn law that was introduced in section 63 of the the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. We believe that the original law does not serve the public interest, and is draconian, and that this new amendment will make it worse, and should be removed. In outline, our objections are as follows:

  • The proposed law results from a moral panic over rape porn rather than any evidence of harm.

  • Although headlined as rape porn , the wording of the law would criminalise consenting (but perhaps non-standard) sexual activity.

  • The law blurs the distinction between consensual and nonconsensual sex, and so may hinder, rather than help, attempts to reduce sexual violence.

  • There has been no evidence presented that viewers of the content in question may be driven to commit sexual violence as a result of viewing it.

  • Conversely, there is evidence that such content may serve as an outlet for people who are prone to sexual violence and may reduce rather than increase their likelihood to commit harm.

  • In general, possession laws are draconian as they place an impossible burden of legal and technical knowledge on members of the public.

  • Censorship itself is harmful to free expression. Censorship laws should, therefore, only be introduced in response to compelling evidence of harm rather than on the basis of moral values alone.

...Read the full submission

 

14th March

  Aberrant use of legislation...

Backlash submission to parliament arguing against extensions to the Dangerous Pictures Act
Link Here

backlash logo 1. Backlash is an umbrella organisation composed of volunteers, which provides academic, legal and campaigning resources in defence of sexual freedom of expression. We support the rights of competent adults to participate in consensual sexual activities; and to watch, read or create an actual record or fictional interpretation of this in any media. We were established in 2005.

2. Our core legal work has focused on clarifying and challenging the law which prohibits the possession of 'extreme pornography'. Alongside our legal adviser Myles Jackman (a solicitor advocate at Hodge, Jones & Allen LLP), we provided support in the successful defences in R v Holland , R v Webster and R v Walsh against such charges. Mr Jackman was awarded the Law Society's Junior Lawyer of year 2012-2013 awar   d in recognition of his work challenging the legal framework imposing regressive sexual morality in obscenity cases.

Summary

3. The amendment to ban 'rape pornography' risks criminalising more than a million otherwise law-abiding people in the United Kingdom. Nonetheless, there is no evidence of any corresponding public benefit from the proposed prohibition. Conversely there is a strong risk (based on our experience with the present extreme pornography offences contained within S63 (7) of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008), that any such prosecutions will be disproportionally deployed against sexual minorities; at significant cost to public funds that could be spent investigating crimes that provably harm the general public.

4. There is a significant amount of bondage themed material catering for those who enjoy submissive fantasies. Fantasy and fictional portrayals of 'forced' sex, which are likely to be the vast majority of images criminalised under the proposed amendment, are too commonly enjoyed to be reasonably subject to prohibition.

5. Hence we propose the amendment should either be rejected, or limited in scope to only prohibit images that are provably produced in circumstances where there is an absence of consent (either to the acts portrayed in the images or dissemination of the images themselves).

6. Should the legislation be enacted, we would therefore appeal for absolute clarity in the meaning and operation of the law: to enable the public to identify the difference between an "act which 'realistically' depicts rape" and the huge quantity of material that depicts sex and bondage.

Evidence of widespread impact on law-abiding citizens

7. Systematic academic research of the consumption of pornography and the prevalence of violent sexual fantasies in the population of the United Kingdom is lacking. However, the most persuasive recent evidence is taken from the British Sexual Fantasy Research Project: 2007. [1] Based on a representative sample survey of 19,000 adults in the United Kingdom, it found that: 86% of men and 56% of women had viewed pornography. [2] 29% fantasise about playing a dominant or "aggressive" role during sex; 33% fantasise about playing a submissive or "passive" role during sex; 4% fantasise about being "violent" towards someone else; 6% fantasise about violence being vested on themselves by another person. [3]

8. Thus around 2.2 million men and women have violent sexual fantasies of some kind, and nearly a third of all British adults fantasise about sexual domination and submission.

9. These statistics indicate that the number of men and women interested in fantasy pornographic depictions of non-consensual sexual encounters is likely to be very high. A central, perhaps conservative, estimate might be around 930,000 men and 640,000 women. There is no evidential link to suggest that any of these individuals pose a risk of committing sexual offences.

10. Crucially, fantasy rape scenarios are shared by both men and women, in which neither of whom are established as the passive or dominant participant in such a fantasy sexual encounter. Hence both men and women fantasise about aggressive sex in both the dominant and submissive role.

11. Yet the argument in favour of criminalising extreme pornography has been characterised as a means of "protecting" women and supporting women's interests and standing in society. The above figures suggest that these claims ignore the impact of criminalisation on a large number of female viewers of pornography. Since it is widely held that the prosecution and possible resulting punishment of women within the criminal justice system can be particularly damaging, the committee might be well placed to consider whether exposing the private sexual fantasies of women in Court proceedings could actually lower their social standing.

12. As it can be psychologically and personally destructive for an individual of any gender to have their private consensual fantasies exposed for public scrutiny; such prosecutions should need to be justified only to combat extra-ordinary threats to the general public.

13. Our work in defending innocent people facing prosecution and trial for offences under S63(7) CJIA 2008 has revealed that a large proportion of defendants give serious consideration to suicide.

14. By way of comparison with existing legislation, fewer than 0.5% of individuals surveyed acknowledged fantasising about necrophilia (S63(7)(c) CJIA 2008), and only 3% acknowledged fantasising about bestiality (S63(7)(d) CJIA 2008. [4] Hence the proposed ban on 'rape pornography' extends the reach of this legislation to much more commonly held sexual fantasies.

