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UK Parliament Watch

2009: Jan-March

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28th March   

Family and Economics before Media...

Jesse Jackson talks about violent media in UK Parliament
Link Here

The Reverend Jesse Jackson downplayed the influence of violent media in testimony before the British Parliament's Home Affairs Committee. The committee, which has been investigating knife crime, is chaired by long time video game nutter Keith Vaz.

GamePolitics has transcribed the portions of Jackson's testimony which relate to media violence issues:

Labour MP Martin Salter: Rev. Jackson, we've been taking evidence on the effects or the increasing effect of violent media images on young people, whether it's in video games, whether it's on TV, whether it's the cinema. It seems the evidence were hearing, that there's a general danger that young people can be desensitized to the concept of violence by the images that they see, but there's a greater predisposition to violence if those young people are brought up in families and households and communities where actual violence is the norm. Do you have any lessons from America for us on this issue?

Rev. Jesse Jackson: For a long time we challenged music artists and movie makers to be sensitive to the impact that their music and their movies have on children and they have some force... But those who grow drugs in Afghanistan and poppy seeds – they don't listen to music. This thing is not about music and movies. It's about a form of economy... we've lost more lives from [the drug] war than the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. And we seem to see it as something marginal but it is in the center of our security and it's getting worse in my judgment... the structural crisis of poverty and drugs and guns is more real than just movies and music.
Labour MP Keith Vaz: Do you accept that there is a link between violent video games and violence that is perpetrated by individuals? Do you think that those images do have an effect on young people?

Rev. Jesse Jackson: There may be some link of imitation. The question, Mr. Chairman, is art imitating life? Is life reflecting art? There's always a big debate there. What we do know in these troubled times… there's increased domestic violence in the home. [Children are] more likely to imitate parents fighting physically. Domestic violence is maybe even a bigger factor on violent behavior than the movies and the worst games that are played. So, yes, we urge artists to not use their considerable skills to desensitize people to violence. Sure, these games that think that killing is a game must be challenged. But the economic impact of life options determines whether one is headed up towards university or down toward prison.


27th March   

Blinkered MPs...

Parliamentary internet filter blocks MP's own newspaper column
Link Here

MPs are prevented from surfing the internet for pornographic and other inappropriate material in their Commons offices, it has emerged.

A filter on the Commons IT system blocks access to websites that contain supposedly offensive or illegal content or are sources of malicious software.

The policy emerged after an MP was unable to access colleague Lembit Opik's column on the Daily Sport site.

Opik said he did not believe the site should be blocked: Because of the things they are trying to censor they may have made an assumption about this particular website . But he said he did not believe the site was inappropriate and that although he backed the filters, which prevented MPs from being bombarded with utter rubbish , he did think they were too restrictive and sometimes prevented MPs from accessing sites they needed for their work.


26th March   

Not So Comical...

Comic book artists voice justifiable concerns over the dangerous cartoons bill
Link Here

Comic book artists are to fight a law which bans depictions of children in sexual situations, saying it could criminalise legitimate artists and fans.

The law was buried deep in the coroners and justice bill, which passed through the Commons earlier this week, and is now on its way to the Lords.

The law was originally laid out following consultation with children's groups and the entertainment industry, although, as GM Jordan points out in a comment piece for today, comic professionals were not invited to contribute to the process.

The government also had an eye on the increasingly extreme animated pornography - called Hentai - originating in Japan. This sometimes includes scenes of child abuse, but would have not been illegal under previous laws.

But a growing coalition of artists are increasingly concerned about the effect the law will have on artistic expression.

Critics have pointed to the comic The Lost Girls , written by infamous comic creator Alan Moore – the mind behind current blockbuster movie Watchmen.

The comic, a piece of erotic fiction envisaging the sexual awakening of three famous fairy tale characters – Alice from Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and Wendy from Peter Pan.

The women meet in their 30s but certain pages deal with their experiences in their late teens. Despite the girls in the book being above the age of consent, the law defines child as anyone under 18.

Opponents of the bill argue that if it is followed through, those who had bought the comic would be automatically criminalised by having it in their possession.

A group called the Comic Book Alliance has formed to challenge the law. Its founding members include Moore's daughter, Leah. Several high-profile comic creators have joined the campaign, including Bryan Talbot and Neil Gaiman, writer of Stardust, which was recently turned into a Hollywood film starring Robert De Niro, and The Sandman series.

But the activists are concerned not enough fellow professionals will join the campaign for fear of appearing sympathetic to paedophile animation.


18th March   

Update: Parliamentary Shoot 'Em Up...

MPs take pot shots at bad guy Vaz
Link Here
Full story: Keith Vaz...Keith Vaz in votes for knighthood claim

Keith Vaz looked increasingly isolated last night after his position as chairman of an influential Commons committee was called into question by senior MPs.

He is likely to come under pressure to stand down at a meeting of the Home Affairs Select Committee following revelations in the Daily Mail that he intervened in a court case on behalf of a crooked friend.

In line with Parliamentary convention, members of the committee are refusing to criticise him publicly. But such is the level of anger that some have sanctioned friends to make their feelings clear.

One said last night: Vaz limps from drama to drama and it is about time he looked at his position. Another said that they expected Vaz's conduct to be brought up in a closed session today, while a third source close to an MP on the committee claimed that the chairman's behaviour stinks.

As the pressure on him increased throughout, Vaz also faced a censure motion from the Commons over claims he abused his position.

Tory MP Douglas Carswell said: If these press reports are true, Vaz must quit as chairman of the Commons select committee. His position is simply not tenable, and the longer he stays, the more he brings the entire farcical Commons into yet further disrepute.

Fellow Tory MP Andrew Robathan added: It is entirely inappropriate that the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee should write to the Royal Courts of Justice expressing an opinion on a case before the courts.

Vaz is likely to escape a full-scale sleaze inquiry because he has already been cleared of wrongdoing over his links to Mireskandari by Parliamentary Standards Commissioner John Lyon.

The greatest pressure is likely to come from colleagues in the Commons, including those on the committee. Vaz did not receive the consent of fellow committee members to make his attempt to help Mireskandari, a convicted conman.

One MP said: If anyone writes in the capacity of a position on a select committee, then that letter should be circulated so that it has the agreement of the committee as a whole. Failing to do so deserves at the very least a warning and admonishment, and such actions could be considered a sacking offence.

Vaz has so far refused justify his intervention as select committee chairman.


14th March   

Dangerous Pictures Proposed Law...

Scottish Government publishes its extreme pornography bill
Link Here

The Scottish Government have decided to amend its existing obscene publications law rather than create a new standalone law.

34 Extreme pornography

(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—

(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or to both, or
(b) on conviction on indictment—

(i) in a case where the obscene material is or includes an extreme pornographic image, to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 5 years or to a fine or to both, or
(ii) in any other case, to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 3 years or to a fine or to both.

51A Extreme pornography

(1) A person who is in possession of an extreme pornographic image is guilty of an offence under this section.
(2) An extreme pornographic image is an image which is all of the following—

(a) obscene,
(b) pornographic,
(c) extreme.

