Melon Farmers Original Version

Extreme Porn


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23rd December   Government Not Listening

From The Melon Farmers' Forum

Shaun 21-Dec-2005

Just tried to ask the home office about the consultation, and where the responses would be posted, and the email was returned to me.

Subject: `Consultation on possession of extreme pornographic material`
Sent on `Wed, 21 Dec 2005 14:45:36 GMT`
To: `

The above Email has been blocked and has not reached the intended recipient. You are advised to identify and correct the problem or contact your systems administrator or Email service provider for advice.

It seems like their server doesn`t like the word "pornographic" in the Email. It was resent OK with 'pornographic' replaced by 'graphic'

How are they supposed to do their job with this kind of stupid censorship ?

I wonder how many responses have been blocked because of this

IanG 21-Dec-2005

I think such blocking mechanisms demonstrate the levels of infancy in Government departments. There`s nothing `wrong` or `rude` or `offensive` about the word "pornography". Indeed, the word was created by Government ministers to describe "the writings of prostitutes" at the time the OPA 1851 was introduced.

Of course, such a block may have been introduced very recently because the HO are tired of receiving responses to the consultation. Moreso, if as I suspect, the majority do not agree with the Government proposals.

BigAndrew 21-Dec-2005

The Home Office don`t dictate what gets blocked. They are the same as the Dept I work for and the work is carried out by an external supplier. They can of course ask for certain things to be allowed but generally it`s left to the company providing the service.


13th December   A Legal View

Those good people at  and the Spanner Trust got together to get a legal opinion about whether the Government's proposal is compatible with the European Convention of Human Rights

Rabinder Singh, QC, examined the proposal and answered: In conclusion, I consider that the legislation as proposed gives rise to real concerns as to its compatibility with an individual's rights under Articles 8 & 10 of the Convention

See the full opinion: A legal opinion in the matter of the Consultation Paper on the Possession of Extreme Pornographic Material (pdf)


10th December   Wrong Type of Liberty

See Response from Liberty (offsite pdf)

Liberty have historically had scant regard for the liberty to enjoy sexual entertainment. It would seem to be fair enough to target one's cash at areas that they consider more important but I would have thought they could at least have respect for sexual liberty. If anything they seem to support state prohibitions in the sexual arena.

Their response to the Government's consultation is woefully weak. Hopefully it is just symptomatic of spending little time on thinking through the issues rather than an active support for some of the scary consequences.

I wonder how many victims of dawn raids and heavy handed persecutions there will be and whether they will go and knock on Liberty's door and ask for help. Probably get the reply: Sorry mate, wrong type of liberty. We don't believe in SEXUAL liberty.

And as Shaun points out below, their half hearted response will surely be used by the Government to support the repressive proposal. Shameful !

10th December   Dear Liberty people -

Shaun points out some of Liberty's shameful lack of thought

Please read your document at the following web page:

For an organisation dealing in the upholding of our Human Rights, your response to the new wave of repression intended by the government, in their intention to make criminals of those who possess certain forms of extreme adult pornographic material, is utterly *shameful* .

You make no mention of the fact that possession would still be illegal if the works were staged, or faked rather than real, and the government ought to at least be required to PROVE the pictures they wish to criminalise are in fact real. You also do not mention that the government has not exactly specified *exactly* what is, and is not to be prohibited, and you do not mention other visual material which is intended for prohibition.

You should also have noted that the government itself admits in their consultation document that it has NO evidence of harm. As far as I am concerned therefore, no harm = no punishment, and the government are simply prohibiting possession on the grounds of taste alone, which is not acceptable in a free democratic country. Even in the case of works of bestiality, distasteful though they may be, to most, including myself, the proof of harm in most cases, is not forthcoming.

If this is the way you go about upholding our HUMAN RIGHTS in this country, I'd rather you SIMPLY DID NOT BOTHER. Indeed you are probably doing MORE HARM than good, by agreeing that these kind of blatant human rights violations are acceptable.

I am hardly surprised the ECHR (now part of British Law) is an utterly worthless legal instrument, given your support for the governments potential violations of it.

Freedom of expression is a most desirable right, and it is a fundamental right. Any curtailment of it, MUST be proportionate, and necessary, after showing a pressing social need. It should not be given away lightly regardless of how distasteful certain material might be. Only demonstrable evidence of REAL and MANIFEST harm should be justification for restriction. It seems that you people at Liberty disagree with this however.

Even most of the Daily Mail readers, on their internet discussion forums didn't agree with the government's position on this issue. I am very surprised, and shocked to learn of Liberty's position on it.

Perhaps you are all just future government people in waiting, preferring not to rock the boat ? If that's the case it would have been better to say NOTHING rather than give this endorsement of such repression, or leave the business of defending our freedoms to others, who have no fear they might enter the establishment with a track record or history.

You really should be ashamed of your response you know.

It will certainly give the authorities more excuses for battering innocent people's doors down at 4.00AM in the morning..


This new restriction will not be justice, and it will not be liberty.

It will be more repression supported by an organisation bearing the name "Liberty."


29th December   Update : I believe in Liberty BUT...not for sex workers

I spotted another example where Liberty is staffed by people who don't believe in sexual liberty

Labour Home Office minister, Fiona Mactaggart, said that it was wrong to regard those involved in prostitution as sex workers. She said tough measures were needed to tackle the markets for prostitution. I'm not tolerant of the view that prostitution is the oldest profession in the world and there's nothing we can do to reduce it. Prostitution blights communities. We will take a zero tolerance approach to kerb crawling. Men who choose to use prostitutes are indirectly supporting drug dealers and abusers. The power to confiscate driving licences already exists. We want the police to use that power more.

Previously in her career she was the chairperson of Liberty. This must make for a classic: I believe in Liberty BUT ...not for sex workers


9th December   MPs Reply

Perhaps the issue of how Joe Public is expected to know when porn is violent could become the major sticking point as the legislation inevitably goes to Parliament. After all the European Convention of Human Rights requires that laws are defined such that we know when we are breaking them.

From Lib Dem Mark Oaten. MP for Winchester

Thank you for your recent email regarding the current Government consultation on extreme pornography. The Government is proposing a new offence of possessing violent and abusive pornography, punishable by up to three years in prison.

I support sensible measures which protect children from extreme sites. However, the government must avoid creating a nanny state or introducing laws that can't be enforced. One key issue is that the Government clearly needs to provide a very clear and succinct definition of what constitutes violent and abusive pornography. I will continue to work on this issue when legislation is brought to Parliament now the consultation has closed to make sure any measures are sensible and proportionate.

Thank you for contacting me about this important issue.
Yours sincerely
Mark Oaten MP


8th December   Dear Local MP

Assuming that the Home Office has already decided that they will go ahead with their noxious legislation then it is time to consider the next move. As the next step is parliamentary debate then it seems logical to start sounding out of our MPs. I wonder how many of them have close friends or family who are secret downloaders who could be liable for prison. Quite a few I would have thought.

My local MP is actually David Lepper, one of the architects of this nasty idea. Strangely I first came across his name in connection with Liberty in Brighton. How easily politicians succumb to a jerking knee!

Thanks to Michael who has started the ball rolling with his submission.

Dear Mr Murphy

I am writing to you with some rather grave concerns regarding fundamental flaws in the proposed legislation to criminalise 'extreme' pornography, and the activities of a certain group called 'Mediawatch'.

Firstly the proposed legislation, which is, until the end of this week, still at the consultation stage. As I'm sure you are aware, the legislation plans to criminalise the viewing and possession of so called 'extreme' pornography, punishing transgressors with prison sentences of up to 3 years. Whilst I must stress that the material the government are seeking to legislate against is absolutely not to my own taste, one must appreciate the need for tolerance of other people's individual tastes and sexual orientation, and if they are not doing any harm to anyone, surely any legislation which would seek to criminalise them has absolutely no place in a democratic society. Pornographic material involving paedophilia, or for that matter any material where people are being exploited or hurt against their will, absolutely should be banned. However, the vast range of material which is proposed to be included within this legislation (including safe practices between consenting adults such as bondage) will almost certainly cause a great number of people to unwittingly fall foul of the law. Given the way in which a PC stores files, even someone who has accidentally visited an illegal website could potentially be criminalised, prosecuted and imprisoned.

As to the legislation itself, it is stupefyingly vague and riddled with irregularities. If the legislation itself cannot define in no uncertain terms what type of material is to be included, how on earth can the average person be expected to judge for themselves? It would appear that judging would take place on the basis of personal taste, which as we are all aware differs greatly from person to person, leaving much scope for inconsistency within the law. The legislation, at least in it's current state, does not even seem to have any understanding whatsoever of the term 'consent', nor does it seem able or willing to make the distinction between fantasy and reality in relation to the type of material it seeks to outlaw.

Looking ahead to a time when this legislation may become law, what will inevitably start to happen is that people who have never before committed a crime would quite literally be criminalised overnight. The numbers could quite easily run into tens of thousands, and if you think that this is an over-estimation, imagine how many loving couples regularly enjoy activities in the privacy of their own homes which could be affected by this legislation. Three years imprisonment would certainly lead to divorce, the loss of homes, destruction of family units and even suicides. If the issue of extreme pornography is such a threat to this country, then surely more effort should be made to eliminate it at source rather than simply making the viewing of it a crime? I can also envisage a huge influx of court cases involving people claiming to have had their basic human rights violated by being arrested simply for viewing this material. In a democratic society, where all minority groups must be seen to be treated fairly and equally, legislation simply cannot be concocted to single out certain groups for persecution. This is almost certainly what will happen. Thousands of otherwise innocent people will be negatively affected by this legislation as it stands at the moment - there is no getting away from this.

I think that some very fundamental issues are raised by pressing for this legislation which require a much closer look at the people who are pushing for it and their motives for doing so. This legislation came about because of the murder of June Longhurst by a man who was supposedly hooked on violent internet pornography, and one must feel the deepest sympathy for the grieving relatives she left behind. However, as the only evidence which links her murder to the issue of violent pornography are the hysterical headlines of sensation hungry journalists, this is hardly the basis upon which to be making far-reaching decisions involving the law. The main pressure to ban violent pornography seems to have come from newspapers and a pressure group called Mediawatch UK, and I have grave concerns regarding the true motives of both, but more especially the latter, who appear, in no uncertain terms, to have hijacked this campaign for their own ends.

For example, John Beyer, on the Mediawatch website, has already stated that he feels that the list of material covered by this legislation is far too limited and should be extended to include material classified 18R by the BBFC. He states that "The penalty appropriate for these new offences should be a minimum of three years imprisonment with heavy fines and confiscation of assets...". This could easily extend the number of 'overnight criminals' caught up in it's wake by a few million if it does get extended to include 18R rated pornography. What could possibly be the justification for this? As for the heavy fines and confiscation of assets, who exactly will this money benefit? It can't possibly be the victim's families when the crime in question has no victim. How can any organisation such as Mediawatch that claims to be acting for the greater good possibly justify wanting to send innocent people to prison because their private bedroom activities do not fall into a category that is morally acceptable by their standards? The proposed legislation is obviously already being seen by Mediawatch as 'the thin end of the wedge', and if they are successful this time, then pressure for further censorship will inevitably follow. And if they are successful in helping introduce laws which actively discriminate against certain kinds of sexual orientation, what could follow; pressure to legislate against certain religions? Or races?

Anyone who enjoys the freedom of living in a democracy must find the implications of this absolutely horrifying. Where will it end? Being that they contain "realistic scenes of sexual violence, staged or otherwise", could people be sent to prison for up to 3 years for owning DVDs of critically acclaimed and BBFC certified movies such as 'A History of Violence', 'Irreversible', 'Salo' or even the Oscar winning drama 'The Accused'? It obviously doesn't matter to Mr. Beyer, who apparently thinks nothing of flying in the face of the BBFC, who despite having over eighty years experience of classifying films, are clearly not up to the task in his opinion. A supposedly non-political organisation such as Mediawatch, run by such a small number and narrow representation of the general public should never have been allowed to have so much influence in matters of government. Mediawatch UK should be more stringently regulated, and like the BBFC itself, should be made to be more publically accountable to the whole spectrum of the UK's population seeing that it so clearly exerts such an influence.

I have no doubt that Mediawatch, as an organisation, were founded upon a decent set of principles, with the greater good of the general public at heart. However, it would appear that this is no longer the case when such a vast number of the general public could be very seriously and negatively affected by legislation brought about by their actions. As an organisation, Mediawatch have every right to campaign to have something banned if its members find it offensive. However, they DO NOT have the right, as a non-political organisation, to determine government legislation, attempt to undermine a government-accountable body such as the BBFC, and more importantly, they absolutely DO NOT have the right to decide amongst themselves what sentence should be imposed upon those who would fall foul of this new legislation. Sexual preferences, government legislation concerning such matters and the sentencing imposed by courts upon transgressors of the law are no business whatsoever of an organisation which concerns itself primarily with maintaining standards within the media. If Mediawatch UK were going about their business appropriately they would be seeing to it that minority groups of all kinds are not offended or misrepresented by anything the media in general is doing. They most certainly should not be actively encouraging the persecution of certain groups of people simply because they do not agree with their way of life. There is a word for this type of behaviour - it's called facism. Whether it masquerades behind a mask of religion, morality or anything else, it is no different in essence to the policies of extremist groups like the BNP, which have no place in a democratic society.

Which is why I propose that the activities of Mediawatch UK be brought under control, through legislation if necessary, so that they are more accountable to the general public AS A WHOLE. For a non-political organisation, they are exerting far too much influence in matters of government, and with high ranking members with views as extreme as John Beyer, they are a very real threat to freedom of speech, equality and civil liberties in this country.

In short, if the aforementioned legislation comes into effect, it will send out a number of clear messages to the vast majority of this country's population:

1. That we are no longer living in a democracy.
2. That it is perfectly acceptable to legislate against certain minority groups on the whims of a very small number of people with unacceptably extreme political views.
3. That a higher prison sentence for viewing violent pornographic material than actually committing an act of violence yourself is legally right and morally acceptable.
4. That media-fuelled witch hunts founded on intolerance are also perfectly acceptable.
5. That this Government can no longer decide it's own policies, but instead must rely on pressure from dubious non-political organisations to help create the country's legislation.
6. That crime, terrorism, binge drinking, violence, drugs, teenage pregnancy, the struggling NHS, the woefully inadequate transport system, ridiculously expensive house prices, the pensions crisis, the recent economic downturn, compensation culture, benefit fraud and bullying in schools are nowhere near as important to this Government as creating overnight criminals of a huge number of otherwise innocent people.
7. That this Government have no qualms about wasting enormous amounts of public money.
8. That religious bigotry and intolerance is alive and well in 21st century Britain.

Are these really the messages that you want to be sending out to people?


6th December

updated 7th December

 John 'Concentration Camp' Beyer

See Response from John "Concentration Camp" Beyer of Mediawatch-UK

From the Mediawatch-UK response to the Government consultation on the possession of violent pornography.

We agree that the possession of material listed in paragraph 39 of the consultation should be illegal but this list is too limited and should be extended to include material listed by the BBFC as suitable for classification at ‘R18’.

The penalty appropriate for these new offences should be a minimum of three years imprisonment with heavy fines and confiscation of assets and destruction of the guilty person’s pornographic articles, computer and/or video and DVD copying equipment. Penalties should also be available for those who upload such images, Internet Service Providers who host it and telecommunications companies who allow access to it.