15. When the criminalisation of possession of extreme pornography was first proposed, Ministers predicted a handful of cases. The Regulatory Impact Assessment that accompanied CJIA 2008 predicted around 30 convictions per annum (at Appendix 1 we set out MoJ and CPS data on the number of prosecutions). With 1,348 prosecutions in the year 2012/13 alone, we now know that far more cases have been prosecuted than Parliament or the public were led to believe would proceed, with an implied cost of more than £13 million to the criminal justice system in 2012/2013 (about the same as the total annual budget of the Government Equalities Office).

16. Given the fact that far more people enjoy submissive and domination themed fantasises and the material depicting this, than those who seek the four categories of material prohibited by S63(7) CJIA 2008, the Committee should consider whether many thousands more people will fall foul of the proposed "rape" category alone.

17. Furthermore, certain 'extreme images' are not possessed for the purpose of sexual arousal (and are therefore not 'pornographic' under the act) but are viewed as jokes in bad taste. Also, they can come into an individual's possession unintentionally (and sometimes without knowledge) while browsing the Internet for unrelated material (for example via pop-up webpages or malware). Thus the range of people affected by the amendment extends to ordinary Internet users, not just viewers of pornography with particular themes.

No evidence of harm to public

18. Milton Diamond is an international expert on human sexuality. In a recent evidence review of the effects of pornography on society, he concluded: 'objections to erotic materials are often made on the basis of supposed actual, social or moral harm to women. No such cause and effect has been demonstrated with any negative consequence. It is relevant to mention here that a temporal correlation between pornography and any effect is a necessary condition before one can rationally entertain the idea that there is a positive statistical correlation between pornography and any negative effect.' [5]

19. While the claim that access to pornography harms women is very poorly evidenced, there is some evidence that pornography may have some beneficial effects. Increased access to pornography is associated with decreases in sexual assaults. [6] The evidence for no harmful effects on society or women from pornography is a strong finding in the academic literature. The evidence for positive benefits is weaker but indicative. There is a risk that extending the definition of extreme pornography could lead to more violence against women rather than less.

Evidence of harm to protected minorities

20. The most prominent prosecution under extreme pornography legislation was of barrister Simon Walsh, a former aide to Boris Johnson, whose legal practice had included investigating corruption within British police forces. His career in public life was severely impaired by a prosecution. His intimate life as a gay man was revealed to the public without his consent.

21. Such prosecutions threaten the reputation of the Crown Prosecution Service as an impartial public servant by showing that gay men risk having their lives destroyed in court over intimate acts which are consensual, safe and commonly practiced within the LGBT community.

22. The proposed amendment will criminalise material that depicts same-sex material. It will not only criminalise material that depicts women, but also a huge amount of material available that depicts gay sex and sexual penetration with themes of domination and submission.

23. This highlights a particular problem with defining 'extreme pornography' around the concept of obscenity. Obscenity is not a useful concept for directing how police and prosecutors should make use of the law. The requirement that obscene material 'deprave or corrupt' the viewer is arcane, and not based on any scientific or psychological test. As a result, law enforcement risks ending up treating 'extreme' as simply a synonym for 'marginal', or non-mainstream material used by sexual minorities. The Government has not presented adequate evidence showing that sexual minorities will not be subject to a disparate and disproportionate impact from this amendment.

Experience of aberrant use of legislation

24. Backlash arranges advice for members of the public facing charges of possession of extreme pornography under the existing legislation. As we have suggested, the number of people technically in breach of the law is orders of magnitude higher than those actually prosecuted. The police could not realistically hope to have the resources necessary to investigate this. Instead, cases are passively acquired, often through police investigations of other unrelated allegations; and malicious allegations.

25. In our experience, women are at least as likely as men to become the subject of police investigations which threaten to expose their private sex lives in personally damaging ways. We have encountered former partners making malicious allegations to the police regarding possession of pornography. People who have suffered a falling out in the workplace or in a business arrangement have been subject to abusive threats and allegations regarding their pornography usage and sexual interests.

26. In such cases, the police are often required to investigate, taking up their resources. But since possession of consensual adult pornography is essentially harmless, it means that the police are unnecessarily drafted in to assist the persecution of an individual to satisfy a private animus.

27. The committee might recall that one of the key reasons for decriminalising homosexuality was not because of widespread moral acceptance of homosexuality (which was to come somewhat later) but because the prohibition had become a 'blackmailer's charter'. The ban on homosexual acts had not caused people to stop engaging in such acts, but it had exposed many otherwise law-abiding citizens to being branded criminals. Extorting money, or favours, from homosexuals in return for not revealing their sexual orientation was commonplace. [7]

28. In extending the regulation of extreme pornography to popular sexual fantasy material, the Government risks reintroducing this sort of scenario and making blackmail over private sexuality a common problem once again.

Proposals for amendment

29. Given the scale of risk associated with this proposed legislation, we strongly advise that this amendment be abandoned. However, the legislation could be focussed more narrowly on genuinely abusive situations where there is actual non-consensual abuse and harm.

30. It should be noted that when S63 CJIA 2008 was debated in the Lords an assurance was given, in response to concerns expressed regarding the need to properly define the law that guidance would be issued to the public. However clear guidance on two categories (S63(7)(a) and (b) was never issued. As a consequence the legislation has been used in a way that Parliament never intended (R v Walsh) and hence we appeal to the committee to take this opportunity to repeal S63(7)(a) (life threatening) and (b) (serious injury). These two categories never have and probably never can be clearly defined.