(3) An image is pornographic if it is of such a nature that it must reasonably be assumed to have been made solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal.

(4) Where (as found in the person's possession) an image forms part of a series of images, the question of whether the image is pornographic is to be determined by reference to—

(a) the image itself (and any sounds accompanying it), and
(b) where the series of images (and any sounds accompanying them) is such as to be capable of providing a context for the image, its context within the series of images.

(5) So, for example, where—

(a) an image forms an integral part of a narrative constituted by a series of 10 images, and
(b) having regard to those images as a whole, they are not of such a nature that they must reasonably be assumed to have been made solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal, the image may, by virtue of being part of that narrative, be found not to be pornographic (even if it may have been found to be pornographic where taken by itself).

(6) An image is extreme if it depicts, in an explicit and realistic way any of the

(a) an act which takes or threatens a person's life,
(b) an act which results, or is likely to result, in a person's severe injury,
(c) rape or other non-consensual penetrative sexual activity,
(d) sexual activity involving (directly or indirectly) a human corpse,
(e) an act which involves sexual activity between a person and an animal (or the carcase of an animal).

(7) In determining whether (as found in the person's possession) an image depicts
an act mentioned in subsection (6), reference may be had to—

(a) how the image is or was described (whether the description is part of the image itself or otherwise),
(b) any sounds accompanying the image,
(c) where the image forms an integral part of a narrative constituted by a series of images, the context provided by that narrative.

(8) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—

(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12
months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or to both,
(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a period not exceeding
3 years or to a fine or to both.

(9) In this section, an “image” is—

(a) a moving or still image (made by any means), or
(b) data (stored by any means) which is capable of conversion into such an image.

51B Extreme pornography: excluded images

(1) An offence is not committed under section 51A if the image is an excluded

(2) An “excluded image” is an image which is all or part of a classified work.

(3) An image is not an excluded image where—

(a) it has been extracted from a classified work, and
(b) it must be reasonably be assumed to have been extracted (whether with or without other images) from the work solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal.

(4) In determining whether (as found in the person's possession) the image was extracted from the work for the purpose mentioned in subsection (3)(b), reference may be had to—

(a) how the image was stored,
(b) how the image is or was described (whether the description is part of the image itself or otherwise),
(c) any sounds accompanying the image,
(d) where the image forms an integral part of a narrative constituted by a series of images, the context provided by that narrative.

(5) In this section and section 51C—

“classified work” means a video work in respect of which a classification certificate has been issued by a designated authority,

“classification certificate” and “video work” have the same meanings as in the Video Recordings Act 1984 (c.39),

“designated authority” means an authority which has been designated by the Secretary of State under section 4 of that Act,

“extract” includes an extract of a single image,

“image” and “extreme pornographic image” are to be construed in accordance with section 51A.

51C Extreme pornography: defences

(1) Where a person (“A”) is charged with an offence under section 51A, it is a defence for A to prove one or more of the matters mentioned in subsection (2).

(2) The matters are—

(a) that A had a legitimate reason for being in possession of the image concerned,
(b) that A had not seen the image concerned and did not know, nor had any cause to suspect, it to be an extreme pornographic image,
(c) that A—

(i) was sent the image concerned without any prior request having been made by or on behalf of A, and
(ii) did not keep it for an unreasonable time.

(3) Where A is charged with an offence under section 51A, it is a defence for A to
prove that—

(a) A directly participated in the act depicted, and
(b) subsection (4) applies.

(4) This subsection applies—

(a) in the case of an image which depicts an act described in subsection (6)(a) of that section, if the act depicted did not actually take or threaten a person's life,
(b) in the case of an image which depicts an act described in subsection (6)(b) of that section, if the act depicted did not actually result in (nor was it actually likely to result in) a person's severe injury,
(c) in the case of an image which depicts an act described in subsection (6)(c) of that section, if the act depicted did not actually involve nonconsensual activity,
(d) in the case of an image which depicts an act described in subsection (6)(d) of that section, if what is depicted as a human corpse was not in fact a corpse,
(e) in the case of an image which depicts an act described in subsection (6)(e) of that section, if what is depicted as an animal (or the carcase of an animal) was not in fact an animal (or a carcase).

(5) The defence under subsection (3) is not available if A shows, gives or offers for sale the image to any person who was not also a direct participant in the act depicted.


11th March   

Victims of the Blame Game...

Richard Taylor suggests violent video game tax
Link Here

Gordon Brown should levy a tax on violent video games to help tackle knife crime, according to the Richard Taylor, the father of murdered schoolboy Damilola Taylor.

Taylor, who advises Gordon Brown on knife crime, said he would be urging the Prime Minister to impose new taxes on the games

Violent games are too cheap and taxes on them should be very high, Taylor told MPs of the Home Affairs Committee: I have young people who I mentor and I see them go up and buy the games and it saddens me that they are being able to have such a negative impact.

Taylor also told MPs that he was concerned about the content of much rap music: It is creating more of a problem because of the language that is used. It is language that, as a father, I would not allow my children to hear. To me, there is a lot of negativity that comes out of this music, especially that which is coming from America.

Taylor became Brown's special envoy on youth violence and knife crime last month. Part of his role is to offer new ideas to the Premier on how to change young people's behaviour.

Violent Video Game Tax Discussed in Pennsylvania

Based on article from

GamePolitics recently covered a committee hearing of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. The topic was violent video games .

State Representatives question employees of the Pennsylvania Joint State Commission as to possible alternatives by which violent video games might be targeted. One suggests that a 5% tax be levied on sales of violent games with proceeds used to fund a parental education program. A second ponders whether state tax incentives could be withheld from companies which create violent games.

Overall, the meeting was largely exploratory and action on either the 5% tax idea or the restriction on financial incentives seems unlikely.

Comment: Reactionary Bollox

From Dan

You would think that the tragic loss this man has suffered would make him want to refrain from pandering to the kind of sensationalist reactionary bollox that is pushed by the tabloids.

I hope video game fans oppose a tax on their consumer choices


7th March   

Easily Bullied into Condoning Injustice...

Dangerous cartoons bill discussed in House of Commons committee
Link Here

Summarising, lots of valid points made about the over broad reach of the bill and its scope for injustice. But the bullying Maria Eagle just points out the images could possibly play a part in the process of child abuse or else lead on to child abuse. And then all reasonable concerns are overruled.

So we will get a law that will ruin the lives of many innocent people just in the unlikely case that prosecutors can't find more concrete evidence against real abusers.

Coroners and Injustice Bill
House of Commons Committee
3rd March 2009

Edward Garnier: ...I want to know what the use of “disgusting” in the clause adds to the offence. “Offensive behaviour” is a term that criminal courts, and, I think, most members of the public who come into contact with pornography or antisocial sexual behaviour, are aware of, while “disgusting” seems to be simply an emotive term that does not—unless I can be persuaded otherwise—help the shape of the clause very much. It is a great word to spit out and it adds emphasis to one's sense of abhorrence at the thing that one is looking at, but I wonder why the Government think that it is appropriate to use that word in addition to “grossly offensive”. It leads one to wonder, if the prohibited image is grossly offensive and disgusting, or otherwise of an obscene character, where that paragraph leads one to. I think that the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr. Starmer, told us in the evidence sessions that “disgusting” was not an unusual word to be used in criminal statutes, dealing with this particular area of the criminal law, and while I am happy to be corrected, I think that it is unnecessary and over-egging the pudding. That is the half part of my two and a half parts that deal with prohibited images.