Did I read something in the bible along the lines of : If thy neighbour's private bedroom pleasures offend you, then pluck out his eyes and send him to prison for three years?

Even if it does not appear quite like this in the bible I believe that it must have been an error in translation and the sense was indeed as above.

I simply cannot believe the depths of intolerance and persecution that supposedly religious people are descending to. How can any civilised person wish a 3 year prison sentence on the totally harmless bedroom activities of say a couple of million people.

It is about time religious bosses got their act together and stopped their religion from being hijacked by warmongers, torturers, child molestors, terrorists, violent mobs and Mediawatch-UK.

7th December   Update : Dan Writes

Dear Melon Farmers,

The attitude of Mediawatch UK and John Beyer towards pornography and R18 rated material shows how power hungry this pressure groups has become.

When the National Viewers and Listeners Association was set up in the 1960s by Mary Whitehouse it was designed to give a voice to viewers concerned over violent and sexual content on TV. You could debate the rights and wrongs over Whitehouse's "clean up TV" campaign but at least she was well meaning and concerned for her fellow man and woman.

Contrast this with John Beyer and the NVALA's new guise Mediawatch UK and see what a bunch of heartless dictators they are.

They have gone from an organisation that was maybe misguided but had it's heart in the right place to an organisation that is just plain vicious and wants to have their fellow men and women persecuted and punished by law for merely watching things they disapprove of.

They would happily see people thrown into jail simply for watching sex on screen. Innocent people simply enjoying watching consensual sex which is doing no harm to anyone else.

The chances are that someone on their road could be watching sex on screen, would they want their homes raided by the police and for them to be locked up for three years?

John Beyer says that sex is a "private matter" yet he wishes the law to interfere with this "private matter" in the most draconian way!

Let's hope the law does not sympathise with the Mediawatchers and prevents John Beyer and other so called moral guardians from sticking their noses in OUR HOMES!


4th December   Extremely Little More Time


It's probably posted elsewhere but the time limit to the Government consultation has been extended by about a week.. so if you missed the post today...never fear!

Manniq rang up as he was getting close to deadline and they said that was the case.


24th November  Extreme Stretching of Remit

The use of the phrase: extreme pornographic material; especially where it depicts particularly violent behaviour, bears out the worrying that the Home Office have got their sights set on fisting/urolagnia etc not just the violent pornography talked about in the consultation paper

I am starting to think they are going to extend the definitions to make all 'obscene' material imprisonable to own. After all it sounds like Customs have told them this is what they want. And it seems to be a current fad that the police/customs are able to influence lawmakers to pander to their convenience at the moment.


The following is the response my MSP received from Cathy Jamieson, Minister for Justice: Thank you for your letters of 2/11/5 to the Home Secretary and me, on behalf of your constituent,............

I am sure you will appreciate concerns about the availability of extreme pornographic material; especially where it depicts particularly violent behaviour.

In recent years advances in technology, particularly the use if the internet, has meant that we need to review the effectiveness of the legal framework governing extreme pornography. The sale and distribution of the type of material being considered in the consultation would be unlawful under the law as it stands. Indeed, the law may have to be strengthened owing to the easy availability of this material via the internet. We are therefore considering whether possession of such material should be an offence, as well as the distribution of it.

24th November   Extreme Stretching of Remit

The use of the phrase: extreme pornographic material; especially where it depicts particularly violent behaviour, bears out the worrying that the Home Office have got their sights set on fisting/urolagnia etc not just the violent pornography talked about in the consultation paper

I am starting to think they are going to extend the definitions to make all 'obscene' material imprisonable to own. After all it sounds like Customs have told them this is what they want. And it seems to be a current fad that the police/customs are able to influence lawmakers to pander to their convenience at the moment.


The following is the response my MSP received from Cathy Jamieson, Minister for Justice: Thank you for your letters of 2/11/5 to the Home Secretary and me, on behalf of your constituent,............

I am sure you will appreciate concerns about the availability of extreme pornographic material; especially where it depicts particularly violent behaviour.

In recent years advances in technology, particularly the use if the internet, has meant that we need to review the effectiveness of the legal framework governing extreme pornography. The sale and distribution of the type of material being considered in the consultation would be unlawful under the law as it stands. Indeed, the law may have to be strengthened owing to the easy availability of this material via the internet. We are therefore considering whether possession of such material should be an offence, as well as the distribution of it.


24th November   Petitioning for a Nasty Law

Well I wouldn't like anyone in my family remembered for provoking a law that locks up otherwise totally innocent people for 3 years for simply viewing pictures where nobody has done anything illegal whatsoever.

From the BBC

Liz Longhurst is to hand in more than 50,000 signatures to the House of Commons calling on MPs to ban violent internet porn. She said new laws would represent a wonderful memorial to her daughter, Jane, who was killed in 2003.

Distributing extreme pornography is illegal in the UK but material from abroad is still accessible through websites and it is not an offence to possess it.

Longhurst said: If we are successful in changing the law this will represent a wonderful memorial to my beloved daughter Jane who may still have been with us had her killer not been able to access these sickening internet images, which fuelled his dangerous fantasies.

The Home Office and Scottish Executive have been consulting on whether new laws are needed and what should be covered. They have proposed making it an offence to download and possess violent and abusive porn.

Longhurst's MP, Martin Salter, added:
This campaign has taken a huge amount of time and effort but it has struck a chord right across the country and this massive petition demonstrates the strength of feeling behind our demand to clean up the internet. We are now pretty confident that the government is serious about bringing forward proposals to change the law to treat violent internet pornography in the same way as child pornography."


23rd November   BBFC Response

The BBFC make some excellent points in their response. However it concentrates very much on the difficulties for the enforcing/prosecuting authorities in interpreting the very loose definitions in the proposals. This rather misses one fundamental point. Given that it is law persecuting internet downloaders not internet publishers, then if the authorities cannot define whether an offence has been committed, then how on earth can joe public expected to decide for himself.

The Home Office have proposed a law where it will be impossible for Internet users to decide for themselves what is illegal and what is not. I agree with Shaun,  we need criminal sanctions including prison for law makers that generate laws that so fundamentally trample on human rights.

Press release from the BBFC


 The BBFC today published its response to the Home Office’s consultation on the possession of extreme pornography.  Whilst sharing the Home Office’s view that the easy availability of extreme pornography which features a lack of consent, serious violence, or both, is a cause for real concern, the BBFC has raised a number of questions about how the proposed legislation would work in practice.

 The Board’s main concerns are as follows:

  •  How would enforcement agencies judge whether the primary purpose of the work was sexual arousal?  Separating the ‘pornographic’ from the ‘non pornographic’ is becoming more rather than less difficult as film makers borrow styles images and themes from both sides of the divide.
  • It may be difficult to frame the various definitions in a way which ensures that mainstream material is not unintentionally captured.
  • Perceptions of whether an activity appears to be real will vary from viewer to viewer.
  • It is proposed that cartoons should be excluded, but given the advances in CGI technology cartoons can look very realistic and the Board has cut or banned violent pornographic Japanese anime.
  • The definitions of material such as sex with animals or a human corpse are wider than the definitions in the Sexual Offences Act 2003.   
  • Geographical variations in attitudes could lead to the anomalies which existed during the ‘video nasties’ era of the early 1980s as well as with current Obscene Publications Act (OPA) prosecutions with courts in different parts of the country returning different verdicts in relation to the same material.  
  • The legislation could lead to a reluctance to create legitimate works which seek to explore the nature and effect of outlawed material for fear that the research materials or even the resulting works will be caught by the legislation.

 The BBFC would like to see works classified by the BBFC specifically excluded from prosecution under the proposed legislation.  This would help ensure that material not intended to be covered would not be prosecuted and would also allow the public to be confident that they would not face possible prosecution for owning material as long as it was classified by the BBFC.  The BBFC also suggests that the legislation should include a ‘public good’ defence along the lines of that available to defendants under the OPA.  In addition the legislation could reduce the risk of confusion about whether to prosecute by requiring the Crown Prosecution Service to take account of the views of relevant authorities such as the BBFC.

 The BBFC takes the issue of sexual violence very seriously and research and our own public opinion polling tells us that material which would fall short of that covered by the proposed legislation is of concern.  An unintentional consequence of the proposed legislation could be that only the type of material which is specified on the face of the Act would come to be deemed to be harmful.  This could have the effect, not only of undermining the OPA, but of unintentionally undermining the BBFC’s classification Guidelines.  We would therefore welcome confirmation that the proposal should not be taken as a reason for the BBFC to liberalise its sexual violence policy.

 The BBFC has over 90 years’ experience of regulating the moving image and in its response to this consultation has offered it expertise to the Home Office.  Copies of the Board’s response can be found at:


22nd November   Light on the Truth

So how come the Home Office are planning to lock people up for 3 years for merely watching spanking videos? Hardly what I would call a light touch, more like a CIA torture interrogation

From The Register

Light-touch regulation, minimal legislation and a close working relationship with business is the answer to the net's problems, not least child pornography, according to UK secretary of state for trade Alun Michael.

Speaking to us at the World Summit, where he was the UK government's most senior representative, Michael said that working with industry on the child porn issue in particular had achieved more in one year that legislation could have done in five - and at minimal cost.

" Light regulation is the way forward. And a partnership between government and industry, and government and the voluntary sector. If you get those relationships right, you can get further than with a top-down regulatory approach. It’s not a soft approach, in many ways it’s a tough approach, but it’s one built on building relationships, building confidence and moving forward together."

It was in government's own interest to work with business and civil society, rather than attempt to deal with the internet and the problems it throws up with new laws, he said. Convergence of technologies makes it very difficult to have a rigid approach to regulation and to government. There are things that need to be dealt with - issues like international terrorism and child pornography - but our approach is light-touch regulation in co-operation with industry wherever possible. And we shouldn’t have regulation that anticipates problems that may never arise. Flexibility is very important.

As to the issue of human rights and freedom of expression on the internet, which also became a big topic at the summit, Michael declined to expand on the UK's official representations to the Tunisian government, stating only that:
Freedom of the internet is very important to us, and we have made that clear both on behalf of the EU and UK in the build-up to the conference and during it.


21st November   A Shoddy Consultation

From mail forum at

Dear Pio Smith (Home Office Consultation Coordinator)

Re Consultation: On the Possession of Extreme Pornographic Material August 2005

On behalf of the Spanner Trust, I am making a formal complaint about the conduct of the above consultation.

The Spanner Trust was established in 1995 and defends the rights of sadomasochists of all sexual orientations and specifically campaigns to reverse the UK court ruling in R v Brown and Others (1992)

This consultation appears to contravene the Cabinet Office Code of Practice on Consultations (summarised in Annex D of the consultation) in a number of ways. In particular:

  1. There have been no informal discussions of the content of this document with
    relevant stakeholders.
  2. The Home Office has failed to send the consultation document to appropriate
  3. No list of consultees was attached, so it was not apparent who had been consulted and when one of the Trustees telephoned the Home Office to make an enquiry was informed that no one other than the Metropolitan Police had been consulted.
  4. If attempts to find consultees are still ongoing (Annex C, 10), the consultation period will be less than the statutory 12 weeks.
  5. The consultation does not properly seek to gather evidence, nor does it invite challenge to its premises.
  6. The questions asked are leading and alternatives to regulation are notconsidered.

Firstly, the range of organisations contacted in the consultation process has been ridiculously narrow. I am not aware of any non government organisations who have been involved in informal consultation prior to the release of this document. This is hardly wide consultation ‘throughout the process’. In particular, it conflicts with the statements in the Code that

  • 1.1 Consultation is a continuous process that needs to be started early in the policy
    development process.
  • 1.2 It is important to identify proactively relevant interested parties and those whom the policy will be likely to affect. These groups should be contacted and engaged in discussion as early as possible in the policy development process.
  • 1.3 Informal consultation with these stakeholders should be conducted prior to the written consultation period. Not only does this lead to a more informed consultation exercise but it also ensures that stakeholders are engaged early and have a better understanding of the policy.

From Appendix C paragraph 10, the formal consultation document appears to have been sent to a very small range of organisations. Notable exclusions include the Liberal Democrats, Feminists against Censorship, Ofwatch, women’s organizations, victim support organizations, gay and lesbian organizations including Stonewall, youth, social, and probation workers academics such as psychologists and psychiatrists notably the British Psychological Society, representatives of the special hospitals such as Broadmoor, Liberty, Amnesty, and other civil rights organizations, BDSM and Fetish organizations such as Spanner Trust, SM Pride, SM Gays and SM Dykes, Skin Two Magazine and any trade magazines that filmmakers and others read.

The Trust only became aware of this consultation after it had been published and reported in the media when one of the Trustees followed up the news report by looking at the Home Office website. However, all of the Trust’s details are in the possession of the Home Office. The Trust submitted a response to the consultation document dealing with the Reform of the Law on Sexual Offences entitled “Setting the Boundaries” which was carried out in July 2000 and when the subsequent Sexual Offences Bill was passing through Parliament made a Submission to the Home Office and has subsequently had correspondence on the proposed amendment which the Trust sought to make with Lord Falconer the then Minister of State and his successor Baroness Scotland of Asthal QC.

I have to say that the consultation exercise into the Reform of Sexual Offences in July 2000 was extremely well and professionally carried out and, indeed, I recall that in our opening remark in our response we commended the Home Office. It was a paradigm of how to do a consultation. The contrast with this consultation on the possession of extreme pornographic material could not be more extreme. This must be the model which should be shown at Civil Servants Colleges up and down the country as to how not to conduct a consultation process. Some of my fellow Trustees are absolutely incensed that the Trust was not consulted and I would very much like to know whether this was due to downright incompetence on the part of the civil servants concerned or whether it was a deliberate decision not to inform us knowing that the Trust would certainly oppose the proposals in the very strongest possible manner.

The Code requires that the Home Office:

  • 2.6 Provide a list of consultees as an annexe to your consultation document and ask
    for suggestions of other interested parties who should be consulted. It may also be
    helpful to refer to any earlier or informal consultation.

This has not been done, nor has a name and telephone number to direct responses been supplied as required in 2.8 of the code. It is not clear if you perform this role as well as being a general consultations coordinator.

The Code also says:

  • 1.8 Some stakeholders, for example small businesses, children, consumers and those from minority communities, may be particularly difficult to reach. It is important to engage proactively with individuals, organisations and trade associations. Written consultation is not the only or even always the most effective means of consultation. Other forms of consultation may help in this process. These might include:

• stakeholder meetings;
• public meetings;
• web forums;
• public surveys;
• focus groups;
• regional events; and
• targeted leaflet campaigns.

It appears that the Home Office has made no attempt to reach people involved in the wide range of consensual activities that may fall under or be affected by this legislation. It should be noted that making viewing of one, poorly-defined, category of material illegal will have knock-on effects on businesses providing similar but legal material, because of the fear factor involved. As such people have been completely ignored, the partial Regulatory Impact Analysis is totally inadequate.

Such methods would need to have been used to reach those in minority communities, such as pornography viewers, actors and actresses and vendors, attendees of fetish clubs, vendors of BDSM equipment, and the wider BDSM community. While these people engage in activities that some find distasteful, this is no reason for not consulting them about the effects legislation may have on consenting, private activities. There are UK BDSM web communities such as which could have been approached as well as events such as the monthly London Fetish Fair as well as organizations which meet regularly such as SM Gays and SM Dykes who no doubt could have led your colleagues to other means to access these minority BDSM communities who are impacted by your proposed policy.