31. If, despite this evidence, legislation is enacted it is vital that absolute clarity be provided to the public, to ensure that people can clearly determine material which is legal to possess and that which could result in a lengthy custodial sentence and inclusion on the sex offenders register. The penalties are so extreme that the public must be given absolute certainty and clarity.

 

6th March

 Comment: Selfish Moralists...

Church sponsored group of MPs and Lords recommends that people who pay for sex should be jailed and fined
Link Here
Houses of Parliament A group of moralist parliamentarians has recommended that people who pay for sex should be jailed or fined

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade is sponsored by the Christian campaign group CARE who acts as the group's secretariat

Chairman of the group is Gavin Shuker, a member of the Christian Socialist Movement and was previously leader of City Life Church in Luton. The rag tag army of moralists and religious nutters making up the group include Fiona Mactaggart, Gary Streeter, Philip Davies, Peter Bottomley, Andrew Selous, Julian Lewis, Julian Brazier, Steve Brine, Meg Munn, Heidi Alexander, Susan Elan Jones, Keith Vaz, Madeleine Moon, Virendra Sharma, Kerry McCarthy

The MPs and peers will recommend that the UK adopts a system whereby soliciting is no longer a punishable offence, but anyone who pays for sex is committing a crime.

Prostitutes who are caught loitering on streets plying their trade should be given anti-social behaviour orders rather than being prosecuted, the group will say.

Following a year-long moralist love-in, the group unsurprisingly concludes that the current law on selling sex is hopelessly confused, with 16 offences listed under five Acts of Parliament spanning 53 years.  The group argues that the apprehension and prosecution of prostitutes thwarts efforts to prevent women being drawn into the trade or support their exit from it. The report will call for all existing statutes to be wrapped into a single Act of Parliament, aimed at persecuting those who purchase sex, not those who sell it.

Fiona Mactaggart gloried in the chance to jail men:

The inadequacy of existing legislation has created lucrative market conditions that are exploited by criminal gangs profiting from the sale of women. This inquiry makes substantial proposals which could prevent this vile trade.

Niki Adams, of the English Collective Of Prostitutes, which campaigns for the abolition of prostitution laws, said:

Criminalising clients will not stop prostitution and won't stop the criminalisation of women who work as prostitutes. All it will do is make it more difficult for women to protect themselves and stigmatise sex workers even further.

Comment: Jailing all men

Prison queue 6th March 2013. From DavidT

There are about 32,000,000 males in the UK.

Mature, capable, active and interested in heterosexual encounters = 2,000,000.

If they were all jailed for 6 months they would each use 60 square metres of jail room including common areas.

That's 120,000,000 square metres.

That's 147 square miles.

Which is a hell of a big city.

Maybe these church do-gooders should take a maths course.

 

5th March

 Offsite Article: The deluded idea of making sex illegal to buy...

Link Here  full story: Criminalising Paying for Sex in England and Wales...A selfish campaign to lock up men
adam smith institute logoOne lunacy is ASBOs being used instead of criminal punishment. Effectively it means repeat offenders are jailed. Given that under current law no one is jailed for being a prostitute, this is an increase, not a decrease

See article from adamsmith.org

 

28th February

  CAAN Special Bulletin...

Rape porn Bill introduced to Parliament (England, Wales and NI)
Link Here

Please distribute this notice as widely as possible

CAAN logo On 5 February the government introduced a Bill to Parliament that will extend S63(7) CJIA 2008 to cover the possession of pornography that depicts rape. Unless the proposed legislation is dropped or amended it may have greater implications for the general public than the first four categories that were originally criminalised. This is because material that depicts rape can be difficult to define. It is believed that it was for this reason that the offence was not included after the original public consultation in 2005.

However, in 2010 the Scottish Parliament introduced its own possession offence legislation (S42 CJ&L(S)A 2010) which included a category that depicts rape. In the light of this, and recent demands from many feminist and religious groups, that material that depicts rape be made an offence to possess, the government has brought forward new legislation.

Many CAAN members will be appalled that there really does exist some material that features real rape being committed and this is occasionally shared by exceptionally nasty people. But the publication and sharing of such material is already a criminal offence. Many of us have no sympathy for those who possess extremely brutal and callous depictions of rape, even those where models have consented to appear as victims , but the current legislation is sloppy, it is poorly drafted and will impact upon relatively soft bondage and domination themed material. The legislation will also include anything that involves penetration with any object. So, if you were to possess an image of a submissive man, gagged, in bondage, with a butt plug being inserted, how could you prove that this was not rape? It could well be the case that the lucky man involved is having the best day of his life, but his facial expression might be interpreted by police as pain and the gag as proof that there was no consent to the act.

Nearly a third of the UK population (British Sexual Fantasy Research Project: 2007), fantasise about types of forced sex, often involving bondage, gags and invariably a dark dungeon. There is a huge amount of porn that caters for this demand, but anything without a BBFC certificate will be very dangerous to view/possess.

CAAN is doing everything we can to secure a sensible amendment to the legislation to protect those into bondage, submission and/or domination. We are also keen to protect people from prosecution for possession of material that features consensual non-consent but we fear this will be difficult. To understand more about the theme of consensual non-consent please read this article .