The first main part leads us to a discussion on whether the evil or wrong that we seek to prohibit is best captured by attacking possession of prohibited images of children or, as we suggest in our amendment, their publication. For those purposes, publication means the making known of an image to a third party. It is not the technical process of publishing a newspaper or book. Making known to a third party is drawn from defamation law.

My suggestion—I am entirely open to others—is that we are dealing with unreal people, not with human beings or children. If we were, the position would be different, because someone taking an obscene photograph or creating an obscene drawing of a real child needs to have the child in front of them doing the obscene act, or depicted doing it. Here, we are talking about images of children that do not require the presence of a child to create the image. A silly example is a disgusting old man. A pervert in his office or the back room of his house could be creating grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise obscene images. Having drawn them or created them on his computer, however people do such things, he would be in possession of it. One could go through the whole of this part of the Bill and decide that he fits into this, that or the other category, but he would not have done anyone else any harm. He may have drawn the image for his own gratification and may look at it, but what he does with it in his house will not damage the public or the wider world.

Maria Eagle: Would the hon. and learned Gentleman be making a similar distinction if the images were used to groom real children for abuse?

Edward Garnier: The Minister is making my point for me. There must be third party interaction to groom. The child must look at the image, and as soon as the dirty old man shows it to the child for the purposes of grooming, there is publication under my definition, because he will have made the image known to a third party. That is why we must work out whether we are trying to stop publication in various forms—by internet, e-mail or physically showing someone a hard copy document—for all the sensible, catch-all provisions in clause 49, or whether mere possession is sufficient to create a criminal offence.

Maria Eagle: I accept the hon. and learned Gentleman's point, but the image in his example is not illegal. That is the point.

Edward Garnier: I am not seeking to blow the whole clause out of the water. I want to amend it in a way that deals with the public policy point that we should concentrate on. We want to protect people from being affected by other people's revolting behaviour. The dirty old man, to whom my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Norfolk referred, may create an image for his own gratification, but as long as he does not show it to anyone else there is no public harm, which the criminal law needs to think about.


Edward Garnier:   Let me make it clear that I do not approve of things such as the prohibited images. I think they are revolting. But should the criminal law make it an offence for an individual to make for his own gratification drawings or pseudo-images, which are not real children?

George Howarth: ...The fact that it is not a real child in the image—that it could have been conjured from the person's imagination—does not make it any less a paedophile activity. How can the hon. and learned Gentleman say, for example, that what the elderly gentleman who seems to have been evoked may do with an image that he has conjured up from his imagination in the privacy of his own home as part of a paedophile activity, will not lead to other things? It seems self-evident that if somebody can get gratification from that sort of activity, it may be but a short step towards involving real images of children and real activities. I honestly think that the hon. and learned Gentleman has got it wrong in principle as well as in terms of interpreting the Bill.

Edward Garnier: If things lead on to other things, that will create other offences and lead that person to be guilty of them. To take a ludicrous example, the right hon. Gentleman and I may be doodling in this Committee room while other people are speaking; of course, we would not do so, but let us assume that for the purpose of this argument he and I were separately doodling the sorts of images described in the measure and that once we finished we tore them up, threw them away, and showed them to nobody. Would he expect that that doodling should lead us to be prosecuted under the clause? That is the sharp point that I am making.

I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman may disagree with me; he may think that the act of making a private drawing should be a criminal offence, but is that what we are after?

George Howarth: As the hon. and learned Gentleman said, it is a ludicrous example, but I accept that he was trying to find a way of illustrating the argument. I will answer him very directly. If he doodles on the back of a piece of paper during the course of the Committee, screws it up and throws it away, but somebody retrieves it, and then it is discovered that it is grossly offensive, disgusting or of an otherwise obscene character—an image that could be of such a nature that it would be solely or principally used for the purpose of sexual arousal—what he had engaged in would be improper and should not be approved of or sanctioned by the law.

I would like to make a broader point. The hon. and learned Gentleman said in an earlier intervention—I did not get around to responding to it before he intervened on me again—that if the drawings led to something else, those offences would be subject to prosecution. What I am saying is that we want those offences prevented. If somebody is in the process of arousing themselves sexually by that process, it must be part of something. In a lot of cases, it will be part of something that will lead on to something else.

Jenny Willott: Having photographs is a completely different matter because there clearly is a victim. It should therefore be illegal. If there is no evidence that non-photographic images lead to further harm, why should we make them illegal? The question is whether harm is caused as a result of owning such images; if they have an effect on people's behaviour, we should make it illegal. However, the evidence is not strong enough to justify that. I should be grateful if the Minister were to clarify the matter.

I am a little concerned that we are legislating without any evidence, because the risk to children could increase. If the evidence showed that having images that were not photographic acted as a release, and therefore reduced the risk of harm to children, legislating could increase the risk of harm. That is why I am concerned that we are legislating without sufficient evidence.

George Howarth: If the image in question is grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character but does not have a child as a victim, is it not arguable that, by extension, all children are victims of that image?

Jenny Willott: That argument stands up only if one believes that all pornography should be illegal because it is degrading to women. I do not believe that all pornography should be illegal. The fact is that I do not want to see these images—they probably are truly disgusting and repugnant. However, the question is whether they do harm. The fact that the image is something that I do not want to see does not mean that I believe it should be made illegal. For me, that is where the balance lies.


Madeleine Moon: Having spent a considerable amount of my professional life working with abused children, particularly those that have been sexually abused, common experience is that sexual abuse does not start with the abuse itself. Gratification starts at a low level and gradually builds. It is rare that the first action of a perpetrator of sexual abuse is to assault a child. It is because they no longer get gratification at lower levels of intensity that the need escalates. For me, this legislation is saying that we are placing the barrier of what is permissive and what society views as acceptable at the lowest possible level, so that an individual is aware right from the start that their actions are unacceptable in society and in law. In that way, we are also seeking to protect children.

Jenny Willott: I am prepared to accept the point that the hon. Lady is making, which is that the matter does not start with sexual abuse and that it escalates. I absolutely accept that that is the case. However, that is not the same as saying that the behaviour of every single person who looks at an offensive and pornographic image escalates. That goes back to the point that I made a minute ago, which is whether or not having access to images such as that acts as a release to people and therefore makes them less of a risk to children. That issue is at the heart of the decisions that we need to make on the clause.

I should be grateful if the Minister would clarify a couple of points in her response. First, the Protection of Children Act 1978 makes it an offence both to publish and possess indecent images. Will she clarify why it has been decided in this legislation just to make it an offence to possess, rather than to publish? Why possess, rather than do both?
Also, there appears to be a lack of clarity—this was raised earlier—about the issue of looking at images online. That was something that I mentioned in a couple of the evidence sessions. There are two different processes. There is the issue of someone downloading images so that they have them on their computer and the fact that under this legislation, someone would be in possession of them and therefore it would be an offence. However, if someone watches a streamed image, it is held somewhere else so they never download it on to their computer. The evidence given to us by the DPP was that he thought that probably would be illegal, but I am unclear about how the legislation as currently drafted would make it illegal, because someone does not download the image. They do not possess the image; they watch it somewhere else on a remote system. I shall be grateful for clarification on that.