It is also not apparent what attempts the Home Office has made to reach a representative range of individuals in the entertainment and internet industries or ‘wider business community’ such as the Adult Trades Association or Ann Summers or Harmony, etc.

The consultation document itself admits that the list of contacts is not complete despite the 12 week consultation period having commenced. This is not acceptable as future contacts will have less than 12 weeks to compose a response.

Finally, paragraph 11 of Annex C says that: The consultation process should help develop the evidence base for the options outlined in the proposal.

The questions being asked are clearly leading and do not encourage other options to be explored or for assumptions to be challenged. This is in breach of the Code of Practice, which states:

  • 2.1 Ask focused questions, and be clear about the areas of policy on which you are seeking views. Responses that do not refer to the specific questions asked should still be accepted. Encourage respondents to provide evidence, where appropriate, to support their responses.
  • 2.2 Explicitly state any assumptions made about those who are likely to be affected by the proposed policy. Encourage respondents to challenge these assumptions.
  • 2.3 As far as possible, consultation should be completely open, with no options ruled out. However, if there are things that cannot be changed because, for example, they are part of a European Directive or due to prior Ministerial commitments, then make this clear. The risks and consequences of doing nothing should be outlined.

In particular, alternatives to regulation are not considered.

This conflicts with the Five Principles of Good Regulation, which state that regulation should be:

  • Proportionate: Regulators should only intervene when necessary. Remedies should be appropriate to the risk posed, and costs identified and minimised.
  • Accountable: Regulators must be able to justify decisions, and be subject to public scrutiny.
  • Consistent: Government rules and standards must be joined up and implemented fairly.
  • Transparent: Regulators should be open, and keep regulations simple and user friendly.
  • Targeted: Regulation should be focused on the problem, and minimise side effects.

Options ignored here would include:

  • an educational campaign for parents to keep internet access in pubic areas of their home, and what to teach their children to keep them safe on the net
  • education for the public on not clicking on everything they see on their screens
  • work with ISPs and internet monitoring companies to combat spam emails and rogue pop-up software
  • work with credit card and money transfer companies internationally to combat trade in images of crimes,
  • actions to help police clamp down on non-consensual actions that are then put on the internet, cf ‘happy-slapping’

Given these serious failures in enabling stakeholder involvement in formulating policy, I request that you

  •  extend the deadline for this consultation until an appropriate range of stakeholders have been consulted and have had time to respond
  • supply me with the list of those government organisations and non government organisations and individuals who have been involved in negotiation on this subject to date
  • supply me with the full list of people to whom this consultation document was initially sent by the Home Office of their own volition.
  • supply me with the evidence the Government has used to decide legislation is necessary, including any evidence that there is any demand/supply cycle as alleged in the consultation document.
  • explain why the Trust was not included in preliminary informal consultations.

Thank you for your consideration.

Yours faithfully
John Pendal
The Spanner Trust


17th November   Violent Porn Legislation Could be Passed without Parliamentary Debate

From mail forum at

If the consultation document is approved by the secretary of state because there were no real objections then it gets added to the Schedule to 3 to the Sexual Offenders Act 2003 It does not even go before parliament for discussion!!!!!

The Sexual Offenders Act is an encompassing act which allows additional regulations to be added as a government sees fit. This is the same as the Health & Safety at Work act where additional regulations can be added to affect workplaces without any consultation in parliament.

Manniq replied:

I mentioned it at the outset but felt it was a low possibility. However, the Government can always, if powers already exist in a particular Act, just use that Act to extend those powers.

I think the view we took back then was that it would be extraordinary for such a major change to legal principles to be rammed through like this - although I have to say that by now next to nothing would surprise me of this government.

My own sense is that the fact that they have mooted such very different approaches (including extension of the OPA and creation of a new offense) suggests that they are not clear enough about the way to go - so they would need some debate.


16th November   Dutch Sense

From Nachovx on the bgafd forum

Translated from

Dutch Minister fights sexual violence censorship plans : No ban on possession extreme porn

Minister Donner (Justice Dept.) has no intention of criminalising the downloading and viewing of extreme porn. This involves pictures of sex with animals and extreme sexual violence spread through the internet. A clear rejection of such material is wanted, but that is not what the law is meant for, says the (Christian Democrat) Minister. He said on Thursday in a response to written parliamentary questions by Van deStaaij MP (SGP) in a reaction to a British proposal to ban extreme pornography.

According to Donner there are several problems with such laws. In practice it would be difficult to enforce, as the acts occur in the private sphere. That incurs the threat of symbolic legislation. Gruesome porn The SGP was surprised by the "very withholding and lukewarm" reaction of Donner. Van der Staaij finds it incomprehensible that the Ministers believes criminal law is not meant to reject gruesome pornography.

The SGP will soon raise the issue when the budget of the Justice Department is discussed in parliament. Abused The faction points out the "beastly practices" occur in the Netherlands well, like in 2004 in the so called Kraggenburger Porn case. In that case a criminal gang had abused and assaulted three young African women in a small village in Flevoland. Amongst others, the victims were forced into acts of bestiality. Also, there had been plans of making a so called snuff movie, in which a victim is actually raped or killed in front of the camera Prison sentences The 37yo prime suspect in the case, according to the Pieter Baan Centruma psychopath, was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment by the Flevoland court last month. Other gang members had already received sentences of 5and 10 years.


10th November

update 11th November

update 15th November

  Extreme Shift in the Consultation Remit

A published response to the Home Office consultation concludes with the statement below. Certainly is a massive shift in proceedings that would seem to invalidate all the questions asked by the Home Office.

If the assertion is correct then the Home Office would be considering the nastiest piece of censorial legislation in the history of the UK. Perhaps they are joining John Beyer in considering the need for concentration camps to house the victims of the Government's crimes against humanity.

On the other hand there still may may be an incorrect inference somewhere. 

From Inquisition 21st Century

And just in case you are wondering exactly what is going to be banned under this new legislation, I have the complete list here (in simplified format obtained under the Freedom of Information Act). Note this list is by no means comprehensive as the Home Office Legal Department are adding categories and clauses all the time but it gives you an idea of how wide ranging this is:

  • Asphyxia. Where the person is being choked in order to gain sexual pleasure.
  • Bestiality. Sexual acts between humans and animals.
  • Bondage. Tying a person in an unnatural position for sexual gratification where the participant is unable to withdraw their consent (for example they are gagged).
  • Corporal Punishment. Inflicting pain on another person
  • Cruelty to animals. Includes organised dog fighting, bear baiting, badger baiting, cock fighting. Also ‘crush’ material which features humans stamping on vertebrates or standing on them with increased pressure until they are crushed.
  • Defecation. Voiding excrement from the bowels.
  • Enemas. Flushing the bowels with water, usually to drink the product or torture the victim.
  • Fisting. (anal or vaginal) Inserting a fist in the anus or vagina for sexual gratification.
  • Insertion of an object. Only where the insertion clearly inflicts pain.
  • Menstrual Blood. Sex between adults where the female is menstruating heavily and the blood is being smeared on the body or the used tampon is being sucked etc. This does not include post-intercourse depictions where a small amount of blood can be seen on the participants.
  • Necrophilia. Sexual intercourse with a corpse.
  • Sado-masochism. Sadists achieve sexual pleasure through inflicting torture and humiliation upon another person. Masochists desire maltreatment as a means of sexual gratification.
  • Scatology. Depictions indicating a general interest in excrement such as smearing or eating of excrement.
  • Urolagnia. The act of urination in the context of any of the following where a person is shown:
    urinating at the same time as they are engaged in a sexual act. The urination and sexual act must be seen at the same time. The sexual act includes those such as fellatio (oral sex) and masturbation which would not be obscene if shown without urination; smearing urine on themselves or another;
    urinating on another person; being urinated upon;
    drinking urine.
  • Violence (non-simulated). Scenes of actual violence or mutilation shown in an exploitative context where they are not part of a legitimate documentary. For example a compilation of newsreel footage concentrating solely on scenes of violence or mutilation. This would also cover scenes of actual sexual assault including rape.
  • Violence (simulated). Scenes of simulated sexual violence such as rape shown in an exploitative context where the activity is graphically depicted and clearly intended to appear non-consensual. This excludes scenes contained in serious dramatic films.
11th November
Customs Wish List

Update Thanks to Shaun & Paul

It would seem that the above list probably originated from HM Customs. As to the likelihood that this sort of list will be included in the final legislation its anybodies guess but it must be considered a distinct possibility at the very least.

Paul said that he received the following comment from a contact of mine concerning the new anti porn law proposals:

When I asked a senior officer in Custom`s legal department she didn`t disagree, in fact she said it would make their lives easier as it provided clarity as to what we will or will not be allowed to import. Hence the list they produced for the Home Office of things that they`d like to see banned and which will, you mark my words become the standard for this new law. And it goes A LOT further than we've been told, either by the ministers or in the consultation paper.

Shaun asked  the Home Office about the list and received the following response. I guess that the HM Customs submission would still fit the bill

Have checked that link and see the list to which you refer.

As I said previously, the only list we have considered for the purposes of the consultation is that in the consultation document. I am also unaware of any FOI request to the HO about the consultation document list so it is a mystery to me. As I say it is unclear where that list has come from.

Clearly, it is the sort of list that people may ask to consider in their responses, in the same way that others don't want any list.


15th November   Cause for Extreme Concern

Thanks to  Inquisition 21st Century

I can now confirm that the above list of material does in fact originate from Customs. However a few background pointers do give credence to the possibility that it can be included in any legislation that the Home Office will draw up.

It seems that Customs were assigned the job of drawing up a list as they are considered as experts in this area. They clearly would like to see its inclusion as it would provide 'clarity' for material to seize.

A worrying interpretation is that the Home Office have been banging on about inconsistency and a gap in the law.

At the moment Customs may seize material on the list if found imported in the physical form of a DVD or magazine. The Obscene Publications Act can be used to prohibit any trade of similar material within the country and also of UK website content. However there is currently no law against downloading the same material from overseas sites via the internet.  In fact if Customs somehow intercepted a download of say a fisting video then they could nothing about it legally. Furthermore, this legal downloading could even be used to challenge and undermine the seizure of physical material. A seizure victim could ask how can this fisting DVD be considered obscene when the same movie is legal when streamed to your PC.

In fact the original premise of discussions in Parliamentary committee was how to ban the importation of this material from overseas. If the Home Office want to bring enforcement into line with what customs are seizing at present through the mail, the only way they can do it was to ban the ownership and frighten people into not downloading it. The Home Office spin has been to continually emphasise the link between the enforcement of violent porn prohibition with that of strong approach to child porn. Perhaps this is a deliberate addition to the climate of fear angle.

Having thought about the Government's perceived need to maintain controls on merely obscene material such as fisting, I am now convinced, that one way or another, HM Custom's list will somehow find its way into any legislation that results from the current consultation.

Definitely Cause for Extreme Concern.

I wonder if during the consultation there will be respondents that magically conjure up suggestions, similar to Customs, ie that the list should be extended to cover obscene material. The Government could then say that they are merely responding to suggestions. Perhaps they could even say that they have found a compromise half way to John Beyer's wish for concentration camp Britain.


5th November   More Harm than Good

Good work from DarkAngel5 who writes to the Home Office. From The Melon Farmers' Forum

Dear Sirs
With regards to your consultation on the proposals to make possession of "Extreme Pornographic Material" a criminal offence, I would like to put forward the following points.

Whilst I have no interest in such material and find it all thoroughly distasteful, I feel I must speak out in opposition to these proposals. It seems that the government is trying to criminalise matters of “taste” as there is no evidence what-so-ever to suggest that viewing such material is harmful, that the persons involved are actually being harmed, or that it has a corrupting influence on those who choose to look at it, unpleasant as it may be.

I have been an avid anti-censorship campaigner for many years, owing to my love of horror films. Of which, I have my own review site and am a regular contributor to cult-movie publications such as “Vengeance magazine”, so have an active interest in all matters of censorship, be it state-imposed or otherwise.

Having read through your proposals I therefore feel that on balance they go too far. Unless there is any proof that the persons actually involved in the images were non-consenting, then no harm is being done and no action should be taken.

Perhaps the most worrying part of the proposals I can see are the wider implications to ordinary members of the public these will have. Whilst you claim that the proposals are not there to criminalise people who view such material by accident, or are inadvertently exposed to it, I fear that this will not be the case.

There have been many people who have been prosecuted for inadvertently possessing child porn images, because they were unfortunate enough to have bought second hand computer equipment with the offending images already on the hard drive. Or similarly because images were found in their computers “internet browser cache”, as somebody else had been using their PC to look at illegal sites without the owners knowledge/consent.

It therefore follows that if possession of “extreme pornographic material” becomes a criminal offence, then people will similarly be charged and prosecuted simply for having images on their computers which were the result of a third person, or through accidentally having images in their internet browser cache from inadvertently viewing a site whilst looking through the many mainstream “adult” sites, as many of these cater for all sorts of tastes.

Another detrimental affect of this proposed law is that many cult movies, such as “I Spit on Your Grave” or “Last House on the Left”, which are cut in the UK but legally available to import uncut from abroad, would probably fall foul of these proposals due to the graphic scenes contained within them. Customs officers are not film critics, and whilst the BBFC may have no problem in passing them with minor cuts, customs may take a much different view which would undoubtedly lead to a prosecution and/or a police raid. Believe me, stranger things HAVE happened to persons simply trying to import consensual “adult” porn titles.

It has been my observation that this whole thing appears to be a "knee-jerk" reaction in response to the case of "Jane Longhurst" who was killed by a person who regularly viewed such material on the internet. This proposed law will not prevent future cases like this from happening, whether people are able to access such material or not. Legal or otherwise.

To summarise, I feel that these proposals should be scrapped and no action taken against individuals wishing to view it, as it will not deter or prevent people from doing so and it would also criminalise ordinary people who like to view material such as consensual “bondage” or “sado-masochism” acts. The only time any action should be taken is if the persons participating in the material were not consenting, and any such action should be directed towards the site’s HOST. Not the innocent person trying to view it.

Lastly, attempting to catch people downloading it from the web would simply divert much needed resources away from the fight against child porn, so the proposals would simply do more harm than good.

5th November
Paul Taverner contributes:

Well done. Thats exactly the sort of response that is required to the Home Office consultation. The Goggins of this world must be shown that members of the public will not tolerate legislation that is not based firmly in evidence of harm. It is the Government's role to protect people from victimisation not to encourage it. If anyone else is considering responding here are a few other points worth thinking about.

The Home Office proposals are unacceptable because:

1) Mostly legal acts between consenting adults (realistic depictions) would be criminalised.
2) Much accidental possession would be impossible to distinguish from deliberate possession.
3) The proposals would introduce crimes of context tantamount to thought crimes.
4) Abandonment of evidence in favour of prejudice would set a terrible precedent.
5) Penalising people for their innate sexuality is totally unacceptable in civilised society.
6) It would do nothing to prevent madmen murdering people nor would it prevent sex crimes.
7) It would encourage an atmosphere of fear and intolerance over sexual orientation in society.
8) The serious penalties proposed would disproportionately restrict Freedom of expression.
9) Valuable police resources would be diverted from real crime involving real people in the UK.
10) Large sums of public money would be wasted in court cases, investigations and jail.
11) The Human cost in terms of, loss of jobs, homes, families and lives would be unacceptable.
12) The harm caused by the proposals would be totally disproportionate to the benefits (if any).