Working with the 4 other campaigns (Backlash, Campaign Against Censorship, Sex & Censorship and the Sexual Freedom Coalition) we have warned MPs and peers of the dangers of this legislation, explaining the potential for thousands of harmless people to have their lives destroyed. The government has pointed to the experience in Scotland and notes that it is believed there has only been one conviction for possession of material that depicts rape. However the government also predicted that S63(7) CJIA 2008 would only result in a handful of convictions but the reality was very different, with over 1,000 people charged with offences per annum. In the year 2012/13 1,348 people were charged under S63(7) for possession of the first four categories of extreme porn. By criminalising possession of rape material, a category which will include some sexually explicit bondage and entirely consensual material, a category that will include material in which millions of people have an interest, it is likely that prosecutions will soar.

Let there be no doubt that we are in engaged in war on two fronts. The state is determined to seize control over the internet and is equally determined to marginalise the lives of those who are into even the mildest forms of BDSM. Evidence is also mounting that police investigations and prosecutions are disproportionately being directed at the LGBT community. As a consequence we fear that the new legislation poses a serious threat to minority groups and have adopted the stance that if anything depicts a real rape, where there is no consent, that cannot be tolerated; but anything that is consensual should not be criminalised. Finding a watertight definition or dividing line between the various different categories of material that exist is impossible and so we oppose the creation of this new category.

Please write to your MP and explain why this is an exceptionally dangerous piece of legislation. Please also write to members of the House of Lords. This step is also important because we believe it is more likely that this part of the legislation is more likely to be scrutinised in the Lords than in the Commons.

If you have any other suggestions or can offer any assistance please get in touch: info@caan.org.uk

The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill (HC Bill 169) was introduced to Parliament on 5 February. Here is a hyperlink

 

27th February

 Offsite Article: The 'Feminists' that Cried Wolf...

Link Here
House of Commons logoStripper Edie Lamort writes about snobbish and prudish attacks on strip clubs made in the name of feminism

See article from sexandcensorship.org

 

25th February

  MPs Take Great Pleasure in the Bondage and Domination of British Subjects...

Extension of Dangerous Pictures Act passes 2nd Reading in the House of Commons
Link Here

House of Commons logo Criminal Justice and Courts Bill
2nd Reading Debate. 24th February 2014

The extension of the Dangerous Pictures Act to cover simulated depictions of non consensual sex passed 2nd reading with little debate, just MPs queuing up to say a few lines to welcome the new law:

Chris Grayling (The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice ; Epsom and Ewell, Conservative):

The final provisions in part 1 deliver on a commitment that is important to me and the Prime Minister. The Bill will make it a criminal offence to possess pornography that depicts real or simulated rape. I am sure that both Houses will share my view that such images are wholly unacceptable and that it is right to close this gap in the law.

Sadiq Khan (Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice; Tooting, Labour)

We welcome clause 16, which bans the possession of extreme pornographic images depicting rape. A number of victim groups and experts have called for that change, and the Government and the Justice Secretary should be commended for listening to the evidence.

Elfyn Llwyd (PC Westminster Leader; Dwyfor Meirionnydd, Plaid Cymru)

My final point on part 1 concerns the new offence introduced in clause 16 that criminalises the possession of pornographic materials depicting rape and non-consensual sexual penetration. I truly applaud the Government's efforts in this regard to minimise the use and dissemination of extreme pornographic materials, and particularly the work they are doing to minimise the opportunities for children to come into contact with this filth. In my view, however, there can be no benefit to society or to the individuals involved if persons convicted of sex offences are left languishing in prison without treatment or, worse, released into the community

Bob Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst, Conservative)

I welcome the changes in relation to rape. Pornographic depiction of rape does seem an obvious matter to deal with---Rape Crisis South London in my constituency has done a lot of work on it---and I am glad that that has been recognised. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing Central and Acton would agree with me that there may still be gaps in the adequacy of sentencing for other sexual offences, particularly in relation to videos and DVDs of various kinds---we might be able to look at that in due course---but the change is a valuable step forward that we should all welcome.

Andy Slaughter (Shadow Minister (Justice); Hammersmith, Labour)

We support the ban on the possession of extreme pornographic images depicting rape and other non-consensual sexual penetration. That is a welcome victory for campaign groups such as Rape Crisis South London and the End Violence Against Women Coalition.

 

9th February

  More Dangerous Porn...

Government publishes extreme porn extensions to include images depicting non-consensual sex
Link Here
House of Commons logo The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill has been published and includes a section extending the definition of extreme porn to include depictions of non-consensual sex.

S63 CJIA 2008 will be extended to include rape material, but the definition looks to be so wide that it might include the majority of bondage related material.

This is the crucial bit: -

Clause 16 will extend CJIA 2008 S 63 (7) legislation by inserting provisions which include: -

16(2)C: after subsection (7) insert---

(7A): An image falls within this subsection if it portrays, in an explicit and realistic way, either of the following: -

(a). an act which involves the non-consensual penetration of a person's vagina, anus or mouth by another with the other person's penis, or

(b). an act which involves the non-consensual sexual penetration of a person's vagina or anus by another with a part of the other person's body or anything else, and a reasonable person looking at the image would think that the persons were real.

(7B): For the purposes of subsection (7A): -

(a): penetration is a continuing act from entry to withdrawal;

(b): vagina includes vulva.

16 (3): In section 66 (defence: participation in consensual acts): - a. before subsection (1) insert---

(A1): Subsection (A2) applies where in England and Wales: -

(a): 5a person (D) is charged with an offence under section 63, and

(b): the offence relates to an image that portrays an act or acts within subsection (7)(a) to (c) or (7A) of that section (but does not portray an act within subsection (7)(d) of 10that section).