Overall, personally and as a party, we have real concerns about the breadth of the proposals in the Bill.

Maria Eagle: The Government take very seriously all matters relating to the sexual abuse of children. Any material that might appear to derive from or encourage such activity is something that all Members of this House should disapprove. All hon. Members know that the UK has an absolute prohibition on the production, distribution and possession of indecent photographs of children. We have recently extended the law to cover tracings and derivatives of such photographs. However, the possession of images that have no connection with photographs is not covered by the current criminal law, which is the gap that we are seeking to close with this provision.

The police have reported finding increasing numbers of such images alongside indecent photographs of children. More of those images are also being found on the internet and are often blatantly advertised as legal child pornography. I remind hon. Members that child pornography is illegal in this country and if there are loopholes, we need to close them. Police and child welfare groups have expressed concerns that such images could be used for the purposes to which my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend referred, and lead to escalation and real harm.

Just because we cannot prove real harm to specific children at this minute, we should not allow such loopholes—effectively, created by developments in technology—to continue to make a mockery of the law that is intended to protect our children. These images are at the highest, most explicit and disgusting, unpleasant end of any spectrum that might be considered to be the end result of a doodle. They are highly detailed, explicit drawings, cartoons and computer-generated images that look real and depict horrific scenes of child sexual abuse, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, North and Sefton, East made clear in his remarks. This is not about generally cracking down on artistic doodles or on art, but about cracking down on a loophole that the police and others who deal with child protection are increasingly drawing to the attention of policy makers and Government. We should be taking that seriously.

I will not rehearse the way in which the offence works, because my right hon. Friend did that well in his remarks. This is just to say that we are talking about the highest, most explicit, unpleasant end of things and about images that are already illegal in respect of publication under the Obscene Publications Act 1959. That answers the point made about why this provision only deals with possession: it does so because publication is already illegal under the 1959 Act. However, possession of these images at present is not illegal because of the way that they are created. We need the possession offence because we are talking about the internet. Specifying publication in the past would have dealt with this. Possession offences are a way of trying to control these images when the internet is the main means of distribution; otherwise we shall not have any control over them.
Let me move on to the amendments, about which I should like to make two major points. The hon. and learned Member for Harborough wants to turn the possession offence into a publication offence, for reasons that he has outlined. He mentioned a narrow range of dirty old men, if I may put it that way, who would be keeping the image that they create themselves very much for themselves. It would be hard to catch a person who produced an image or drawing in that way and for that to come to anybody's attention, if that is what they did in their little back room. It would be difficult to know how that would come to the attention of the authorities. Certainly, if it did come to the authorities' attention I would expect them to be concerned about it, because we are talking about images that are produced for the purposes of sexual arousal, primarily in those categories that it is already illegal to publish under the 1959 Act. But in recognition of the sensitivity of this matter, we require the consent of the DPP to bring prosecutions. We tried to construct the offence carefully to ensure that it captures the material that has raised the most concern.

If we remove “disgusting” from the second element of the offence—I remind the Committee that the DPP thought that although “disgusting” was not used often in legislation, he did not find it too great a concern—as the hon. and learned Gentleman suggests we do, that would reduce the clarity of the offence and detract from the formula accepted by Parliament last year for the offence of possession of extreme pornography, which has similarities to the offence we are talking about. I think that I have dealt with the point about turning the possession offence into a publication offence.
Turning to the new clause, we see no need for an additional defence. As the hon. and learned Gentleman said, that element is imported from the Defamation Act 1996 and has no precedent within the criminal law. It is a civil provision. Amending our new possession offence to a publication offence would not achieve anything. Altering the burden of proof in respect of the defences to our offence, which mirror well understood and long-established defences, is unnecessary and will place additional difficult burdens on those prosecuting the possession of these horrific images.

We ought to remind ourselves that these are the worst kind of images at the top end of unacceptability in our society and at the most dangerous end of potential to harm our children. We are determined to ensure that we protect our children and not to allow loopholes like this to make a mockery of the law. On that basis, I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will ask leave to withdraw his amendment.

Edward Garnier: I will do so and I will not move my new clause formally. But we need to be careful. The context within which are debating this matter is the context of some disgusting images. It becomes difficult in the court of public opinion—to use a phrase which the Government now seem so fond of—to discuss this rationally. No reasonable person doubts that the sorts of things set out in clause 49 are revolting. They arouse our understandable and natural personal distaste and revulsion. I just think we need to be very careful about what we mean by “possession” Having listened to the Minister say what she meant by possession, I think she actually meant “publication.”

I suspect that beyond the practical difficulty of policing the dirty old man who creates drawings for himself and leaves them in his drawer and shows them to nobody, the sorts of things the Minister was talking about—forget the abhorrent nature of the images—are things that appear to her, if I understand her correctly, to have been uploaded on to the computer system, on to the web. To that extent, they have been published, so there is no difference between us. She seems to call that possession; I call it publication.
So I think what we need to do between now and Royal Assent is to understand what people mean by possession.

Maria Eagle: Downloading.

Edward Garnier: I hear the Minister say “downloading” from a sedentary position. There again, in order for it to be downloaded, it must have been placed on the web by somebody, so there is a publication on to the web address, presumably suspects.
Between now and Royal Assent we have to be careful to make sure what we mean by “possession.” As I understand from what the Minister said a moment ago, she is talking about publication. It is the transfer of an image from its creator on to the web and from the web to somebody else's screen. That is publication. It may also happen to be possession, but publication is what we are talking about. If she leaves it as simply possession, as it is currently in the Bill, we shall be in the ludicrous position where the thought police will go around looking into people's top right-hand drawers.

I can see what will happen. Somebody will be raided for some other suspected offence—handling stolen goods or possession of drugs—and the police will search the premises and find in this imbecile's top right-hand drawer an image that falls within clause 49(2). He will then fall foul of being charged with that offence, albeit that that disgusting image has never been seen by anybody else apart from the person who has been raided for drugs or possessing stolen goods.

I will leave it there, but I think we need to be careful about this. I refuse to be put off the case I am making simply because the subject we are talking about is one that arouses entirely proper revulsion. But, Mr. Gale, I ask you to ask the Committee if I can shut up and sit down.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.


Jenny Willott: Clearly, when we have a photograph of an actual person it is much easier to determine someone's age. We can work out how old they were when the photograph was taken. When it is an imaginary figure that is drawn, a number of concerns have been raised— including in some of the responses to the consultation—that Japanese art forms in particular are often ambiguous, so it is difficult to decide how old the figure is. My amendment proposes to delete the entire subsection. I know the thinking behind it is obvious, but I am not sure how it can be properly implemented without pulling into it all manner of things that probably should not be illegal. For example, images of an 18-year-old who is dressed as a child, such as Britney Spears in a pop video, clearly is not illegal. If it was a drawing, however, it could be illegal because it would be very difficult to work out whether the person in the picture was supposed to be over 18 or under 18 and dressed up as a school girl.