23rd October

updated 29th October

  A Liberal View

Given the constraints on politicians to speak openly on the subject, I was personally very impressed by the response from Charles Kennedy,

Many thanks to David who wrote to Charles Kennedy and received the following response to the following points:

I simply asked what the lib dems position was on the ban of violent porn and the worrying precident set re censorship.

I explained that my partner & I found it appalling that we could be put in the same bracket as child abusers simply for viewing material made by consenting adults.

I emphasised that no new laws were necessary - if someone was forced to participate then that is assault, child sex is already covered.


Thank you for your recent letter regarding pornography and censorship. Please accept my apologies for the delay in replying.

With regard to the proposals on sexually explicit material, I recognise that some people see such material as a symptom, or even a cause, of a degraded society. Such material may seem worthless or offensive to many people, and I entirely respect and understand those concerns. However, Liberal Democrats firmly believe that matters of taste have no role in censorship. In holding this policy, we are not condoning sexually explicit or violent material. We are stating the principle that people should be able to make their own judgments about what they say, read or see, without interference from the State, unless there will be real harm to others. As a Christian, I do not condone sexually explicit material. As a Liberal, I respect other people’s freedom to make their own choices.

However, our policy clearly states that freedom of expression is not absolute. We recognise that it may cause harm to others and so must be balanced against other rights and interests, such as privacy and the protection of children. As John Stuart Mill, the great philosopher, wrote:

“The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised society, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant” On Liberty, (1859).

Censorship should no be imposed unless it is truly necessary to protect some other vital objective.

We, of course, recognise that there must be some exceptions to what adults may watch in private and our policy sets out a clear censorship test for the content of sexually explicit material. This is based on the fundamental principles of legality and consent and builds on the existing guidelines of the British Board of Film Classification. We have absolutely no intention of legalising films involving bestiality, for example, or child pornography. The production of such films, involving illegal and non-consenting acts, invokes tough criminal sentences. The tougher sentences now being imposed by the courts in relation to paedophile activity are to be welcomed. I am sure you will share my view that the abuse of children is a crime of the most serious degree, and is rightly addressed by the criminal law. In order to tackle the influx of child pornography from outside the UK’s jurisdiction then co-operation between the UK and the home authority is crucial. To clamp down on Internet paedophiles we support a self and co-regulatory approach to address standards for material sent via the Internet. We would also encourage the BBFC to issue advisory certificates for films released and distributed via the Internet.

In order to better protect those who work in the industry we identify an important role for the Health and Safety Executive in ensuring that these employees enjoy full employment protection rights. We would also ensure that these employees are fully aware of their rights. And we advocate tougher penalties for those who exploit workers in this context.

Clearly, if people are being forced to participate in the making of sexually explicit material then those responsible should be prosecuted under the criminal law. And because of the vital importance of protecting children, we fully support the tougher sentences now being imposed by the court in relation to paedophile activity, including the exploitation of children in film.

There are some who argue that sexually explicit material leads people to commit acts of violence, but these claims are flawed. They are based on misleading evidence. Almost every major official study in the United States, Canada and the UK has shown that it is simply not possible to establish a direct causal link between sexually explicit material and violent behaviour.

The paper recognises that there is an important role for local authorities in licensing sex shops, who should have power to refuse a license for specified objective offences such as allowing access to under-16s, offensive window-displays or selling unlawful goods. We recognise the concern of many communities that they should enjoy protection against the opening of sex shops in their area, and there would be restrictions in exceptional circumstances, for example if the shop is to be located next to a school or place of worship. But we believe that it is better to regulate what goods may be sold – and to whom - rather than where they may be sold, especially in a society where many such products are readily and legally available in newsagents and in stores such as Boots and Selfridges.

I really do appreciate you taking the time to write to me and was very interested to read your comments. I hope I have managed to outline the party’s position on this matter.

Thank you, once again, for your letter.

Yours sincerely,

Rt Hon Charles Kennedy MP

(Dictated by Mr Kennedy)

Comment from Alan 29th Oct:

Charles Kennedy takes a generally sensible position, but....

Noting that the proposed legislation would criminalise mere possesion of "extreme" pornography, it might be worth the while of the original correspondent to raise some issues with him. Kennedy specifically refers to bestiality (almost certain to be included in any definition of "extreme" porn), but what of a case like the Italian film Osceno which is mainly a straightforward adult/erotic/pornographic (according to taste) film with heterosexual and "lipstick lesbian" scenes, but which does include a short scene in which an actress (maybe Karin Schubert) gives a blowjob to the family mutt? I suppose that most viewers would simply think "Yeukh!" and press the fast forward button, but merely owning it could make them criminals.

Another area of contention is mild sadomasochistic stuff, such as spanking. This raises interesting questions about what constitutes pornography. A website currently offers a CD ROM containing a film which is clearly being marketed as spanking erotica/pornography, containing several scenes of severe caning of a teenage girl. The actress may even have been below the magic age of 18 at the time. Now, here lies the rub - the film in question was a BBC drama broadcast free to air in 1989 ( The Happy Valley ). Produced as a worthy piece on the unpleasantness of British colonial rule in Africa, it is now being marketed as wanking material for male heterosexual sadists.


27th October   Money needed to help fight intolerance and criminalisation of pornography in the UK

From Ofwatch

A new organisation called Backlash is currently fighting against the Governments plans to criminalise the mere *possession* of violent pornography. The proposals would make possession of such content punishable by up to 3 years in prison. Any violence that leaves more than a transitory mark on the body in a sexual setting would be included as would any staged acts between consenting adults (the vast majority of such content).

If the Government proposals are not stopped surfing the Internet for erotic content will become a dangerous activity. It will be all too easy to encounter content that is illegal to possess and once your computer is contaminated with such material all too difficult to remove it. 

If the Government is allowed to impose legislation to criminalise mere possession of legal acts between consenting adults based on moral principles in the acknowledged absence of any evidence of harm,  then don't expect it to stop there. If the Government is successful in this attempt it will usher in a new age of intolerance and persecution of pornography and will make the relaxation of regulation over R18 much more difficult.

Please give what you can (see top of page):

You can also help by responding to the consultation document itself:


22nd October   Goggins For Gagging

The shitty politicians at the Home Office talk about defending the UK against terrorists yet they simultaneously generate reasons and justifications for discontent. A country with free speech is worth defending. A country with repressive punishments for non-crimes is worth jack shit

Based on an article from The Guardian

Eight years ago, when Paul Goggins was first elected to parliament, the dotcom boom was in full swing, and the internet was widely seen as a source of opportunity. These days, Goggins looks at the web differently. Now the Home Office minister responsible for internet crime, he is among those in charge of the government's plans to further limit use of the net.

The source of the threat has changed, but after July's bomb attacks in London, the terrorist threat seems stronger than ever. Following the London bombings, the UK proposed that European telecoms and internet service providers should be forced to keep logs of customer activity for up to three years - much longer than is currently the case.

The proposal covers the basics of communications data - information on telephone bills and what websites are visited and when - but excludes the contents. But the government is not finding it easy to force change across Europe before the end of its EU presidency. Countries such as Germany have stronger privacy cultures than the UK, and the European parliament has already voted against retaining data for more than a year. We hope to reach a consensus, says Goggins.

Britain might be planning to negotiate over data retention, but elsewhere it plans to pioneer limits. The Home Office has published plans to make possession of extreme pornography illegal. That will make any web viewing of serious sexual violence, necrophilia or bestiality an offence punishable by up to three years in prison. It has long been illegal to publish such material in the UK: this made it difficult to obtain, but the internet changed that.

The Home Office believes the UK would be the first western jurisdiction to ban possession of extreme adult material. International cooperation has been vital in tracking those in the UK downloading obscene images of children, as well as identifying victims and perpetrators. We're nowhere near as well advanced in terms of adult material , concedes Goggins, though he thinks a UK law may encourage others.

Even if it is only the UK that outlaws these extreme images, then at least we would be able to deal more effectively with individuals who access them, he threatens. But he admits this case is not watertight. Just because somebody sees an extreme image, doesn't guarantee they will behave in a certain way. There is a wider issue about how sexualised our society has become ... but I think the job of government is at least to set a boundary.

The Home Office is proposing further restrictions and monitoring of internet use. Such restraints on freedom of speech and privacy are condemned when carried out by governments such as China's - and although those transgressions are on a greater scale, why are they now justifiable in Britain?

Freedom of speech is important. It's enshrined in our culture and is something we guard fiercely. BUT... the right to life is the most fundamental human right. What we need to do is balance other rights and freedoms against that central freedom.

Not everybody agrees the government's way is the best solution, or that the balance is right. And many believe that the manner in which legislation is proposed means that - in popular culture, at least - the internet has become a source of danger, rather than a land of opportunity.

We've grown used to the internet , Goggins replies.
We know we can't just say 'there's nothing we can do about it, it's the internet and it's just got to carry on'. We know we have to find ways of placing limits on the use of the internet for criminal purposes, and then be able to police it.


20th September


  Government proposals Under Attack from All Quarters

Opinion from Ian G

The Violent Pornography Consultation seems to be coming under attack from all quarters and I wonder just why this is? After much consideration I'm beginning to see that the whole premise behind this piece of nonsense is simply criminalizing material on the basis of taste.

The question from the consultation that really eats at me is this: In the absence of conclusive research results as to its possible negative effects, do you think that there is some pornographic material which is so degrading, violent or aberrant that it should not be tolerated?

As I've stated many times on the forum, and what will be the main point in my response to the consultation, is that this question is extremely leading because the first statement belies the fact that all evidence shows that there are beneficial effects from such material. However, that point aside, the question then simply asks a matter of opinion based on personal sexual tastes and preferences. What we have here is criminalization of material based purely on one's feelings toward that material. At least with legal obscenity there has to be some indication that the material possesses the power to corrupt and deprave, which most juries take as actual harm being present or perpetrated against the participants. But the material now being targeted is make-believe fantasy violence that many people enact in the course of their own sex lives.

This is clearly an attempt at implementing thought crime. If passed into law it will be an utter affront to Freedom of Expression. As I said on the forum some weeks ago, I personally dislike piercings and tattoos and this proposed bill is tantamount to making it a criminal offence to own piercings and tattoos based on my personal feelings of such things. Indeed, with the terms of reference being used it could be argued that genital piercings or intimate tattoos are sexualised GBH as they do 'break the skin'. Pictures of such things could become criminal to own and view!

This doesn't seem to represent a 'slippery slope' as many Melon Farmers have stated, its more like a vertical drop into puritanical totalitarianism. The Government are not elected to dictate what the people can or cannot do. They are supposed to represent our views and form sound policy to represent the majority of opinion and ensure no discrimination based on sexual orientation, sex, beliefs, age or colour marginalizes any section of our society. Clearly this proposal goes against all those principles. It is not even necessary, there is no pressing social need and, there is a plethora of evidence to show that such law would actually create more harm in our society. There's no way any of this can be justified and so it cannot in any way be Just. I'm afraid this Government have turned into a bunch of control freaks who simply want to pass laws which allow them to pry into people's lives like Peeping Toms and persecute anyone who doesn't tow their puritanical line.


19th September


  Violent Kneejerkography

From Acta on The Melon Farmers' Forum

Would David Croneberg's History of Violence then be illegal under new proposed legislation?

Movie stars VIGGO MORTENSEN and MARIA BELLO were left battered and bruised after shooting a hard-hitting sex scene on a wooden stairwell in new DAVID CRONENBERG film A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE.

The couple, who play man and wife in the gritty drama, spent weeks preparing for and talking about the scene, but had no idea it would leave them in so much pain.

From Backlash

The definition of GBH in law isn't the same as the one the CPS uses when deciding which of the assault offences to prosecute. Anything which breaks the skin is technically GBH - this will result in images the Home Office has no intention of criminalising being prohibited. I'm then going to use the basis of my response to the Home Office as the letter to my MP - I've a Labour MP and there might be some mileage in pointing out how illogical his own government is being.

I currently think it's important to point out exactly how wide the proposed law is - it's criminalising a lot of stuff that I don't think most MPs will realise falls within the category of 'extreme pornographic material'.


17th September


 Politicians to be Imprisoned for Possession of Extreme & Abusive Legislation

Presumably the abusers, Paul Goggins & Cathy Jamieson, will be expecting the 5am police raid pretty soon then

From a Melon Farming reader

I was just considering the ramifications of this new repressive legislation, and the logic of turning innocent people into criminals:

I think politicians, civil servants and others in positions of authority, *who are found to have infringed our human rights*, should have to pay a penalty themselves, such as imprisonment, or a hefty fine for such a crime.

This would focus their minds on getting their legislation absolutely correct. It would also prove the strength of their convictions, in that they were prepared to pay a penalty if they got it wrong, they really must believe in it. I think that often they don't but it is politically expedient to impose the restrictions anyway.

Directors of companies have grave responsibilities to their employees to see that they are not abused. and kept safe Parents have similar responsibilities for their charges

But politicians and others who seem to want to act "in loco parentis" by imposing the kind of unfair censorship and restriction upon us, if we were children, can do so with impunity, and no penalties if they get it wrong.

Why should they be able to do this ?

Should the Human Rights Act be changed to hold them personally responsible ?

Saddam Hussein is now incarcerated because of the things he did to his people. No one thinks this is wrong. What our government is doing isn't anywhere as terrible as what Saddam did. But it is STILL repressive all the same, being only a matter of degree, and people WILL go to prison, just like braintree did. Shouldn't the people responsible for this be properly accountable, to see they get the law right to be sure such unfairness is avoided ?

I think putting other people in jail for no justified reason is enough to be a serious human rights abuse, and the people responsible should prove their case, or be locked up themselves.


15th September

16th September

  Public Meeting Discussed BDSM Community Response

From Backlash

Tonight's meeting at the Conway Hall was well attended, I thought, especially considering the transport problems caused by heavy rain and flooding. I know that Demred will report on the proceedings as soon as possible so I will just say that a fair number of organisations including Spanner Trust, Feminists Against Censorship, The Libertarian Alliance, Campaign Against Censorship, SM Dykes and SM Pride sent representatives who spoke to the meeting.

Individuals also spoke as the debate was widened. After a break, 'working parties' formed to discuss action on topics such as press activity, education, research etc and it was agreed that a further meeting should be arranged as soon as a suitable venue and date were found.

Further information on the proceedings of the meeting, future action and the time/place of the next meeting will be posted in the various online-forums and by email etc., to those who left their contact details with Demred and Ishmael who hosted and chaired the meeting.

A number of IC members were there so it was a pleasure to put some faces to names. Manniq won support for his proposal (discussed on a recent thread here) to organise an exhibition of images which would illustrate the problem inherent in the consultation documents descriptors; what exactly would be legally permissable to view and what would not under the proposed legislation.

Thanks and admiration to demred and all others who got this meeting and a fast-growing campaign up and running in a very short period of time. And my hopes of a successful outcome for all who believe in freedom of expression and in only well-considered, properly drawn legislation rather than knee-jerk, self-contradictory and vague nonsense.

Update 16th September

We were advised the proposals could be thrown out on procedural grounds.
We were advised that anonymous submissions to the consultation process will be recognised and valid.