(A2): It is a defence for D to prove---

(a): that D directly participated in the act or any of the acts portrayed, and

(b): that the act or acts did not involve the infliction of any non-consensual harm on any person, and

(c): if the image portrays an act within section 63(7)(c), that what is portrayed as a human corpse was not in fact a corpse, and

(d): if the image portrays an act within section 63(7A), that what is portrayed as non-consensual penetration was in fact consensual.

My reading of this is that it is for the defence to prove that that any act was consensual. If it looks non-consensual (and a large proportion of bondage material will be interpreted that way) then the person found to be in possession of such material will have to prove that the act was in fact consensual.

The Impact Assessment

There is an impact assessment which provides more information, but some of it is misleading (for example 1. the justification is said to be the desire to reduce violence against women and 2. an inference might be drawn from the 1 case that is believed to have been prosecuted in Scotland). The reality is that in England thousands of people have been caught out by S63(7) and thousands more will now fall foul of the new law.

Page 7 of the IA suggests that there will be some protection but I can't see any: -

28. There are minor risks that anti-censorship groups could see this step as an infringement on private consensual sexual activities, for example staging consensual acted rape scenarios. However, we intend to provide a limited defence to address some of these concerns. Alongside this the measure is likely to be well received across Parliament and a range of women's rights groups in particular.

29. We also intend to make available for the purposes of the images covered in the extended offence, the existing defence for participants possessing images of themselves, provided that no harm was caused to any participant, or if harm were caused, it was harm which was and could be lawfully consented to.

 

31st January

 Updated: Will the LibDems Condone Threats and Intimidation?...

LibDem politician Maajid Nawaz has been threatened by muslim extremists after he noted BBC censorship of Jesus and Mo t-shirts. And muslims have called on Nick Clegg to ban Nawaz from standing for election
Link Here
maajid nawaz The BBC decided that extreme Wahhabi and Salafi Muslims, who would ban all images of Muhammad, represented all Muslims. It ordered its producers not to show the offending T-shirts. Nawaz left the studio in some disgust. He tweeted the cartoon of Jesus saying: Hey and Muhammad saying: How ya doing? and added: This is not offensive & I'm sure God is greater than to feel threatened by it. God may not have felt threatened, but his supporters did. A Liberal Democrat activist called Muhammad Shafiq took it upon himself to organise a national and international campaign against Nawaz.

At the time we went to press, about 20,000 people had signed Shafiq's petition to Nick Clegg, saying that the tweet had caused an extreme amount of insult, hurt and anguish . The Lib Dems must stop Nawaz standing as their candidate in Hampstead and Kilburn at the next general election, they demanded.

Nawaz told his critics he had merely said that he did not think the BBC should censor a mild cartoon. He then went to the core of what is wrong with extremist religion and Britain's thoughtless multiculturalism which, in the name of diversity , spatchcock people into ethnic and religious blocks that deny their individuality. If you want to ban inoffensive images of the prophet, Nawaz said, then I am sorry, I am not that type of literalist Muslim.

In other words, neither community leaders nor multicultural bureaucrats could talk of the Muslim community whose taboos must be observed. There were many Muslim communities and ex-Muslims, too, and they should be free to argue without fear.

Shafiq denies that he is spreading fear and if you had not done the research you might believe him. Certainly, you could think him a man who can snuffle out offence where no one else can find it. You could think that the 20,000 or so who have signed his petition are so desperate for reasons to censor that they will manufacture them. But this is a free country and they are entitled to their hysterias.

But to put it as politely as I can, Shafiq is not your standard Liberal Democrat. He is in charge of the Ramadhan Foundation, which has hosted speakers whose attitudes towards gay people and Jews are anything but liberal. To make sure that Nawaz felt the full force of his critique, Shafiq slipped an aside into his open letter to Nick Clegg. He talked of Nawaz's expected, suspected, wanted reaction from the minority of unhinged in those communities . Nawaz was deliberately soliciting attacks from the unhinged , apparently. He expected them. He wanted them. And if the unhinged should assault or kill him -- he had no one to blame but himself. Shafiq told me that he did not mean that Nawaz was inciting his own murder, but I struggle see how else his followers can interpret his words.

...Read the full article

Comment: And all I said to my wife was: That piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah

27th January 2013. See  article from  ministryoftruth.me.uk

maajid tweet By now I'm sure you're aware of the fact that Maajid Nawaz, a Lib Dem PPC in Hampstead and Kilburn, stands accused of committing the thoroughly heinous crime of causing religiously aggravated butthurt in the first degree, the suggested punishment for which appears to be political career death by change.org petition.

At the heart of this is, yet again, a completely innocuous Jesus & Mo cartoon which Maajid clearly considers to be anything but offensive, hence the tweet

...Read the full article

Update: In defence of Maajid Nawaz, blasphemy and (funny) cartoons of Mohammed

26th January 2013. See  article from  blogs.telegraph.co.uk by Tom Chivers

Telegraph logo I've been a fan of the webcomic Jesus and Mo for years. The idea is a simple one: the two religious figureheads J Christ and Mohammed share a house and discuss matters of religious philosophy, often in arguments with a wise atheist barmaid at their local. It's funnier than I've made that sound.

It is, of course, irreligious and arguably blasphemous. ( In its very first edition or episode or whatever you call it , Mo points out that it's forbidden to depict him pictorially. Jesus asks what he's doing in a cartoon, reasonably enough, and Mo claims he's a body double.) It's also very clever, informed by philosophical and religious argument, and -- as mentioned -- funny.