Maria Eagle: Has the hon. Lady looked at the images listed in the clause?

Jenny Willott: No, I have not, but I know what the Government intend and they have made it very clear. However, the definitions in the Bill are much broader, so it could include all manner of things that the Government do not intend to make illegal. The Minister is shaking her head and clearly disagrees, but a number of people have contacted members of this Committee to raise their concerns about how broad the measure is. I have no doubt that the Minister's intention is to cover the most horrific group of images. My concern is that the definitions in the Bill are vague and subjective and do not focus down to that very small group. I should be grateful if the Minister could comment on that. As these are probing amendments, I do not intend to push any of them to a vote.

Maria Eagle: I will deal with the amendments, but let me just say something about the definitions. The hon. Lady said that she has not seen any of the images and does not want to look at them. I do not blame her, but let me explain the definitions, which she has suggested are far too wide, of the mischief that we are trying to deal with.
An image can be a moving or a still image. It would also include data stored by any means, for example electronic files, which is capable of being converted into an image. This means that the term image will cover material available on computers, mobile phones or other electronic devices. The law on photographic images will remain unchanged. Therefore, for the purposes of this offence, the definition of an image excludes an indecent photograph, or indecent pseudo-photograph, as defined in the Protection of Children Act 1978 and the equivalent Northern Ireland legislation.

In respect to the meaning of a child, which she has expressed some concern about, that means a person under the age of 18 years. The law covers indecent photographs and pseudo-photographs and, therefore, includes computer-generated images that appear to be photographs. The development of this new offence, as I explained before, has been prompted by the concerns of the police and child protection agencies, dealing with an emerging, serious gap in the law that they have perceived, about the rise and discovery of explicit, non-photographic images depicting the kind of horrific sexual abuse of children that all of us would want to prevent, including, for example, computer-generated images that would not meet the definition of pseudo-photographs, and explicit cartoon and hand-drawn images.

The images that we are discussing, such as computer-generated images, would not meet the definition of pseudo-photographs—significantly explicit cartoon or hand-drawn images. Although the images are likely to fall foul of our publication and distribution provision, it is currently lawful to possess them. One of our major concerns is that the images could be used for grooming a child in preparation for actual abuse, and in the way that my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend set out in her contribution to a previous group of amendments.

Amendment 489 would remove images such as cartoons or drawings from the scope of the offence. We believe that that is an unacceptable limitation. Children see cartoon images regularly in day-to-day life. They are a well-accepted form of entertainment for children, and the characters are often well known. An offender could easily exploit that familiarity, using explicit images created in such formats, and such graphic cartoon images could be a powerful grooming tool. Reducing the scope of the offences described in amendment 489 by the hon. Member for Cardiff, Central could leave explicit cartoon images in circulation and open to serious misuse, and without the provision the police would be unable to remove them from people's possession. The amendment would create a loophole in the law and in the new offence, which would be exploited.

Amendment 491 would remove subsection (6)(b) from the definitions. Subsection (6) provides that an image of a person should be treated as an image of a child if

“the predominant impression conveyed is that the person shown is a child despite the fact that some of the physical characteristics shown are not those of a child.”

I appreciate that that last point may sound unusual, but it is important to cover circumstance in which a person may try to avoid prosecution by amending the image of a child slightly—for example, by adding antennae or animal ears, and then suggesting that the subsequent image is not a child. That is a real concern. The people who seek to exploit the provisions and to continue to create what they call legal child pornography on the internet will use every loophole to try to escape the offence. It has been carefully structured and amendment 491 could create another loophole that would render ineffective the offence that we are seeking to create. We structured the provision carefully to capture only the images that cause concern. We believe that it is a robust and sensible response to the concerns raised with us by the police and agencies at the forefront of child protection.

Amendments 489 and 491 would only water down the offence, leaving it incapable of dealing with some of the worst images available, and providing a pointer to those who wish to exploit the situation about how to avoid the law. They would leave a gap that could be easily exploited.

Amendment 490 seeks to add a further element to our definitions. It would add a reasonable person test so that an image would be treated as one of a child if a reasonable person would consider the impression conveyed by the image of the person shown to be that of a child. We believe that that test is unnecessary and unhelpful because the words in clause 52(6) are deliberately similar to those that are well established in section 7(8) of the Protection of Children Act 1978, which have helped to clarify the content of pseudo-photographs. Those definitions have been in use for some years, the courts are familiar with them, and the definitions in our new offence have been tailored to ensure continued clarity and ease of understanding. Amending the definitions in the way proposed by the hon. Lady in amendment 490 would lose that continuity of understanding and reduce the clarity of the definition. For those reasons, I hope that the she will consider withdrawing her amendment.

Jenny Willott: One of the Minister's first comments was that I had raised a concern about the definition of a child. I want to make it clear that that is not an issue that I raised. I raised a specific concern about the definition of an image and how we know the age of a person in the image. The Minister has responded to both issues, but I want her to clarify again the fundamental point, because I am not entirely sure that she understood where I am coming from or my argument.

The argument is not a libertarian one that people should be able to do what they want as long as they do not cause harm to others. That is not the argument that I am framing. We know, as the hon. Member for Bridgend said, that the behaviour of people with paedophile tendencies escalates. I absolutely accept that. However, the argument that I make is that there is evidence that access to non-photographic materials acts as a release for people who would otherwise go on and harm children.

At some point, possibly on Report, we need to return to the issue of what evidence there is about whether the measures we are debating are likely to cause more harm to children because there will not be that access to a release. I am prepared to accept the clause if the Government are able to show that there is evidence that such materials cause harm and generate more problems for children. So far, I have not seen any evidence and the Minister has not referred to any in her comments about the arguments on both sides of that debate. I am not arguing for a libertarian approach—this concerns what is best for children while not criminalising people who are not doing any harm.

That said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Update: Criminalising One's Own Imagination

21st March 2009. See transcript from

The dangerous cartons debate continued into parliamentary questions to the Justice Secretary on 17th March 2009:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Bridget Prentice): In 2000, we increased the maximum sentences available for production and distribution of indecent images of children from three years to 10 years, and for the simple possession of indecent images from six months to five years' imprisonment.

George Howarth (Lab): I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Does she agree that not only are images based on real children unacceptable, but so too are images that people use for these purposes that they have generated either from their own imagination or electronically? Will she give the House an assurance that her Department will not be going down the route of believing that those sorts of images are a matter for the individual concerned and their own conscience?

Bridget Prentice: I can absolutely give my right hon. Friend that assurance. He will have been as surprised as I was when in the Coroners and Justice Public Bill Committee the Opposition spokesman, the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier), said that he felt that our clause was, perhaps, over-egging the pudding. I do not for one minute think that taking action against these people in this way is over-egging the pudding. We need to protect our children.


6th March   

Three Quarters Concerned about Nutter MPs...