We were told group submissions carry a lot of weight as well -- especially positive as we have support from melonfarmers, SM Pride, SM Bis, the Union of sex workers, Spanner, Ofwatch, SMDykes South East and London, Unfettered, the SFC, FAC, the Libertarian Alliance, the Campaign against Censorship and others.

SM pride also said they would work with their national network to arrange local meetings, which I think will be a relief for all of those of you that are fortunate to live out of the big smoke.

We also started to group into working groups. So far these are called education, lobbying, press and research.
we agreed to have another meeting in 10-14 days time in London.


14th September   No Joke to Brits

Thanks to nasty minded people at the Home Office a horror film depicting grievous bodily harm in a hardcore sex film will set up UK viewers for 3 years in jail.

Limey customs are going to love this. They will be able to sift through people's innocently bought porn DVDs looking for one that will get people put away for years. Welcome to Britain!

Thanks to Shaun

A Wicked Pictures’ latest Jonathan Morgan-directed comedy, Camp Cuddly Pines Power Tool Massacre , will hit porn stores everywhere on September 16 with a fully loaded, three-disc package that pays homage to the same thing that the release itself does — horror movies from the '80’s to the present.

Morgan told of writing the script with Wicked contract performer/director Stormy Daniels and Space Nuts co-writer August Warwick. What we did is very similar to what the Wayan brothers did with the Scary Movie series. We took all these little famous parts from all of these horror movies blended it with comedy and wrapped it with great sex.


13th September   Non Consensual Extreme Mockery

Thanks to Shaun

A couple of animated whimsies targeting the rights abusers at the Home Office:


11th September

updated 14th September

International Repression?

I wonder if the Government's nasty proposals are somehow linked to some sort of international agreement. It will be interesting to see if other countries come up with similar suggestions.

In the meantime we should think about extending the scope of protest to this new legislation. We should not stop at merely opposing these proposals we should be thinking about ensuring that if such a law is adopted, that it does not gain community support.

Perhaps we should also think about providing information about disc encryption tools and how to use proper software to remove all traces from caches etc.

Based on an article from The Guardian

Last week, the Home Office and Scottish Executive proposed changing this, making possession punishable by up to three years in prison.

In a foreword to the public consultation, which is open until December 2, Home Office minister Paul Goggins and Scottish Executive justice minister Cathy Jamieson say that these offences will mirror the arrangements already in place in respect of child pornography. The intention is to reduce the demand for such material and to send a clear message that it has no place in our society.

But would such legislation achieve much beyond sending a message? The consultation notes: We are not aware of any western jurisdiction which prohibits simple possession of extreme material.

By contrast, possession of indecent images of children is illegal in numerous countries, enabling international co-operation. The UK's largest investigation of online paedophile activity, Operation Ore, relied on the US Federal Bureau of Investigations collecting around 250,000 credit cards numbers used to pay for access to a US child pornography web-site, and passing on more than 7,000 from the UK. [Of which many were payment to adult porn sites. The police lied in court about this technicality and innocent people were persecuted]

Formal structures are being created for such cooperation, such as the Virtual Global Taskforce, which includes the UK's National Crime Squad, police agencies in Australia, Canada and the US and Interpol. In December 2003 the taskforce launched Operation PIN, setting up fake child abuse web-sites. These captured the details of a number of individuals when they attempted to download an image, then told them that they had committed an offence and their data would be passed to the relevant national authority. It is usually possible to trace web users through data recorded by a web server.

A National Crime Squad spokesperson says that no prosecutions followed this data collection, but adds that the priority was crime reduction. The taskforce is also planning a 24-hour-a-day online policing presence, with officers from the four member countries involved in online patrols such as overt visits to chatrooms. This will be discussed at a meeting between the member agencies in Canberra next week.

In June, the G8 club of rich countries agreed to help Interpol to establish a £2 million system linking countries' databases of such images, and later this month the UK will hand an implementation study on this to Interpol. The UK's national database, Childbase, contains 800,000 images, allowing swifter identification of victims using facial recognition.

Such international cooperation would help in investigating extreme pornography, as all the publishers appear to be outside the UK. The Internet Watch Foundation says that 60% of the 140 adult pornographic sites it checked in the first six months of this year which appeared to contravene the Obscene Publications Act appeared to be US-based, with 14% in China and 4% in Russia. None was British.

In an emailed response, an FBI spokesperson says cooperation similar to Operation Ore would be possible for extreme pornography, adding: It is not an easy answer though. In the US we have obscenity laws that make it a violation to post lewd material online. How that is defined and enforced is reviewed on a case-by-case basis, by enforcement agencies and government prosecutors.

Policing this, from a single country point of view, is going to be a nightmare, predicts Tony Dearsley, senior computer investigations manager at UK computer forensics firm Vogon International. How do you get to these people? Like most cross-border issues, unless you have got an agreement or an identical offence, it will be very unlikely to get a warrant to get information or shut [a site] down. He adds that extreme pornography is often free to access, without requiring the credit card payments which enabled the discredited Operation Ore.

Dearsley says that Vogon has seen such material on computers belonging to suspects in rape and murder cases: hard drives often retain traces of all files they have stored, despite attempts to erase and overwrite them.

This could represent an alternative way to investigate the proposed crime. A Home Office spokesperson says that data on a suspect's computer often gives clues to others, adding that employers, internet service providers, credit card providers and the public would also be likely to provide leads.

But David Wilson, professor of criminology at the University of Central England, says that technological change is likely to make policing possession of extreme pornography very difficult. His research with paedophiles found that, after Operation Ore, they switched to peer-to-peer networks and net-enabled mobile telephones. Usually, the law's a step behind, says Professor Wilson. You have to look at why society produces these people in the first place.


13th Sept   Ian G comments:

Since when has banning something 'reduced demand'? Recreational drugs are illegal in the UK but demand keeps increasing. No law has ever prevented ANYTHING and that includes murder, theft and rape despite once carrying the death penalty in some cases. The law only defines what is criminal or not, it has never been able to prevent people from committing crimes and the more things the Government choose to make 'a criminal offence' the more innocent people become 'criminals'. The prisons are already over-flowing with people who probably do deserve to be there but, to condemn the viewers of staged acts of 'depravity' will surely spell the end of Justice in this pitiful country.

It's time we got back to basics for sure. It's time 'Obscenity' was redefined as that which depicts actual human rights abuse. Maybe then these proposals would be seen as the obscene abuse of power they truly represent. One fact that has been glossed over and ignored in this consultation is that people who like to be spanked and punished for their 'naughty thoughts' are those that live in repressive regimes - the British are renowned for their kinky sexual habits because of our puritanical approach to sex! Now that's gotta be something like the pot calling the kettle black. The Brits started the trend in this 'sick' material and now we want to ban it!? Talk about a fucked-up country with fucked-up laws - this one really takes the biscuit!


9th September  Nutters to Cast the First Stone

It appears that the nutters are in disarray about their support of this nasty law. Some clearly want to take the opportunity of having millions of people imprisoned for viewing all types of pornography. I sometimes cannot believe just how nasty those on the moral high ground can get.

When I first read the proposals I thought that surely they would founder because the community as a whole will never support the draconian penalty of imprisonment for the possession of adult consensual staged sex. I cannot convey how nauseated I feel towards those that support imprisonment for such a minor transgression. I am really starting to believe that some of these nutters would support stoning given half a chance.

In the meantime I would really like to know how the shits from the misleadingly named Care can so whole heartedly support the proposals to imprison those watching mere depiction of non-consensual sex such as spanking movies and the like. No doubt they are sure that the entire religious community are above suspicion. Well let me tell you that you are wrong. Even religious families will be ruined by this legislation

From The Church of England Newspaper

A leading Christian watchdog has attacked the government’s new plans to crackdown on obscene pornographic and sexually violent images on the internet, insisting that the current proposals are worse than no law at all. They warned that it would not prevent further porn-inspired attacks on women. Mediawatch-uk said that the government had “missed a marvellous opportunity,” and the new laws represented a “fudged approach” to the problem.

Dave Turtle, a Mediawatch-uk spokesman, responded angrily to the new proposals, protesting that a law which is badly put together is worse than no law at all . All other forms of pornographic material are currently subject to the Obscene Publications Act 1959, but the internet is not covered. A new offence proposed by the Home Office last week would make it illegal to possess violent and abusive pornography and would criminalise anyone who downloads such images through the internet or on a mobile phone.

The new offence could be punishable by up to three years in prison. However, Mediawatch-uk said it feared the proposed legislation would not deter addicts, and that the legislation was uneven and easy to circumvent. Mr Turtle added: Why decompartmentalise some hardcore porn websites from others? It is an illogical approach to the problem.

Referring to the murder of Jane Longhurst, who was killed by an internet porn addict two years ago, Mr Turtle said the new laws won’t prevent further attacks on individuals . John Beyer, the director of Mediawatch-uk said that the measures proposed would not satisfy the dismay and unease felt by many “good” people who “object to the imposition of pornographic material and the sexualised culture everywhere in the media”.

Elsewhere, however, there was unequivocal support for the new ban. Christian social care charity CARE said that they “applauded” the Government’s new attempts to regulate internet pornography. Roger Smith, the head of public policy for the charity, commented: This is the first time the Government has taken a moral stance on this issue of adult sexual behaviour, and they are deciding that it is unacceptable. Previously, there have only been statements on child pornography, and they have taken a laissez-faire attitude on other violent pornography. This is a big step forward, and we should encourage them.

11th Sept
Dan writes: Dear Melon Farmers,

How predictable that Mr John C Beyer of does not think the ban on violent porn goes far enough.

He wants a law that imposes his own prudish values on the rest of us. A law restricting rape and stragulation on the internet isn't enough for the prudes at Mediawatch-uk who want the government to keep sex behind closed doors for everyone everywhere no matter what anyone else thinks.

Many people will probably regard the ban on images of rape as a good idea but there will be view who will think the same of a ban on anything that shows the slightest whiff of sex or a nudity.

How far can this law go? Would John Beyer advocate hauling consenting adult couples in front of Magistrates for indulging in a bit of pre sex porn? Mediawatch-uk are in favour of laws which do not protect our society from harm but laws that stick other people's noses behind closed doors.
12th Sept
Ian writes:

"They warned that it would not prevent further porn-inspired attacks on women. Mediawatch-UK said that the government had “missed a marvellous opportunity”, and the new laws represented a “fudged approach” to the problem."

That statement is a gross misrepresentation of the truth - it's a lie! All evidence gathered from criminology studies over the past 30 years shows that the availability of porn, consensual or 'extreme', REDUCES the risk of sex crimes for women and children. MediaWatch don't know the facts of the matter and neither do the Government Ministers behind this consultation. And that's DESPITE the evidence being presented to my MP, the BBFC and OFCOM over the past 2 years!


9th September   Government Proposals Suck

It has been noted on the forum that sex with animals has actually been passed by the BBFC for the cinema release of The Good Old Naughty Days.

This could be passed because the Sexual Offences Act 2003 defined an act of bestiality to be the penetration of an animal's vagina or anus. Therefore oral sex with an animal is not illegal and hence it could be passed in The Good Old Naughty Days. Furthermore the dog in question was clearly enjoying the attention so harm did not seem applicable.

So how can the Home Office make it an imprisonable offence to possess a recording of what is, technically, a perfectly legal act? Perhaps they missed this or perhaps they thought that permitting oral sex with an animal but not vaginal would look too silly. Another example of 'joined up' regulation.

The Good Old Naughty Days has never been passed for video though, so there is hardly anyone in possession of a copy. The scene in question will surely not be submitted until the issues with the current proposals have been sorted out.


7th September   Indecent Proposals

By Sandy Starr of Spiked

It's not just perverts who should be worried about the government's proposed ban on violent pornography.

The latest attempt by the UK authorities to regulate internet pornography is a proposed 'new offence of simple possession of extreme pornographic material which is graphic and sexually explicit and which contains serious violence towards women and men.

As Brendan O'Neill argues , this proposal is not a response to a surge in concern about violent pornography - the main justification given for it is an isolated murder that occurred two years ago. Rather, the proposal is a desperate attempt to assert some moral authority, at a time when sexual explicitness has become commonplace. This proposal is consistent with other recent developments in regulation and law, which have unfortunate consequences for our freedoms.

For all the appalling and depraved content available on the internet, it's important to keep in mind that this is just a communications medium. Ideas are exchanged, in the form of words, sounds and images, and that is all. But the distinction between ideas and actions has been progressively blurred of late, especially where the internet is concerned. Tenuous and anecdotal connections between internet content and criminal acts are often invoked. Looking at a representation of violence is often treated as though it were tantamount to committing a violent act.

The consultation document in which the government outlines its new proposal suggests that violent pornography depicts acts of criminal violence: 'We believe from the observations of the police and others who investigate it, that the material may often cause serious physical and other harm to those involved in making it; in some cases the participants are clearly the victims of criminal offences.' However, these claims are anything but clear - we are asked to take the unspecified 'observations of the police and others' on trust.

The document goes on to cast doubt upon the very notion that people might consent to be involved in the production of such pornography, referring to those who participate in the creation of sexual material containing violence, cruelty or degradation, who may be the victims of crime in the making of the material, whether or not they notionally or genuinely consent to taking part . ' Notional consent ' is a weasel term, expressing the patronising assumptions of those in authority.

The true reason for the authorities seeking to confuse violent images with violent actions is expressed in the following passage from the consultation document: We intend to capture those scenes which appear to be real and are convincing, but which may be acted. This follows the precedent of the child pornography legislation and is in part necessary to avoid the need to prove the activity actually took place, as this would be an insuperable hurdle for the prosecution. There's the rub. In the absence of any evidence that actual criminal violence is involved in the production or consumption of internet pornography, those who wish to ban it propose to change the law, so that no such evidence is necessary.

This is part of a pattern. Each successive piece of UK legislation that has criminalised the possession and distribution of child pornography - the Protection of Children Act 1978, the Criminal Justice Act 1988, the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, and the Sexual Offences Act 2003 - has broadened the definition of the crime, so that evidence of child abuse is no longer necessary in order for someone to be prosecuted. Looking at an indecent image of a child - or even looking at a 'pseudo-photo' (doctored image) - is now a crime in and of itself. As I have argued previously on spiked, such developments represent the real emergence of what George Orwell, in his fictional dystopia 1984, called 'thoughtcrime'. The proposal to ban violent pornography simply extends this tendency into yet another ill-defined domain.

The consolation document also points towards a link between images and acts of violence, though there is little evidence to support this. The authors finally admit that we are unable... to draw any definite conclusions based on research as to the likely long term impact of this kind of material on individuals generally, or on those who may already be predisposed to violent or aberrant sexual behaviour . Chris Evans, founder of Internet Freedom, points out that 60 years of research into media effects shows no conclusive evidence that violent images cause violent acts.

Once we enter the world of thoughtcrime, and there is no longer any strict burden of proof upon prosecutors, the authorities enjoy considerable latitude to define criminality on a case-by-case basis. After all, whether or not something crosses the boundary into being pornographic or violent is in the eye of the beholder.

Home Office minister Paul Goggins and Scottish Executive minister Cathy Jamieson, the politicians spearheading the proposal to outlaw 'extreme' pornography, say that by "extreme" we mean material which is violent and abusive, featuring activities which are illegal in themselves and where, in some cases, participants may have been the victims of criminal offences . This definition is subjective and speculative - not ideal qualities for legislation that might land an individual in prison for several years. How can anyone establish whether participants may have been the victims of criminal offences , simply from an image?