...Read the full article

Update: LibDems tell both sides to shut up

29th January 2013. See  article from  huffingtonpost.co.uk
See also Why I'm speaking up for Islam against the loudmouths who have hijacked it  from  theguardian.com by Maajid Nawaz

Lib Dems logo Two Muslim commentators involved in a very public spat over a cartoon of the religious character Mohammed have agreed to make peace with each other, over their shared intention not to further tarnish the Liberal Democrats.

In a joint statement, posted by Lib Dem Voice, both Nawaz and Shafiq agreed to call off the war of words that has raged for days on social media and the blogosphere.

The Lib Dem members acknowledged they had conflicting views on depictions of Prophet Muhammad and that other Muslims did too. It acknowledged that other Lib Dems had the right to complain to the executive about the behaviour of either side.

The statement continued with worthless half truths claiming that both sides supported freedom of speech.

Offsite Comment: Maajid Nawaz must be free to offend Muslims – and Christians must be free to offend gays

29th January 2013. See  article from  blogs.telegraph.co.uk by Brendan O'Neill

Offsite: University Islamic Society tries to stop talk because speaker didn't condemn Maajid Nawaz

30th January 2013. See  article from  secularism.org.uk

Update: Free speech opponents demonstrate at Plymouth University

31st January 2013. See  article from  freethinker.co.uk

Update: Nick Clegg has his say

31st January 2013. See  article from  theguardian.com
See also article from  independent.co.uk

nick clegg Nick Clegg has admonished one of his party's parliamentary candidates, Maajid Nawaz, for tweeting a cartoon of Jesus and Muhammad .

He said Nawaz was in his opinion wrong to retweet the cartoon, but defended his right to do so:

We simply cannot tolerate anyone in a free country -- where we have to protect free speech, even if that free speech might cause offence to others -- being subject to death threats and them and their family being put under extraordinary pressure to recant what they said.

I would be the first to say that when you are dealing with issues of religion and deeply held faith, you have got to express yourself moderately and sensitively, and with respect one to the other. That is the corollary of free speech. However strongly you feel either side of this debate, we cannot in any way be tolerant of that level of threat to someone who says something that someone else does not like.

He is not going to be dropped as a Liberal Democrat candidate. He has the right - as any Muslim, non-Muslim or anyone of any faith or none in this country has - to say things even if that causes offence to other people.

 

29th January

 Updated: Internet Wrecking Clause Defeated...

Elspeth Howe attempts to get all adult websites blocked by ISPs unless they implement onerous age verification via an amendment to the Children and Families Bill
Link Here
elspeth howe Elspeth Howe has tabled amendments to the Children and Families Bill which forces ISPs to block all hardcore porn sites unless the subscriber opts to receive adult content AND the website being accessed implements onerous age verification procedures.

The required age verification is very onerous, eg requires users to submit credit card details (debit cards wont do). in reality websites cannot function with such restrictions as people aren't going to type in masses of personal details just to take a look at an adult website.

The amendment is somewhat toned down from the ludicrous Online Safety Bill which would impose similar age verification on a wider range of websites with content not suitable for children. That bill defines adult content as containing harmful and offensive materials from which persons under the age of eighteen are protected;

The Children and Families Bill amendment defines adult content as material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen. The authorities would like to think that hardcore porn fits the bill, but if it did, then we would already have millions of seriously impaired young people on our hands.

Elspeth Howe's amendment to the Children and Families Bill reads:

Insert the following new Clause--

Duty to provide an internet service that protects children

(1)   Internet service providers must provide to subscribers an internet access service which excludes adult content unless all the conditions of subsection (3) have been fulfilled.

(2)   Where mobile telephone operators provide a telephone service to subscribers which includes an internet access service, they must ensure this service excludes adult content unless all the conditions of subsection (3) have been fulfilled.

(3)   The conditions are--

(a)   the subscriber "opts-in" to subscribe to a service that includes adult content;

(b)   the subscriber is aged 18 or over; and

(c)   the provider of the service has an age verification policy which meets the standards set out by OFCOM in subsection (4) and which has been used to confirm that the subscriber is aged 18 or over before a user is able to access adult content.

(4)   It shall be the duty of OFCOM to set, and from time to time to review and revise, standards for the--

(a)   filtering of adult content in line with the standards set out in section 319 of the Communications Act 2003; and

(b)   age verification policies to be used under subsection (3) before a user is able to access adult content.

(5)   The standards set out by OFCOM under subsection (4) must be contained in one or more codes.

(6)   It shall be the duty of OFCOM to establish procedures for the handling and resolution of complaints in a timely manner about the observance of standards set under subsection (4).

(7)   In this section, internet service providers and mobile telephone operators shall at all times be held harmless of any claims or proceedings, whether civil or criminal, providing that at the relevant time, the internet access provider or the mobile telephone operator--

(a)   was following the standards and code set out by OFCOM in subsection (4); and

(b)   acting in good faith.

(8)   In this section--

"adult content" means material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen;

"opts-in" means a subscriber notifies the service provider of his or her consent to subscribe to a service that includes adult content."

Comment: Elspeth Howe and Max Mosley

26th January 2013. From Alan

letter writing No, not together, although that might be fun, since the absurd Lady Howe seems to fancy herself as the national dominatrix.

This protecting children crap really needs to be resisted for two reasons.

First, it seeks to protect children by treating everyone as a child.