Keith Vaz bangs on about about the latest BBFC survey
Link Here

Keith Vaz had his moment in Prime Ministers Questions. Harriet Hatemen was standing in for Gordon Brown

Keith Vaz: In a survey published last week, 74% of parents said that they were very concerned about the increasing violence in video games. Given the increasing availability on the internet of games that exhibit scenes of graphic and gratuitous violence, when do the Government propose to implement the Byron report in full? This is not about censorship; it is about protecting our children.

Harriet Harman: I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his long-standing campaign on the issue. We need to make sure that we have tough classifications that are properly enforced. We need to make sure that parents have the information that they need. We need to make sure that the industry plays its part. The Government will take action on all those fronts.


26th February   

Update: Simulated Politicians...

Keith Vaz bangs on about RapeLay in an EDM
Link Here
Full story: Western censorship of Japanese Games...Japanese games winds up the social justice whingers

Games nutter MP Keith Vaz has decided to bang on about the game RapeLay which was withdrawn from US Amazon as soon as they realised it was controversial.

EDM 818 RapeLay Video Game by Keith Vaz

That this House is appalled that a video game that simulates rape has been readily available for sale on the internet; warmly welcomes Amazon's decision to withdraw the web page for the Japanese video game Rapelay; firmly believes that video games featuring high levels of violence can be detrimental to those playing them; notes that every year an estimated three million women experience rape, domestic violence, stalking or another form of abuse; and calls on the Government to ban such games from sale in the UK, including through online retailers.

Signed by

Lynne Jones, Lee Scott, Andrew Dismore, Peter Bottomley, David Drew, Bob Russell, Joan Humble, David Lepper, Martin Caton, Jeremy Corbyn, Mark Durkan, Mike Hancock, David Taylor, Alan Simpson, Kelvin Hopkins, Colin Breed, Andrew George, Rudi Vis.


15th February   

Unanimated Scrutiny...

Dangerous Cartoons Bill in Commons Committee
Link Here

Coroners and Justice Bill Committee Stage
House of Commons

The Coroners and Justice Bill - which will criminalise possession of all sexual images of under-18s - is currently being debated in committee.

There's some mention at:

It's sad that there's no real criticism - no mention of how the hell you tell the age of a fictional cartoon character, or how the law is so broad it will criminalise far more than those images intended for pedophiles...


14th February   

Comment: Fitna for Lords...

Fitna shown in the House of Lords but without Wilders
Link Here
Full story: Geert Wilders...Geert Wilders winds up the muslim world

Dangerous Texting

Thanks to Alan

I read in Private Eye, just hours after watching Lord Ahmed sounding off about Wilders, that a Lord Ahmed is awaiting sentence for dangerous driving, having killed a bloke while simultaneously driving and texting.

Bit worse than being rude about some bloke who's been dead 1500 years, I think.

Update: Labour Ahmed was sentenced to 12 weeks jail for dangerous driving.

Dangerous Hypocrisy

See article from by Joan Smith

In the past, Lord Ahmed has shown himself to be a selective friend of free speech, hosting a book launch at the House of Lords in 2005 for a notorious anti-Semite who calls himself Israel Shamir. Last month, a Pakistani press agency reported that a screening of Mr Wilders' short film Fitna at the House of Lords had been called off after Lord Ahmed and representatives of the MCB met government leaders. When Lord Ahmed discovered that the screening was to go ahead, he said he had received threats and asked the Government not to allow Mr Wilders into the country.

Dangerous Text


As Jacqui Smith deemed it necessary to ban Geert Wilders from addressing the House of Lords, he has posted his prepared speech on his website

Thank you for inviting me. Thank you Lord Pearson and Lady Cox for showing Fitna, and for your gracious invitation. While others look away, you, seem to understand the true tradition of your country, and a flag that still stands for freedom.


Thank you very much for letting me into the country. I received a letter from the Secretary of State for the Home Department, kindly disinviting me. I would threaten community relations, and therefore public security in the UK, the letter stated. For a moment I feared that I would be refused entrance. But I was confident the British government would never sacrifice free speech because of fear of Islam. Britannia rules the waves, and Islam will never rule Britain, so I was confident the Border Agency would let me through. And after all, you have invited stranger creatures than me.


By letting me speak today you show that Mr Churchill's spirit is still very much alive. And you prove that the European Union truly is working; the free movement of persons is still one of the pillars of the European project.


Ladies and gentlemen, the dearest of our many freedoms is under attack. In Europe, freedom of speech is no longer a given. What we once considered a natural component of our existence is now something we again have to fight for. That is what is at stake. Whether or not I end up in jail is not the most pressing issue. The question is: Will free speech be put behind bars?


Geert Wilders MP


13th February   

Update: Fitna for Lords...

Fitna shown in the House of Lords but without Wilders
Link Here
Full story: Geert Wilders...Geert Wilders winds up the muslim world

The film by a Dutch MP who was refused entry to the UK over fears he would incite hatred with his message about Islam, was shown twice at Westminster last night.

The first screening of Geert Wilders Fitna was in the House of Lords and attended by about 30 people. No MPs and only five peers attended, although organisers blamed poor attendance on the fact parliament rose for a week's recess earlier this afternoon.

A second screening, which Wilders had been planning to attend, was held later in the evening, for the press, including journalists from the Netherlands. The 17-minute production quotes five Suras, or verses, from the Koran which apparently support violence against non-Muslims.

Wilders, a member of Holland's Freedom Party, had wanted to show the film to British MPs, but on Tuesday received a letter from the government warning he was not welcome because his views would threaten community security and public security in the UK. The 45-year-old tried to defy the ban, but was turned back at Heathrow after three hours.

Crossbench peer Baroness Cox, hosting the screening for the press near to the Houses of Parliament, said she did not agree with everything the film suggested, but that Mr Wilders had a right to defend it.

Muslim groups were divided on whether to bar Wilders.

Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, backed the government's decision to keep Wilders out of Britain, accusing Wilders of inciting religious hatred: Mr Wilders film is all about demonising and attacking Islam and Muslims .

But the Quilliam Foundation, a Muslim think tank devoted to fighting extremism, said he should have been allowed into the country so that his views could be challenged through debate and argument.

The Muslim Council of Britain said in a statement : We have no problem with the challenge of criticisms to our faith ...BUT... the film that will be screened tomorrow by Lord Pearson and Baroness Cox is nothing less than a cheap and tacky attempt to whip up hysteria against Muslims.

They went further and called for Lords hosting the event to be sacked: Mr Wilders' xenophobic and repugnant views have been identified by a Dutch court, and are now confirmed by his official exclusion to the United Kingdom. It is now time to ask why Peers of Realm who promote such demagogues without any censure are allowed to be regarded as mainstream, responsible leaders in our community.


11th February   

Update: Fitna for Censorship...

Home Office bans Geert Wilders invited to show Fitna in the House of Lords
Link Here
Full story: Geert Wilders...Geert Wilders winds up the muslim world

Geert Wilders has been refused entry to the United Kingdom to broadcast his controversial anti-Muslim film Fitna in the House of Lords.

Wilders said he had been told that in the interests of public order he will not be allowed to come to Britain.