A good lesson in the practical consequences of prosecuting individuals for accessing internet pornography, while disregarding the intractable problems of definition and proof, is the recent UK investigation Operation Ore. Operation Ore involved prosecuting individuals who had used their credit card details to access the website of the American company Landslide Productions, which had supposedly advertised and provided access to child pornography. The sheer number of individuals suspected and accused, as part of Operation Ore and its US progenitor Operation Avalanche, led to commentators questioning whether the police and the courts had anywhere near sufficient resources to tackle child pornography. At one stage, an amnesty whereby the public could hand over its child porn was mooted as the only feasible solution.

Computer forensic expert and investigative journalist Duncan Campbell, who acted as an expert witness for several Operation Ore defendants who were subsequently acquitted, has examined the bungled investigation, which has led to at least 33 of the accused to date committing suicide.

In fact, the Landslide Productions website offered an automated payment system for all manner of adult websites. There was no way of telling, from the credit card details that were seized, precisely what type of pornography - if any - the accused had accessed. Campbell notes the irony that the only reason for the existence of the credit card data used in Operation Ore was the use of adult verification systems, whose purpose is to prevent children from accessing pornography.

According to Campbell, even the buttons and links on the Landslide Productions website, that were alleged to have invited the user to access child pornography, were either pop-ups and advertisements outside of the control of the website administrators, or they simply never existed. The authorities cited incriminating data found on suspects' computers, but Campbell argued successfully in court that such data may have derived from pop-ups or other circumstances outside of users' control.

Campbell points to 'systematic injustice' in Operation Ore, arguing that many people and their families...are the victims of a combination of technical naivety and fear, fed by a media circus . He warns that the stage may be set for a twenty-first century witch-hunt . The proposed new criminal offence of possessing violent pornography will only encourage such witch hunts, inviting ever more spurious prosecutions and convictions, while doing away with the need to prove that a criminal act was committed.


6th September   Reading about Populist Policies

From The Observer

In a blood-stained slaughterhouse, a brute of a man strips off. He is tall and strong, with a lot of erect-and-glistening going on. He grins as he rapes an elderly teacher in front of his captive audience of deaf children. Then there's the chap whose hobby it is to stalk, bind and tie a helpless woman, before first removing her uterus and only later slitting her throat. And the one who cuts a deep cross into his blind victim's belly before he rapes... well...

Appreciative that for many of you it is breakfast time, I shall stop there. But if you're enjoying the stories so far, you'll be thrilled to learn that there is much, much more detail to be found, not, as you might have expected, in scurrilous video nasties, but in best-selling books: in order, Jeffery Deaver's A Maiden's Grave, Tess Gerritsen's The Surgeon and Karin Slaughter's Blindsighted. All are available from Waterstone's, although if you opt for WH Smith, you can currently buy all three for the price of two. Bargain.

There is a long tradition in thrillers that the more demonic the perpetrator the greater is the reader's sense of urgency that he be caught. It is more recent, I fancy, that authors trip over themselves to create the wickedness in the form of ever more imaginative, depraved, sexual predators out to defile women.

I don't know why this need be so, any more than I know why most are actually written by women, but let us lament that another day.

What I do know is that as long as this trend continues, it renders ridiculous the Home Office move to outlaw the watching of violent sexual internet images. This is just cheap, gissa-vote populist politics: 'Bring it into line with laws on child pornography' is a kneejerk special, but doesn't address the issue of consent: adults can consent to play a part in the images; children, by definition, cannot.

It is a product of sentiment, not reason, campaigned for passionately by Liz Longhurst, whose daughter died at the hands of a sexual weirdo. No one would deny her the right to bellow, but when she says: 'If the furniture of peoples' minds is polluted with this stuff, they can become very dangerous', she simply cannot prove the cause and effect she thus infers. It is equally likely that the weirdo is drawn to the internet images because he's a weirdo, just as it's likely that he reads the authors above, getting from their persistent imagery some kick that you and I do not.

But one person's distaste is not reason enough for another's constraint and, in any case, we cannot have it both ways: either we accept violent sexual activity for recreational purposes or we do not.

To say it's OK in one medium but not another is a dangerous snobbery of form over content, suggesting, as it does, that the literate man is less likely to become a serial sexual killer than his thick clod of a web-watching cousin. An unwise assumption, if ever I heard one.


5th September  Nutters Wishing Family Ruin on their Fellow Man

Thought of the Day: To all those supporting the Home Office repression:

You may consider yourself one of John Beyer's "good living people" and correctly have nothing to fear from the Government's repressive proposals.... BUT ... are you absolutely sure that your husband, son or grandson isn't into bondage or spanking videos? Would you really like their family to suffer the 5am police raid, humiliation, imprisonment, loss of job and marriage?...

Do you really want this to happen to other people's families?  Do you really think that imprisonment and family ruin is an appropriate punishment for viewing consensual and staged pornography (even if it does depict non consensual spanking and bondage)?

Mediawatch Welcome Plans to Imprison Violent Porn Viewers

From Mediawatch-UK

The director of mediawatch-uk, John Beyer, has welcomed the Home Office announcement that it plans to make illegal the viewing and downloading of violent and abusive pornography on the Internet.

Mr Beyer said that he agreed entirely with Home Office Minister, Paul Goggins MP, that such material had no place in our society or, he said, in any civilised society. He voiced support for the campaign waged by Mrs Longhurst and applauded her success in persuading the Government to introduce the necessary legislation.

Mr Beyer said today that the measures proposed will not satisfy the dismay and unease felt by many good living people who object to the imposition of pornographic material and the sexualised culture everywhere in the media. There is plenty of research evidence concluding that the widespread availability of pornography is harmful to society because it presents a false view of human sexuality where people are no more that objects for gratification. Pornography is not about love or commitment or sacrifice. The annually rising rate of violent sexual crime is a good indicator of the harmful influence of pornography. The murder of Miss Longhurst is the tip of a very large iceberg. Pornography is about exploitation of others and its corrupting effect undermines human dignity turning intimacy into a spectator sport.

We hope that the legislation announced today will lead to a wide ranging review of the pornography industry and result in a long overdue strengthening of the criminal law.

Shaun Replies

Well Mr. Beyer,

It seems you've shown yourself in your true colours... In that you want to make criminals out of previously innocent private individuals, in supporting our repressive government's position of criminalisation of possession of certain forms of violent pornography, and bestiality.

This never used to be your stated position, on this issue.

It seems that even the contributors of the Daily Mail internet forum do not agree with you for the most part.

I sincerley hope your own MediaWatch members concur with your position, because otherwise you'll be out of a job. Most of them, I suspect, believe in fair play, and might well disagree with your opinion that private people (rather than suppliers) should now be turned into criminals and put in jail, for what they keep in their houses.

Criminalisation of the possession of child pornography is one thing, because the evidence of harm caused to the children depicted is proporionate. But the same CANNOT be said about ANY other material whatsoever, and this is a step change too far for the government's power. Indeed they will undermine the message sent by criminalisation of child pornography, by making possession of other material similarly illegal.

Perhaps in my collection of adult videos, I might well have some pictures of *staged* sexual violence somewhere or other.

Would you really like to see my family destroyed, and the police come hammering on my door at 5.00AM, my children (Sarah and Nathan) robbed of their computers, and perhaps even my marriage destroyed, if I don't manage to destroy all these pictures ?

Is that want you REALLY want for people.

I'm sure you do. Perhaps you might even care to report me to the police at the appropriate time, if and when the law changes ? Let me know if you do, and I'll make sure you have the full address.....

Preventing access is one thing. Making criminals out of ordinary people is quite another.


5th September   Knee Jerking Off over Violent Porn

The government's declaration of war on ‘extreme material’ is about politics more than pornography.

by Brendan O'Neill of Spiked

So the government has declared war on extreme and violent porn. Where did that come from? Yesterday was your average, boring, no-news August day when officials suddenly revealed that they were looking into criminalising the possession - ie. downloading - of 'extreme material' from the internet, specifically material that depicts 'intercourse or oral sex with an animal', 'sexual interference with a human corpse', 'serious violence in a sexual context', or 'serious sexual violence'. They propose a maximum three-year jail term for individuals who download such material. In the space of 24 hours, we went from news reports about Britain's hot weather and Kylie's first post-cancer appearance in public to handwringing headlines about rape, bestiality, necrophilia, and the threat posed by gross out porn to the fabric of society (1).

It sounds scary, but this is merely a mutation (or perhaps a perversion) of the silly season story. Government officials have transformed a minority pursuit - looking at degrading porn on the web - into a moral panic, and presented themselves as brave crusaders who are 'determined to act' against material that 'would be abhorrent to most people and has no place in our society' (2). This is about politics more than porn: in our anything-goes age - where 'normal' porn has been made cool by Hollywood, trendy art galleries and even WH Smith's (more of which in a minute) - the authorities are scrabbling about for something, anything, on which to hold the line. It doesn't say much when they can only pose as moral crusaders against weirdos who like to roleplay rape and shag sheep.

In the Consultation on the Possession of Extreme Pornographic Material, published by the Home Office and the Scottish Executive, the authors claim 'there has been increasing public concern about the availability of extreme material'. Where? The vast majority of people don't look at violent porn, or think very much about it; they certainly aren't agitating publicly for the government to save our souls from it. The document says the public's concern is 'highlighted by the case of a young woman who was murdered by a man who had been accessing extreme porn', referring to the 2003 killing of Jane Longhurst by Graham Coutts, who was apparently 'addicted' to extreme porn sites that depicted women being strangled and raped (3). Longhurst's family has been campaigning for new laws.

The murder of Jane Longhurst is mentioned three times in the document - every time a reference is made to 'increasing public concern', in fact. It would be more accurate to describe this consultation as a kneejerk response to a horrible, isolated murder than a consideration of the public's concern about violent porn. The authorities are proposing new legislation in response to the actions of one demented individual; they have transformed an exceptionally rare incident into a gruesome morality tale about the alleged impact of extreme porn on people's volatile minds, and reserved the role of protector of public safety for themselves.

For a consultation on extreme pornographic material, the document says seriously little about what this material is, where it is, how many people are accessing it, or what its effects can be. What exactly is extreme porn? 'It is not possible in a public document like this to give a great deal of graphic detail or description of the material in question.' Does such porn really warp people's minds and make them do bad things? 'We do not yet have sufficient evidence from which to draw any definite conclusions as to the likely long-term impact of this kind of material on individuals generally.' (Though this doesn't stop them from arguing, more than once, that aberrant sexual material might drive individuals to commit 'aberrant sexual acts'.)

How many people are accessing violent porn? 'According to a major research study…57 per cent of 9 to 19-year-olds who use the internet at least once a week had come into contact with pornography online. [But] the study did not distinguish between types of pornography.' In short: dunno.

The document also blurs the distinction between depictions of violent acts and real violent acts. It proposes criminalising possession of both 'explicit actual scenes' of violence and 'realistic depictions…which appear to be real and are convincing, but which may be acted' (4). I'm no expert on violent porn (but then again, neither are the authors of this report) but I would hazard a guess that most of this stuff is made by consenting adults, for cash, who are only pretending to do nasty things to each other. Yet this document lumps together acted-out rapes with real rapes, as if it's easy to download a video of woman being raped for real from the internet. Again, little evidence is presented that actual, criminal rapes are widely available, or even available at all, on the world wide web. What next: a consultation document on outlawing snuff movies?

The authors tie themselves in knots over what will be allowed and what won't be. So it will still be okay to possess images of 'milder forms of bondage and humiliation, which are common place in pornographic material', so long as you don't cross the line into imagery that 'depicts suffering, pain, torture and degradation of a kind which we believe most people would find abhorrent'. Who will decide when that line has been crossed? Will acts of bondage have to be re-enacted in a court of law, so that a jury or judge can decide if it's only 'mild humiliation' or something more 'abhorrent'? (Insert joke about judges and bondage here.) The document proposes that only possession of photographs or videos should be criminalised, so it will be all right to possess text or cartoons that describe or depict violent sexual scenarios. Yet if the authorities truly believe that extreme pornographic material can provoke extreme acts of violence, why should we be free to read about this stuff but not look at people acting it out?

It isn't especially surprising that the document reveals little about the availability or impact of violent porn, and that it gets confused about how to define it - because violent porn isn't really the issue. Rather, this is a highly politicised attempt by government officials to score some moral points. One reason why they have chosen to do that by launching a war against the extreme fringes of the porn world is because they have lost the argument about everyday porn. There was a time when governments railed against pornography, banging on about how it cheapened sexual relations, demeaned women, and posed a threat to family values and morality in general. But today, porn has gone mainstream: art institutions like the ICA host debates about porn; Hollywood has glamourised porn in movies like Boogie Nights, Wonderland and The People Vs Larry Flynt; the once-stuffy BBFC now passes, uncut, films that show explicit sex; teenagers wear t-shirts that say 'Porn star in training', and can even buy Playboy pencil cases and stationery from WH Smith's (5).

This mainstreaming of porno-culture isn't a consequence of some positive impulse to challenge censorship or usher in a new era of sexual liberation. Rather it points to deep moral uncertainties in our 'anything goes' age. As the BBFC said when it passed the sexually explicit 9 Songs at the end of last year, it feels less able to make 'moral decisions' because 'what is morally wrong for one person is not morally wrong for another' (6). In such a climate, feeling their moral authority draining away, the authorities are forced to look for new lines to hold - which explains their turn towards porn that depicts extreme, violent, rapacious or bestial sex. And the more they lose their moral bearings the more, and harder, we can expect them to clamp down on what is still seen as unacceptable, on things that are 'abhorrent to most people', as the consultation document says again and again.

This consultation suggests that the government has a pretty low opinion of the public. Despite its self-confessed lack of evidence that extreme porn provokes extreme behaviour, it still justifies its proposal as an attempt to 'protect society' from material 'which may encourage interest in violent or aberrant sexual activity' (7). In short, we are rapists-in-the-making, who might be excited into committing a terrible act if we happen upon degrading pictures or videos (but not text or cartoons, apparently). They see us as perverts or potential perverts - which is a bit rich coming from those who made violent and extreme porn into a big issue in the first place. Who knows, they might even have inadvertently encouraged some individuals to go looking for such material.