Secondly, it is deeply insulting and patronising to kids. A little over half a century ago, I became aware that my girl contemporaries were taking on a different, and interesting, shape. I began to research this phenomenon through two types of literature. There were publications designed to assist the amateur and professional photographer , replete with pictures of unclothed ladies, each marked with information like F5.6 at 1/125 - really useful to someone who had used nothing more complex than a box Brownie. And there was Health and Efficiency, designed for a readership of dedicated naturists. The innocence of naturism was emphasised by ensuring that some of the pics contained those most innocent of creatures, children.

I needed no greater subterfuge to buy these magazines than turning up the collar of my mac to cover the tie of my school uniform. I very much hope that the teenage lad of 2014 is sufficiently resourceful to thwart the ridiculous Elspeth Howe's crackpot efforts to protect him from naughty pictures.

Where Mosley is concerned, I have mixed views. While I generally oppose censorship, I'm aware that in this case someone got outed as a spanko, because he was associated with the women, and was sacked as a result. I think the balance here comes down on the side of protecting the identity of sex workers.

Update: Amendment Rejected

See parliamentary transcript from parliament.uk . Thanks to Therumbler

Plenty of peers stepped up to support Elspeth's Howe's proposals for onerous internet censorship but the amendment was defeated by 153 votes to 118 after the Government pointed out that it had decided that the way forwards was an agreement with ISPs for voluntary self regulation and that legally imposed censorship was not part of that agreement (but exists as a future threat should the ISPs not achieve enough of what the government want)

This result rather suggests that Howe's similar private member's bill, The Online Safety Bill, has little chance of proceeding.

Baroness Northover (LD and government spokesperson in the Lords):

lindsay northover The debate on the Bill of the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, was passionate, committed and informed. We all agree, as my noble friend Lord Gardiner, made clear, on our huge concern for the issues that we are discussing. The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and my noble friend Lady Benjamin have made very clear the dangerous implications of exposure to inappropriate online material. We share the common objective to make sure that children and young people are as safe as possible when they are operating online. To answer the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, we support the principles of the amendment, rather than its measures, as she put it.

I read with great interest the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, to the debate on that Bill on 6 December. Responding for the Labour Front Bench, he showed great sympathy, as one would expect, for what the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, was arguing, but he noted,

"it needs more thinking",

and especially,

"to make it fit for purpose and to guard against unintended consequences".--[Official Report, 6/12/13, col. 532.]

He rightly put his finger on our shared desire to counter the risks of the internet, and the difficulty of ensuring that we do so effectively.

My noble friend Lord Lucas has pointed out some of the technological changes which already pose challenges to the way the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, has drawn up her proposals. This field is moving fast, and new social media emerge all the time. It is for that reason that we believe that the best way forward is to challenge the industry, which knows this field best, to engage and to take responsibility. I emphasise strongly that we do not rule out legislation, but right now we believe that the approach that we are taking is likely to be the most effective. An industry-led, self-regulatory approach will have most impact, allow greatest flexibility for innovation and is likely to be faster than any regulatory measures. Legislation can rarely adapt and change quickly enough to respond to the constantly evolving online environment.

We also need to bear in mind the global nature of this industry. That is why it is vital that the industry engages. Self-regulation allows a broad range of interested parties to participate and, due to the global nature of the internet, is the best way for organisations to secure agreement. We remain committed to this. It is already working well, with good progress being made to develop internet safety measures, as noble Lords have referred to.

 

29th January

 Updated: Gagging for Repression...

Government pushes through disgraceful gagging bill that censors a wide range of campaign groups in the run up to a general election
Link Here
House of Commons logo The government has secure a victory against freedom of speech campaigners.

The transparency of lobbying, non-party campaigning and trade union administration bill makes it much harder for charities to get their voices heard during election periods, exactly when their contribution is needed most.

The government's aim was to force small-scale charities, community groups and the like on to a complicated regulatory regime. Such would have been the chilling effect of this law that most local-issue campaigning during elections would have been stifled when it came to election time. No surprise the legislation was dubbed the gagging bill .

As it was, bitter opposition to the proposals finally forced ministers to the negotiating table. Instead of lowering the threshold at which charities must begin reporting their activities to the Electoral Commission watchdog, it was increased to £ 20,000. There were other, smaller retreats too, on how long election time actually means, it was reduced from one year to 7.5 months.

...Read the full article

Update: Gagging Bill Passes

29th January 2013.

House of Lords logo Bar formalities, the Gagging Bill has been now been passed.

It was approved in the House of Lords in a very close vote of  245 Lords in favour and 245 against. Unfortunately the government has the casting vote.

 

25th January

  Disgraceful Clause Dropped...

The Government agrees to abandon Nuisance and annoyance as a reason to grant an ASBO and ultimately to get people jailed for being annoying
Link Here
House of Commons logo Home Office ministers have dropped their attempt to replace antisocial behaviour orders with new injunctions to prevent nuisance and annoyance in the face of widespread criticism and one of the biggest anti-government defeats in the House of Lords .

Peers voted by 306 to 178 earlier this month to back an amendment by the crossbench peer Lord Dear, a former chief constable, who claimed the move could criminalise any nuisance or annoying behaviour in the streets including peaceful protest, street preachers and even carol singers and church bellringers.

The Liberal Democrat Home Office minister, Norman Baker, said he would table amendments that would restore the original Asbo test under which harassment, alarm or distress must be caused before a court can grant an injunction. Baker said:

I have listened to what people said. We will be tabling amendments next Monday to the antisocial behaviour bill which accept Lord Dear's amendment.