4th September   Times Not Right for Censorship

Selected comments from the forum at The Times

The Government is heading for yet another foul-up in its attempts to solve potential problems by knee-jerk fixes. They are going to have to clearly define what constitutes "unacceptable" violent and abusive pornography. Will these laws also apply to television? Current programmes often contain scenes of violence towards and abuse of women (and men), often with sexual overtones. Where exactly will they stop? What is abhorrent to one person may be perfectly acceptable to another. Surely the dividing line here should be "consenting adults" - ie, anything which involves adults only and to which all parties freely consent - should be acceptable. Clearly, any acts involving minors or animals fall outside this proviso and would thus be legislated against.
Bob Finbow

"Violent sexual pornography on the internet is to be banned by the Government." Oh good! Perhaps next they'll get around to banning those annoying rain showers on bank holidays. Once again, our Government has chosen to pass laws prohibiting something over which they have little or no control.
John Blackley

What people decide to view and do in their own bedrooms should always remain their choice, as long as it stays in the bedroom.
James Hassell

Ban pornography? Who will decide what is "violent"? This Government is going too far. We do not need nannyism anymore. We are adults and we will view what we please!
William Shearer

Why this great urge to censor things which, on the whole, will be used by individuals in their own homes and won't pose a threat to anybody? While there seems to be less censorship in the cinema and on the television, which is to be applauded, there seems to be a wish to clamp down on internet usage. This will have no effect other than to increase the use of remote storage devices (external hard drives and the like), while tying up police and security resources that could be better used elsewhere.
David Leslie

Assuming that the models in the photos know what they are getting themselves into then I see no harm. Some people like and enjoy bondage just the same as some people like and enjoy sleeping with people of the same sex.
Name and address withheld

While I think it would be a good idea to ban all porn it will be an absolute minefield to prosecute those downloading it from the internet. Where do you draw the line at "violent porn"? It is so easy to open up a page by accident, so any law would be totally unjust. How about the adult channels on TV? No half measures please. Ban them all at source or forget it.
Robert Johnson


4th September Up for Discussion

From Shaun

I have put some of my initial responses to three of the questions, down to share with other respondents on the site, to give them some ideas. These are preliminary. points, and do not constitute what is to be my final response to the questions:

Evidence of Harm (Page 9)
2. In the absence of conclusive research results as to its possible negative effects, do you think that there is some pornographic material which is so degrading, violent or aberrant that it should not be tolerated?

That it should not be tolerated, without proper evidence of harm, is no justification for criminalisation of its posession... In this clause you ACTUALLY ADMIT there is no conclusive evidence of harm. Therefore prohibition and criminalisation (especially of possession) should NOT be an option for you. Might I politely remind you that we do not live in a country like Iran (as yet) but live in a free western democracy ?

Content of Material (Page 11)
3. Do you agree with the list of material set out (in paragraph 39)?

No. I don't agree with any of it.

Most violent material is staged. It will be difficult for you to distinguish what is, and isn't staged. Nor do you specify (and fully justify) exactly what is to be criminalised..

Bestiality though very distasteful, and quite disgusting, can actually be harmless to everyone involved in the making.

Please be sure you are not criminalising material on the grounds of distaste, rather than harm.

Distaste is no reason to ban anything, and CERTAINLY no reason to criminalise possession. This is clearly a step change too far, for the power of government to dictate what we might look at in our own homes. Criminalisation of child pornography is one thing, but it should END there.

Only in the case of child pornography, is the harm caused to the particpants in proportion to the measures taken against it, including criminalisation of possession. I will NEVER be convinced, (nor will any sane and rational person in my opinion) that the material you want to ban, is in any way equivalent to child pornograpy. Indeed you are about to undermine the unique message that criminalisation of possession of ONLY child pornography sends out, by including other material.

I would also suggest that if the case for criminalisation of this material was so overwhelming, it would be easy for you to show proportionate harm. In the consultation document no where is the harm in proportion to the action you wish to take.

4. Do you believe there is any justification for being in possession of such material?

It is not a matter that the owner of such material should have to justify, the reason why he or she should want to possess it. Those who wish to rob them of the right to own certain images, must justify the reason why such a right should be denied. Under the Human Rights Act, I DO NOT have to state why I should have a freedom. The authorities have to state why this freedom should not be allowed. Their justification must also be "more than necessary", proportionate, and justified. NOWHERE in this consultation is there any kind of proportionate justification for this blatent repression of free people. Nor are the content of the pictures which are to be criminalised accurately described. If you were to go ahead with this, it would be a GROSS violation of peoples Human Rights, and it is clear you are censoring in the most part on the grounds of distaste, rather than harm. Such repression, by government "should have no place, in any society which considers itself a free one".

In Spain nothing is censored or criminalised other than child pornography. Everything else is freely and legally available. You should be able to gather plenty of empirical evidence of the harm caused by it, to justify your position. I challenge you do to so, before robbing freeborn people of their human rights to make up their own mind.


3rd September Home Office Caned

Obviously the surprisingly extensive BDSM community is under massive threat from the knee jerking activities at the Home Office. Here is a pertinent question from British Spanking which gets a very alarming response. It does seem that the legislation will criminalise an enormous quantity of material that is patently consensual in its production but depicts non consensual acts. This could turn out as one of the nastiest pieces of censorship legislation ever seen. Shame on the Home Office


Brigella mailed the official board direct, asking if spanking material were included, and this is the reply I received:

The proposals would cover pornography in all forms, whether on a website, in a magazine, video or any other form. If the spanking or corporal punishment (in a sexual context) being depicted was so severe that it could be charged as serious assault (or in England grievous bodily harm) then such images would be included in the proposals. However if the actions being depicted were less severe (eg consensual and no injury was caused), then they would be very unlikely to be included in the proposals.

Yours sincerely,

Criminal Law Branch 2

Justice Department

Brigella: Thanks for your reply, but I have two points I'd like clarified if I may:

  • In a spanking video, there are usually severe cane welts, and general bruising, would this constitute grievious bodily harm?
  • The scenarios rarely portray a consensual scene, would this be seen to infringe the new proposals?

Susie: I’m afraid I can’t give you a definitive answer on your first point. I think it most cases spanking would not constitute grievous bodily harm (in English law) unless it was particularly severe, but it would depend on the precise image and would be a matter for the courts to decide on the facts of the particular. Scots law is even more subjective and therefore even more difficult to give a definitive answer I’m afraid.

However I realise that this isn’t particularly helpful in clarifying the issue. I would therefore suggest that you explain which types of material (if any) you think it should be illegal to possess, and also if you have any comments about how it should be defined then that would also be helpful – as you can see, there may be drawbacks in using the various legal definitions of assault.

On the second, the proposed position is that it would be whether the material depicts serious sexual violence (or other images) which would determine whether it would be unlawful to possess an image. In some images it may not be easy to determine whether acts were consensual. In others, serious violence may be used to force an act in the absence of consent and the serious violence used would mean that it would be unlawful to possess an image. Again, we would welcome your views on these proposals and whether they should include reference to whether material is consensual.


3rd September   Non-Consensual Legislation

The Government don't seem to be getting the substantial support they were hoping for.

Selected opinion from BBC forums

The actions of one individual should not lead to this sort of ban. It is the old "Grand Theft Auto made me do it" argument. Stop finding scapegoats and take some responsibility. The material in question has been available online for years. Why is now, due to the actions of one individual, that it should be banned? The whole point of the internet is that it is not government controlled. Banning certain content is restricting free speech.
Graham Flett

Believe it or not, some of this violent stuff is in fact consensual, so where do we draw the line? Are we going to ban the consensual stuff too? What will be banned from being looked at online? As much as I may feel sick by the thought that people enjoy looking at this stuff, the alternative of banning everything we don't like sends even more shivers down my spine.
Nathan James

Surely the internet should be about free access to any material. Do the government believe if they ban such images, the desire to view them by certain people will disappear. Absurd!
M Noon

Why is anyone surprised at new censorship laws? The UK is always up for banning things the middle classes don't like, and after the London bombings, they are on full "ban it" mode. In fact, their current rant resembles a "ban everything and make everything we don't like illegal" mode, and it supports the best traditions of the lets-ban-it-and hope-it-goes-away reaction, so familiar to UK parliaments. The "banned" list is long, and gets longer every day. At this rate, soon doing anything at all will be illegal and everyone will be arrested for everything.
M Parker

It is clear to me that non-consensual acts of any kind should be illegal, however if the porn in question is safe, sane and consensual I don't see what the problem is. To argue that it causes people to be violent has been repeatedly proved to be somewhat unfounded and it is possible that if people who want to see this sort of thing cannot then they will be more likely to commit it themselves.

Whose definition of "violent and abusive" is going to be used? I seem to remember that lingerie adverts were banned on the London Underground because they were regarded as abusive. Once again this government is using an authoritarian sledgehammer to crack an admittedly distasteful nut.
David Anderson

This Government seem to want to ban everything they don't agree with. Banning this material is the wrong way to go in any event. ISP's should be forced to accept a global code of conduct and take responsibility for the sites they host.
Paul S

The sort of person who goes out and strangles someone because they saw it in porn is the same sort of person who would go out and punch somebody because they had been watching a boxing match. We should concentrate instead on promoting strength of character, and a good moral code. How will people learn to make up their minds themselves if every important choice is made for them?

So people never had thoughts about violent sex before the internet? Take away the internet, take away films, take away TV, take away books, and I dare suggest that people will still have such thoughts.
Lee, Hebburn

We are on a very slippery slope here. One man's obscenity is another's sexual preference. As a gay man, some find my sexual practices obscene and depraved. How long before someone like me is prosecuted for looking at, what they deem to be okay, but many might find depraved. I remember the S&M trails of the 80's when people were jailed for consensual S&M sex.

I worked for 12 years in the Crown Prosecution Service. Before we decided to prosecute under the Obscene Publications Act, we had to watch the videos for evident violence or pain. Despite material being depraved and sickening, juries were reluctant to convict, possibly on the basis that what consenting adults watch or do is a matter for them. I think the new proposals are doomed to share the same fate. It's easy for politicians to accede to the demands of grieving and suffering victims' families, but that is not a good basis for creating law. Should people act out their fantasies there are plenty of laws in existence to prosecute them, we don't need new ones.
David Watson

If we all sit each day watching pretty flowers growing in the wind and ban all films, music, internet, books, radio and telephones there will still be a lunatic who goes out and kills half a village banning everything bad will not change this. There will always be killers and bad people out there, blaming technology will not raise the dead or stop future deaths - it is just a scapegoat as always. What is actually needed is care for those who are unstable and tougher penalties for those who kill.
Andrew Lindop

If this pornography depicts sexual activity between non-consenting adults then the offenders should be prosecuted in their own country. However, simply looking at images should never under any circumstances be considered a criminal offence. This all sounds to me like an Orwellian nightmare vision of mass police surveillance and sexual thought crime?.

I watched some pretty graphic scenes of mutilation and murder of women on BBC1's compelling "Messiah IV" last night. If I'd taped it does that mean I could go to jail for 3 years? These proposals are poorly thought out and another move towards creating a repressive politically-correct society.
Godfrey Bartlett

And this will be enforced how, exactly? Constant monitoring of every Internet connection? I think not. As the availability of firearms in this country has shown, banning things does not make those things inaccessible. The sickos will always find a way to get their hands on this material.

Nobody has a problem with the fact that you are not allowed to publish, and as such access in the UK, this sort of imagery in print or on video so I can't see how anyone could have a complaint about accessing it through the internet. I for one will be happy to see the new laws brought in. While I am in full support of the proposed laws I can't help but feel that the justification is tenuous after all if this sort of imagery creates a 'monkey see monkey do effect' why is it not exactly the same with violent Hollywood films?

Another law to enforce? The police have enough trouble enforcing the current ones, only to see all of their hard work go to waste as judges hand out ridiculously lenient sentences. The government needs to stop this current trend of throwing new laws at every new problem that arises and concentrate on catching those that commit crime and ensuring that they are suitably punished. Watching a recent Crimewatch 'solved' and seeing violent offender after violent offender being given sentences of between 4 and 6 years is truly sickening.
Andy B


3rd September Faint Praise

From the BBC

Accessing extreme (including consensual or staged) adult pornography over the internet could become illegal under proposed new legislation. Offenders could face up to three years in jail - but how difficult would it be to enforce such legislation?

The police have broadly welcomed the new proposals saying currently opportunities for prosecution only exist when links to such sites are found in this country.

Shameful Dave Johnston , police (ACPO) spokesman on sexual crime, said:
We are not trying to criminalise more people, BUT... we are trying to reduce the supply and demand.

He accepts there will be a hardcore of people who will continue to pursue their supposedly "depraved" (ie people like you or I watching the likes of Baise-Moi ) activities but said the police had the resources to pursue them through covert and overt actions.

But the Police Federation of England and Wales, while supporting the legislation, has voiced concern about how it will be enforced. Vice chairman Alan Gordon said: This legislation would entail sites being constantly monitored in the same way paedophile sites are. There is a question mark over what the police service on its own is resourced to do. He said the law needed to be clear in its terminology to avoid legal arguments over the definition of violent pornography.

Concern has also been raised over whether people will just find new ways to avoid prosecution. Kim Gilmour, senior researcher for the magazine Computing Which?, said: You need to address how this material comes to be online in the first place. She said there were many ways in which people could "cover their tracks." They borrow techniques from hackers, using file-sharing software and exchanging information through using codewords and encryption . There are always going to be people who can circumvent the legislation but it might deter a few people.

Internet Watch, the net watchdog which runs a UK hotline for reporting illegal content, works with service providers (ISPs), the government and police to have such material removed. Spokeswoman Fay Macdonald said: So many of these sites are hosted outside the UK which has made the police investigation so difficult. Adult pornography is difficult to govern because of factors such as the global nature of the internet and the range of legislation and attitudes.

She said any new legislation would be challenging. Will there be levels of categorising material as there is with child abuse? , she said.

But not everyone is convinced new legislation would be a positive development.  Dr Chris Evans, founder of the group Internet Freedom, said: It will be easier to find people you wish to prosecute. But the idea that it might prevent violent sexual acts is without basis.

No definite link has been established between access to these sites and violence but the consultation document states it believes such material may encourage or reinforce interest in violent sexual activity.

Dr Evans said:
Most people find this material repulsive. They don't need the government, police, or Internet Watch to tell them. People should be able to make up their own mind.


2nd September   Criminal Failure to Deal With Issues

By David Wilson who is professor of criminology at the University of Central England in Birmingham, and the author of Innocence Betrayed: Paedophiles, the Media and Society

From The Guardian

We live in a quick-fix society that believes there is a ready-made, usually legal, remedy to each and every problem that we face. Why bother dealing with the structural, underlying problems that make young people drink to excess, get excluded from school or take drugs, when we can simply impose an Asbo on them?
And now we have proposals for a new law banning possession of violent and abusive pornography that is accessed via the internet, as if such a law - at the click of a mouse - will end the demand that has created this electronic supply. All that this does, as with Asbos, is create a semblance that something is being done to counter a real issue, without actually tackling the social, economic and cultural circumstances that render women and children powerless and make them pornographic fodder.

These structural arguments notwithstanding, there are three other issues that we should be concerned with before passing any proposed legislation.

Firstly, much of yesterday's debate centred on the murder two years ago of Jane Longhurst by a friend's boyfriend, who had seemingly spent hours viewing images of women being strangled and raped. The argument here - presented as "common sense" - seems based on the idea that viewing violent images produces violent acts. However, there is now 60 years' worth of research that suggests this simply isn't the case.

An offshoot of this research has more recently tried to establish a relationship between viewing child pornography and thereafter abusing children. Here the best we can do is to suggest that one in three "lookers" is a "doer", but we have yet to unravel the complex relationships between images, fantasy and action, and, crucially, which comes first.

This whole issue of the relationship between looking and doing is an important one, for it goes to the heart of the supposed benefits of the proposed legislation, which implies a direct causation. Yet we know that the relationship between thinking, viewing and acting on that thinking is multifaceted and complex, and not at all as clear-cut and simple as has been presented.

Look, for example, at motivation - in other words, where does the motivation to consume violent and pornographic images come from, and, crucially, is that motivation created by looking at violent and pornographic images, or does it already exist?

Our own personal knowledge of this area is perhaps a guide here, for all of us at some time have encountered violent, abusive or pornographic images - for myself most recently in Michael Winterbottom's widely available film 9 Songs - but overwhelmingly we do not act on those images; indeed, we are usually repulsed by them.

The small number who are not repulsed will continue to be motivated by a desire to consume these images, whether they are banned or not, and the idea of simply removing one source of the supply of those images is but a drop in the ocean in terms of a suitable response to violent pornography.

This raises a second issue about the regulation of private space - what we do in our bedrooms, studies and, ultimately, in our heads. Is what we view not a matter for ourselves and our consciences, rather than a suitable case for state intervention? This might paint a needlessly frightening scenario of Big Brother's thought police, but we have to remember that, increasingly, what has previously been deemed as private has become public and a suitable venue for state action. Look, for example, at the introduction of parental responsibility orders, which suggests that there is a "right" way to bring up our children, that can be taught at evening classes. Again, look at the quick fix - an evening class, rather than support and financial aid.

Finally, the reality of the law is that it is always playing "catch up". Put simply, the state has never been able to keep up with the drive and innovation of technology; when, for example, bans were introduced about downloading child pornography, most of the paedophiles I was researching had in any event moved to downloading through peer-to-peer systems and net-enabled mobile phones. In other words, the solutions to child pornography were not to find a quick fix to the supply, but to uncover, expose and overcome those structural strains in our society that fetishised young people's bodies and turned them into a sexual commodity, rather than to continue to prosecute priests, policemen, rock stars, teachers and the rest through Operation Ore.

So too the solutions to violent and abusive pornography will come when we deal with those issues which create the demand for abusive and violent images of women and children rather than focusing on how this demand is supplied.


2nd September   Home Office are Failing Us

Letter to the Home Office from Shaun

On the BBC web site  ( ) it states: Liz Longhurst, of Reading, Berkshire, was shocked such material was freely available and the new laws may make viewing such images from the UK could now be made an offence.

Why is it, that when anything nasty happens in this country, you try to find something to blame ? Such as internet content ?

The fellow that caused the harm to Ms Longhurst was obviously mentally deranged. Given that as far as we know, only HE did something like this, after viewing certain images on the internet, rather than EVERYONE or a WORRYING PROPORTION of people who viewed such material, means that the fault was >>inside him<<, not because of the material he watched, however distasteful it may have been.

Censoring CHILD PORNOGRAPHY is one thing, (because the case for it is unequivocally proven) but censoring adult material, however distasteful is quite another, especially that which can be faked, like I suspect, the VAST MAJORITY of the material under discussion actually is. As such you are CENSORING free expression, and your activities would be DISPROPORTIONATE. As such I would NEVER support it.

Censorship of this kind should have NO PLACE in a free country, where the government is supposed to care about the Human Rights of its citizens. You will be undermining the support for minimal censorship, of child abuse, etc. If we are to have WHOLESALE censorship of this kind, well, I am sorry to have to tell you, that I'd sooner have NO CENSORSHIP OF THE INTERNET AT ALL, rather than this.

You have to respect HUMAN RIGHTS. It seems that you never do. Indeed I believe the OBSCENE PUBLICATIONS ACT itself, is a GROSS VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS..

You should be ashamed to even consider increased censorship of a free people, by pandering to the "something must be done(TM) brigade, after one isolated incident, regardless of how nasty it was.


Indeed that is required of you, by the Human Rights Act, which provides for a guarantee of FREE EXPRESSION. You people brought it in remember ?

By using censorship, you are simply using scapegoatism, and avoiding the real issues. Intelligent, well informed people can easily see that, and you are FAILING us.

WE are NOT STUPID, you know. It insults us, that you seem to believe otherwise.


1st September  3 Years in Prison for Owners of Sexy Horror Videos

Thought of the Day:

From the Governments nasty consultation paper

The offence would be limited to explicit actual scenes or realistic depictions of the specified types of material. By “explicit” we intend the offence to cover activity which can be clearly seen and is not hidden, disguised or implied. The intention is also only to cover actual images or realistic depictions of the activities listed (but not, for example, text or cartoons). By realistic depictions we intend to capture those scenes which appear to be real and are convincing, but which may be acted. This follows the precedent of the child pornography legislation and is in part necessary to avoid the need to prove the activity actually took place, as this would be an insuperable hurdle for the prosecution, particularly if the material comes from abroad.

It starts on a misleadingly reasonable notion that it is targeting scenes featuring grievous bodily harm. It then quickly says that it may be hard to prove the actual harm and so it will now criminalise the depiction of grievous bodily harm. This effectively puts an awful lot of modern horror films in the illegal category. You can't get much more grievous than a grizzly murder. The example of level of realism is hardly comforting. To be sure of not being realistic the Government suggests that it should be text or a cartoon.

So as soon as a horror film has a few sexy softcore scenes in it, it can be classed as a sex work and enable the police to knock down your door at 6am and bang you up for 3 years.


1st September   Extreme Concerns

Editorial from the Financial Times

Most people find violent and abusive pornography offensive, and the availability of such images has been vastly increased by the internet. This has led to demands for government intervention, which resulted yesterday in proposals for a new British law to ban the possession of "extreme pornographic material". However, the difficulties in drafting such legislation are enormous - and the need for it is unproved.

The proposed British law would cover pornography depicting bestiality, necrophilia, serious violence in a sexual context and serious sexual violence. Publishing and distributing such images is already an offence in Britain, but internet users can acquire them from websites outside the UK. The government says making possession an offence would discourage the use of material that is "abhorrent to most people and has no place in our society".

The model is the legislation that criminalises possession of indecent photographs of children. Yet the parallels are not exact. First, there is a clear victim with child pornography, whose protection justifies a law to choke off demand. Second, there is a clear definition of what constitutes such pornography that has allowed internet service providers to close illegal websites and block those based abroad.

The government's consultation paper struggles to make the case that extreme pornography causes sufficient harm to justify criminalising it. It says the police believe that in some cases, the material may involve criminal injury to those involved in making it. If so, this is a matter for the police in the country where it takes place.

The government also says it is possible that the images encourage violent and aberrant sexual activity. It cites the brutal murder in 2003 of a young woman by a man who had looked at extreme websites. Yet it admits it cannot draw definite conclusions from research about the impact of pornography on individuals, even those predisposed to violent sexual behaviour.

The practicalities of a new law are daunting. Defining the offence would raise considerable problems: what, for example, is "serious violence"? Attempts to define obscene publications in the past have brought ridicule on the law, banning books subsequently recognised as classics.

There would have to be exemptions for those who inadvertently stumble on extreme images or are sent them in spam e-mail. Pornographers would also be able to display images that counted as news coverage, medical images, educational material or works of art.

The proposed new law is an attempt to close a loophole opened up by the internet in Britain's already stringent censorship regime. As the consultation paper admits, no other western country attempts to prohibit simple possession of extreme pornography. There are much greater threats to the lives and wellbeing of the public that governments should focus their attention on.


1st September   Watchful

From a press release by the Internet Watch Foundation

Under the Government's proposals, it would be an offence to possess images depicting scenes of serious sexual violence and other obscene material. Currently, The Obscene Publications Act (OPA) 1959, makes it an offence only to publish this material.

Independent body; the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is the only organisation in the UK to provide an internet ‘hotline’ service for the public to report their exposure to illegal content on the net, specifically; child abuse images hosted anywhere in the world; criminally obscene content hosted in the UK and criminally racist content hosted in the UK.

Whereas the law on child abuse images is very clear, providing specific guidelines on what constitutes an offence and how this type of material is categorised, there are many factors which have made the governance of ‘adult’ pornographic content extremely difficult. These include; the global nature of the internet, the difficulty in regulating and controlling access to content, the range of legislation across the world and the increasing diversity in social attitudes.

The IWF deals very specifically with illegal content and is not involved in making moral judgements on web content. Material is assessed based on whether it is a breach of the law in the UK, according to relevant legislation. This enables a very clear line on what is and is not ‘actionable’ and what may or may not warrant potential police investigation.

It is already rare to find this type of extreme pornographic content hosted in the UK, due to the success of a partnership approach between the various parties to minimise the availability of such content.

The fact that many such sites are hosted outside the UK have made police investigations very difficult and it is hoped that the creation of new offences will assist in this process.

During the first 6 months of 2005 the IWF received 1074 reports categorised as 'potentially obscene adult material'.

This was 9% of all reports submitted to the IWF hotline in this period.

81% appeared to be hosted in the US, 5% in China, 5% in Russia and 9% in other countries.

Of those 1074 reports, 140 or 13% were assessed by the IWF hotline team to contain material that would potentially breach the Obscene Publications Act.

53% of those reports related to acts of extreme sexual torture.

Of the 140 reports, 60% appeared to be hosted in the US, 14% in China, 4% in Russia and 22% in 'other' countries.

No potentially illegal material appeared to be hosted or domain registered in the UK.

Peter Robbins, CEO, IWF said: The UK has an excellent partnership model for dealing with potentially illegal content. The IWF will actively contribute in the consultation phase to achieve clarity in the new laws and to ensure appropriate partnerships are in place for the content that fails the test to be removed and where possible the individuals responsible investigated.

The IWF will study the Governments proposals very carefully and will respond to the consultation paper after taking account of the views of our many stakeholders.

Media Contacts

Fay MacDonald
Communications Co-ordinator


31st August  Grievous Censorship Harm

My thought of the day:  Baise-Moi depicts a brutal rape surely of the strength to be criminalised by this bill. As the remainder of the film features sexy hardcore scenes it could be considered a sex work and allow owners to be banged up for 3 years.   On the other hand it may be considered as a serious work not intended to arouse and hence be perfectly legal.

It is an arbitrary decision that ordinary citizens could not be expected to make about whether the film is a sex work or not. Experience suggests that Crown Persecution Service would be more than happy to employ (or threaten to employ )  a bench full of barristers to argue that it was a sex work  and that one should be locked away for 3 years.

A calm assessment of the current situation, and a clear outline of the regulatory options. Nothing on how any regulatory scheme would work in practice, e.g. who would decide what sites were (not) acceptable, how would infractions of the new laws (i.e. the acquisition/possession of illegal material) be detected, etc.

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) have given their initial response to the government's proposals on violent pornography.

Shaun is hoping to have words with David Ware, at the Home Office. He will be taking the justified line that it is a complete disgrace: One person gets murdered by some nutter and the idiots at the Home Office start running around like headless chickens..

I also believe that making this material illegal alongside child porn, will dilute the very horrendous and unique nature of child abuse, and the criminalisation for possession of that kind of material.

I will oppose this vehemently, on the grounds that:

  1.  99.99% of all such material is staged, and there is therefore underlying consent.
  2. The harm caused by the pictures, is not anything LIKE proportionate to this kind of action.
  3. It is a sea change too far against our rights and freedoms. The government simply should have no right to go this far.
  4. It is criminalisation of the possession of ideas, which did not involve real harm at the source.


31st August   A Liberal Comment

From The Guardian

The Liberal Democrats also welcomed the consultation. But the chairman of the Lib Dem parliamentary party, Paul Homes, added: Obviously we need to ensure that the right balance is struck between preventing the spread and production of extreme, violent and degrading pornography whilst ensuring that the legitimate private sexual freedom of adults is not undermined.


31st August   ISPs Don't Want to Be Saddled with Policing Bollox Law

From the Financial Times

Internet service providers are privately concerned that they could be saddled with a legal duty to "police the internet" under Home Office plans to plug a gap in the Obscene Publications Act and outlaw abusive or violent images.

Under the consultation, ministers are proposing to make possession of extreme pornographic electronic images the same as print photography, a distinction already eliminated in the case of child pornography. It is already an offence to use the internet to publish violent pornography, but most of the sites are hosted by foreign ISPs.

This is material which is extremely offensive to the vast majority of people and it should have no place in our society, said Paul Goggins, Home Office minister. The fact that it is available over the internet should in no way legitimise it. The Home Office said the British-based internet industry had a strong track record in removing illegal material and it is no coincidence that virtually none of this material is hosted by UK ISPs .

Nevertheless, ISPs fear fresh legislation could re-open the question of whether they are merely "conduits" for electronic information or have a duty to monitor and censor the material they host. In respect of child pornography, British-based ISPs have worked closely with law en-forcement agencies to clamp down on illegal sites and are developing the technology to block illicit websites.

But their task is made easier by the fact that the Internet Watch Foundation, an independent body bringing together police and the industry, monitors illegal child porn sites and earmarks them for closure. There is no similar body for other pornography, which means ISPs could be forced to decide themselves what constitutes extreme obscenity.

The Home Office acknowledged that a ban on possession of electronic images could pose a challenge to ISP.
Filtering the material we are addressing today will be more complex, as there is no equivalent of the IWF list, because there are more of these sites and because the sites will stay live in their host country. The technology to support filtering develops quickly and ISPs will want to consider the needs of their customers.


30th August  Grievous Bodily Harm to Human Rights

My heart sinks on this story. Yet more innocent people to be persecuted like Braintree and the victims of Operation Ore where innocent people were jailed for child porn after lies from US police.

And again the Government is blaming individuals for its own failings to implement practical and tolerant laws allowing adult entertainment. This is the same Government that has done its upmost to prevent people watching harmless and consensual adult porn. It then gets all vindictive when this results in people seeking porn from less reputable avenues.

On the first read, the use of the term "serious violence that would normally result in a prosecution for grievous bodily harm" sounds half way reasonable but then one notices the word depict. This suggests that all sorts of faked ordinary dramatic scenes can get one locked up for 4 years.

From The Telegraph

A ban on possessing extreme pornography will be announced by the Government today in an effort to curb access to websites that glamorise necrophilia, female strangulation and torture.

Under proposals to be published by the Home Office, it will be an offence punishable by up to three years in jail to have images of serious sexual violence and other obscene material.

Britain has tried for more than 40 years to control access to pornography by closing off the source through the Obscene Publication Act, under which it is illegal to publish material "likely to corrupt or deprave". But the internet has rendered the law almost redundant because the images can be viewed easily from abroad without penalty.

Ministers hope that the creation of a new offence of possession of violent and abusive pornography - unique in any western jurisdiction - will make it easier to combat and reduce demand for it. A similar law already exists for child pornography and has led to numerous prosecutions.

Paul Goggins, a Home Office minister, said last night: The intention is to send a message that it has no place in our society. We are not referring to what might be called mainstream pornography or to the kind of material classified for sale in licensed sex shops. By extreme, we mean material which is violent and abusive, featuring activities which are illegal in themselves and where, in some cases, the participants may have been the victims of criminal offences.

A consultation paper published today acknowledges that the source of the offensive material cannot be closed off because of the internet. The best that can be done is to use the risk of sanction to discourage interest in it.

The paper also accepts that no definitive evidence exists about the long-term impact of such material either generally or on those predisposed to aberrant sexual behaviour.

The proposed offence would apply to pornographic material depicting bestiality, necrophilia or serious violence that would normally result in a prosecution for grievous bodily harm. The consultation document says there are hundreds of internet sites offering a wide range of material featuring the torture of (mostly female) victims . It is not the intention to penalise people who stumble across the material, have it sent to them without their consent or have a legitimate reason - such as law enforcement - for dealing with it. "

The offence would also apply in Scotland, where the Executive is involved in the consultation, due to last four months. But framing the law will not be easy, and there are human rights considerations about what people are allowed to view in the privacy of their own homes under Article 8 (right to a private life) and Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European human rights convention.

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