The 128-vote defeat in the Lords came after Dear said anyone over the age of 10 could be served with an Ipna, it could last for an indefinite period of time, and it could lead to a prison sentence if breached.

A disparate alliance of 11 charities and civil liberties groups, including Justice, the Christian Institute and the National Secular Society, had all written to the home secretary, Theresa May, urging her to accept Dear's amendment to clause 1 of the antisocial behaviour bill. They had warned it would clog up the courts with needless applications.

 

16th January

 Update: Censorship Without Accountability...

Minority groups meet with MPs to discuss over-blocking by negligent ISP website blocking algorithms
Link Here  full story: David Cameron's Internet Porn Ban...Attempting to ban everything on the internet

House of Commons logo As concern grows that filtering and blocking by internet service providers and mobile companies may be disproportionately targeting minority groups , organisations affected have met with MP's in parliament to assess the scale of the problem and look at ways to make companies that filter more accountable.

Central to the meeting will be claims that filtering systems are disproportionately blocking sites with the least connection to the LGBT community, as well as sites dealing with sex education, violence against women and child abuse.

The meeting also looked at whether the present filtering system is adequately regulated.

The meeting was organised by journalist and campaigner, Jane Fae, who said:

According to David Cameron, filtering is so important that if companies fail to implement it, government is prepared to force them to do so through legislation.

However, this supposedly vital protection for the nation's children has been handed over to a bunch of commercial interests, based for the most part in the United States -- one of just two countries worldwide that refuses to recognise the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

There is no transparency to the solutions applied -- and a strong suspicion that these systems systematically block access to the very sites that vulnerable children most need to access. The excuse that every single block of an LGBT site was a one-off or mistake is beginning to wear thin."

As far as supervision of this system is concerned, that task appears to have been delegated to a sub-committee of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS).

That body, which is heavily skewed towards representing commercial interests and lacks any significant technological expertise in this area has met just once -- some weeks after the new blocking regime was set up.

Government claims that this is an important issue: yet unlike every single other form of censorship in the UK, it is not subject to regulation or independent oversight.

I believe it is time for government to consider the licensing of filtering solutions -- and to refuse licenses to any organisation that fails to explain its filtering adequately or is in breach of basic UK legislation, such as the Equality Act 2010.

Amongst the two dozen organisations that came together to discuss these issues were London Friend and Stonewall, organisations concerned with sex education and abuse, and representatives from relevant trade bodies. MP's Kate Green, Caroline Lucas and John Leech have indicated an interest in this meeting, which was sponsored by Julian Huppert, Lib Dem MP for Cambridge, who opened the meeting by setting out his own views on the subject: it was endorsed by publications GayStarNews and Diva

Extract: What was discussed

16th January 2013. See article from faeinterrupted.wordpress.com by Jane Fae

The following include some of the principle next steps/actions arising from discussion:

- ISP's and mobile operators should be providing a single central point for checking whether something is blocked and by whom

- ISP's and mobile operators should be providing a single central point for objecting to particular blocks

- ISP's/mobile operators should be prepared to open themselves to more techy review of their systems by some of those present and qualified to do so: request to be put back to relevant bodies

...Read the full article

 

13th January

  Bad Lawmaking...

Peers reject the governments disgraceful clause to dole out asbos for mere annoyance
Link Here
House of Lords logo Peers have voted against a disgraceful government proposal under which courts could stop people being annoying in public.

Ministers want to replace anti-social behaviour orders in England and Wales with injunctions that will be inevitably abused by the authorities to prevent nuisance and annoyance (Ipnas).

Courts could impose these on anyone engaging - or threatening to engage - in conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to any person .

But thankfully the government was defeated by 306 to 178 votes in the Lords.

Crossbench peer Lord Dear, who led opposition to the plan, said anyone over the age of 10 could be served with an Ipna, which could last for an indefinite period of time and result in a prison term if breached. He said:

It risks it being used for those who seek to protest peacefully, noisy children in the street, street preachers, canvassers, carol singers, trick-or-treaters, church bell ringers, clay pigeon shooters, nudists

This is a crowded island that we live in and we must exercise a degree surely of tolerance and forbearance.

Campaigners said the laws would not deter those most intent on causing trouble and likely to be committing other offences. Reform Clause 1 campaign director Simon Calvert said:

But it will give massive power to the authorities to seek court orders to silence people guilty of nothing more than breaching political correctness or social etiquette.

Crossbencher Lord Blair of Boughton, a former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said:

This is a piece of absolutely awful legislation and we should seek to avoid it.

Former Labour Attorney General Lord Morris of Aberavon criticised the Home Office for bringing forward ill thought out proposals with little regard for the consequences .

Speaking from cloud cuckoo land, the Home Office ludicrously claimed that the new injunctions, part of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, would never be imposed in an unreasonable way.

The government could seek to reinsert the proposal in the bill later in its passage through the Lords and, if that fails, when it returns to the House of Commons.

Offsite Comment: New Asbo-style Bill Menaces Free Expression

13th January 2013. See  article from  huffingtonpost.co.uk by Peter Tatchell

Last year, the government was outvoted in parliament. Against minister's wishes, MPs repealed the section of the Public Order Act 1986 that outlawed insults ; deeming it to be too sweeping and a threat to freedom of expression.

This year, in apparent revenge, the government has, in effect, reintroduced in the insult prohibition under another name.

...Read the full article

See also Jailed for being ‘annoying’: It could happen in Britain if ministers get their way  from  indexoncensorship.org