He responded to the decision in fighting mood, telling reporters that he still intended to travel to London.

He said: I shall probably go to Britain anyway on Thursday. Let us see if they put me in chains on arrival. It is an unbelievable decision made by a group of cowards.

The film features verses from the Koran alongside images of the terrorist attacks in the US on 11 September 2001, Madrid in March 2004 and London in July 2005. The film equates Islam's holy text with violence and ends with a call to Muslims to remove hate-preaching' verses from the Koran.

Last night, Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said he had called British foreign secretary David Miliband to protest against the decision.

He said: It is disgraceful that a Dutch parliamentarian should be refused entrance to an EU country.

A spokesman for the Lords said that the invitation to show his film remained open.

Home Office sources confirmed Mr Wilders had been refused entry to the UK.

A Home Office spokesman told The Daily Telegraph: The Government opposes extremism in all its forms. It will stop those who want to spread extremism, hatred and violent messages in our communities from coming to our country. That was the driving force behind tighter rules on exclusions for unacceptable behaviour that the Home Secretary announced on in October last year.


8th February   

Divine Punishment...

Al Jazeera TV criticised by MPs for hate speech
Link Here

The international television channel al-Jazeera has been criticised by MPs for broadcasting the sermons of a Muslim cleric in which he celebrates the Holocaust and prays for the killing of all Jews.

John Whittingdale, chairman of the House of Commons Media Select Committee, urged al-Jazeera yesterday to apologise for broadcasting the messages of Yusuf al-Qaradawi and to ban the cleric, one of the network's top hosts, from appearing on screen.

I would hope that anybody who watches it or is aware of it may change their attitude towards al-Jazeera, he told The Times: I would've thought it is very damaging. Al-Jazeera should apologise.

But the network refused to apologise for Sheikh al-Qaradawi's statements, which were broadcast on al-Jazeera's Arabic station, saying that it could not control the words and opinions expressed during live broadcasts.

Andrew Dismore, the Labour MP for Hendon, condemned al-Jazeera for associating itself with Sheikh al-Qaradawi — who hosts one of its most popular segments, Shariah and Life — saying the network should not use live coverage as a means of justifying the broadcast of the sheik's comments: If they put on somebody who has known racist views they should not be surprised what comes out at the other end.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews said: These sermons represent hatred in its purest form and epitomise the worst of Islamist anti-Semitism.

The complaints relate to a sermon and a lecture by Sheikh al-Qaradawi in which he described the Holocaust as a divine punishment and prayed to Allah to kill Jews down to the very last one.


8th February   

Labour Controlled for Gain...

P4P criminalisation debated in House of Commons Committee
Link Here

From House of Commons committee proceedings on 5th February 2009 for the Policing and Crime Bill

Comments by Freeworld

Nadine Dorries (Mid-Bedfordshire) (Con): We have spoken to a number of sex workers—I certainly have—over the past two weeks who have chosen to be sex workers as their way of life. That is what they want to do. You went on to talk about the closure orders and what you felt they would do. Will not some of the measures laid down in the Bill further impinge on the rights of those women to carry out their trade? I was trying to think of a way of putting it, but that is how they describe it, as carrying out their trade. Should we not be moving the emphasis of the Bill? Could it not be drafted to move the emphasis away entirely from the women? I am thinking of the closure orders and the issue of the three meetings. We have heard from sex workers that many will not and do not want to attend—they regard it as coercion. They would like more in the way of voluntary help and assistance, if they could have it, but they do not want to attend the meetings or to have closure orders. Do they not have rights too?

Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove) (Con): I have concerns about the phrase “controlled for gain” because, from what we have heard in previous evidence, there will be circumstances in which women in a brothel would be happy with that arrangement, because it is a safer way of operating their trade. Technically, they are in control of the gain, because there is someone there answering the telephone and sorting it all out. So, while the Government's intention to tackle trafficking is entirely laudable and desirable, the catch-all “controlled for gain” will be more likely to attack or cause a problem for the better forms or organisation of prostitution. Is there another phrase that could be used, Mr. Lodder, other than “controlled for gain”, which could get the traffickers rather than the blanket? Do not they have rights as well?

Vernon Coaker : I just want briefly to clarify something. I am sorry if my body language was so obvious. In response to one of the points made in answer to Nadine Dorries, the Government's intention is not to ban prostitution. It is important to put that on the record. We have never said that a ban was a policy intention. We looked in Sweden at the idea of a full offence of paying for sex, and making any payment for sex illegal, and we thought that was not appropriate; we also looked at other models. It is not our intention to bring about a ban in a back-door way. Our intention, which I know everyone on the Committee shares, as has been demonstrated by this morning's evidence-taking session, which has explored where we are rather than being confrontational, has been about how to end exploitation and the exploitative elements, where there is NO FREE CHOICE. Julie and others raised the question of “controlled for gain”, and we have lawyers who say—I am not trying to be funny about it, because Mr. Lodder has said something on that point—that “controlled for gain” as defined in case law means what one would regard as the common-sense definition. It would NOT be where somebody is helping somebody else: organising, protecting, looking after them and so on. I am not a lawyer; that is the legal advice that I have had. Certainly, it is something that we are looking at. “Controlled for gain” is a key part of ensuring that we have absolute clarity of meaning. As the Bill goes through Committee and beyond, we will take up the points that Julie and others have made and look at them to give certainty
(oh goodie!-F) , which will help if the Bill should be passed by Parliament (should, Vernon?-F).

Mr. Coaker : ..The problem with “controlled for gain” is that, as I am told by other lawyers, the control aspect is the ordinary, common-sense, dictionary understanding of the word. In the case of R v. Steven Massey in 2007........
I am told that control within the meaning of the Sexual Offences Act should be given its ordinary dictionary meaning of directing a relevant activity that included, BUT WAS NOT LIMITED TO
(what a world of difference 4 words can make-F) , individuals who forced another to carry out a relevant activity.

(So there you go...thus saith the Vernon-only people "with no free choice"-forced into it, except, Vernon, the definition being used does not seem to actually limit it to that at all, and this is exactly what you have said, I think? Doublespeak?-F)

Mr. Campbell (HO) "Yes, but we need to remain focused as far as we can on the intent of what we are doing, which is to have something in place to tackle the kind of exploitation—whether trafficked women, internally trafficked women or not—that we all agree is wrong. Our view is that our definition, “controlled for gain”, does not apply outside the group we are trying to address in the legislation. Therefore, many of the concerns raised by the International Union of Sex Workers and others will prove to be unfounded. It is not about whether someone can employ a maid, or employ someone to give them greater protection and safety in what they do. Our strong advice is that our proposal will not affect that situation, unless there is clear and demonstrable evidence of control"
( will there be some guidance to the police from the CPS to make this clear then?-F).

Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove) (Con): I would like to ask two quick questions, if I may. The POPPY project wants the abolition of prostitution. It thinks that prostitution should not be allowed, period, and that you should not be allowed to sell your body for sex, end of story. Why not just go for that? One of the other things that the collective was saying was that, under the previous legislation, the phrase “controlling...for gain” encouraged the police to raid a variety of premises on the basis that there was a madam there, because it fell within the definition of “controlling...for gain” even if it did not fall within the intent of the legislation. Given that that is its experience, and that your catch-all provision would potentially criminalise many people who are doing something which most of us think is their right to do, if that is what they want, are you not worried that previous experience of the legislation is that it is a big catch-all under which the police have been carrying out raids which were not necessarily the intention of the original legislation?

Nadine Dorries (Mid-Bedfordshire) (Con): I am not sure why this part of the Bill is here at all
(No? It`s because this is a fascist government, Nadine-F) . I do not believe that most men who go to procure the services of a prostitute have a great understanding of the law. They probably do not have a clue—they just decide to procure those services, and they go and do it because it is so easily and readily available. I also think that society's attitudes have changed towards that particular industry anyway (but not in New Labour -F) . Given that the evidence we have heard says that this Bill will categorically make life considerably worse for some of the most vulnerable people—those prostitutes who are in the business as a result of a need, whether drug use, poor circumstances, poor background, being coerced into it, o whatever—why are we doing it? ( "we" aren`t, the "sort of elected" dictatorship are-F)

Julie Kirkbride : This is the real world in which the people to whom we are rightly trying to reach are women who have been trafficked and who are terrified of their pimp and everything else. Goodness knows, but I suspect that the kind of people who go and visit those women are not particularly cognisant of the law and possibly do not even care about it. Who is going to shop them? The police should be raiding these establishments anyway. How are we going to find such people? Two days later, the DNA evidence of what they might have been doing has gone. I do not understand how they are going to be shopped.

I can see, however, that the pensioner who goes along to see Mrs. Bloggs occasionally and suddenly finds himself criminalised because Mrs. Bloggs was running an establishment that was not approved under the law will suddenly get a criminal offence and be shamed in his community. On practical grounds, I worry whether the Bill will really get the person who you are looking for.


Mr. Coaker (Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing): We should not let this moment pass without reflecting on what is happening in Committee Room 11 today. We have seen a seismic shift. The Government are introducing a strict liability offence under clause 13, which the Opposition spokesmen have said that they will not oppose. We are debating how to make the clause effective. That is a phenomenal change, as the Government, in the broadest sense, are looking at how to deal with the problem that we have been wrestling with for decades, indeed centuries.

I do not want to over-egg matters, but when people look back they ought to reflect sometimes on moments such as this. What is happening in Committee represents a fundamental shift and change in how this country is seeking to look at the whole issue. To be fair to all members of the Committee, that deserves to be put on to the record.

Mr. Ruffley (Shadow Minister for police): I am most grateful to the Minister and I absolutely agree with his sentiments, but none of us in Committee yet know—only time will tell—whether the enforceability problems that many witnesses and some Committee members see will be overcome successfully. The jury is out, but we travel hopefully, those of us who would see the clause pass into law. The Minister was entirely right in what he said. However, it remains the case—this is not a proviso or a conditional comment of any kind—that good law has to be tightly drafted. If there is any suggestion that it is not operating as it should or is not as effective as it should be, or, let us not forget, if injustices are being committed because of the construction of the words or of how judges or prosecuting authorities interpret the words, it behoves any Government to revisit the measure. Bad law ends up being no law at all. On that note of positive support for what Ministers are trying to do, I conclude my remarks.

There are a series of rational proposed opposition amendments to clause 13 from the opposition parties trying to make the bill`s definitions fit "real" /trafficked prostitutes only-.

Details of a few from the official Conservative opposition-

Tory proposed amendments from James Brokenshire and
David Ruffley (Shadow Home affairs minister, probably in the Home office next year?)

Clause 13, page 13, line 31, leave out paragraph (b) and insert—

‘(b) any of B's activities relating to the provision of those services are procured by a third person through the use of or threat of the use of force or coercion or B has been the subject of trafficking arrangements by a third person which would constitute an offence by such third person under section 57 (trafficking into the UK for sexual exploitation), section 58 (trafficking within the UK for sexual exploitation) or section 59 (trafficking out of the UK for sexual exploitation) which together shall mean “controlled” for the purposes of this section,

and to clause 13c) either—

(i) A does not reasonably believe that any of B's activities relating to the provision of those services are controlled, or
(ii) A is reckless as to whether any of B's activities relating to the provision of those services are controlled.'.

The bill is in commons committee till 26 Feb. Then the report stage.

Comment: Coaker's Relief

From Harvey

I agree that Dr. Evan Harris is often a fairly lonely, sane voice on matters such as this. The amendments in his and his LD colleague Paul Holmes` name seek to remove the strict liability element of the P4P offence, and tighten the definition of "controlled for gain".

The amendments by James Brokenshire and David Ruffley would actually extend the offence to not only those who make or promise payment, but those who know that someone else has made or promised payment. Of the other 3 Tories, neither Julie Kirkbride nor Nadine Dorries even attended the committee when clause 13 was debated, though Dorries in particular has written about the effect of the law on "working girls" and might have something to say about clause 20, in respect of closure orders.

Dr. Harris was, as I said, a lone voice in committee. No other Opposition member spoke to criticise the creation of a strict liability offence, so it`s not really surprising Vernon Coaker made the comment he did. Like me he was probably expecting a rougher ride, and you can almost feel the relief in his words. I didn`t think the Tories would be quite such a push over. Having said I doubted the offence would be created as one of strict liability, I now revise that, and can see it sailing through without much more discussion.

One thing Coaker is right about, is that if that happens it will be a seismic shift in the way prostitution is viewed by the law.


8th February   

Update: Rudderless and Readerless...

No budget for ID card readers
Link Here
Full story: ID Cards in UK...UK introduces ID cards

This has to be one of the dumbest things I've heard in a long time. The UK has spent £4.4 billion ($6.6bn US) on a controversial high-tech National Identity Card scheme for the whole country. But they forgot one thing. No police or border station, to say nothing of licensing and job centers, has a machine capable of reading the damn things.

Incredibly, they neglected to include in the budget the absolutely necessary counterpart to the card: the card reader. Like an inexperienced shopper who buys a digital camera but not a computer to view the pictures on, they are now in possession of a far-reaching and complete ID tracking solution that they can in no way use. What a boondoggle!

The official word is that the reader rollout may cost taxpayer money (brilliant, Sherlock) and is not really being pursued that actively. While it would make sense to get a few IDs out there first and then follow up with the readers after six months, perhaps, that was not at all included in the budget and in fact the readers' manufacturers haven't been convinced it's worth their while to make the things.


7th February   

Update: A Threat to Freedom...

Lords committee seeks dramatic reduction of surveillance state
Link Here
Full story: Communications Snooping...Big Brother Extremism

The vast growth of surveillance and data collection risks undermining freedoms vital to the British way of life, a group of eminent peers has warned.

In a devastating critique of the spiralling use of CCTV, databases and information sharing, they warn that the growth of information collected about every man, woman and child in Britain is a serious threat to principles at the heart of the constitution.

The Lords Constitution Committee, which includes the former law lord, Lord Woolf, and the former attorney generals, Lord Lyell and Lord Morris of Aberavon, call in a report for new safeguards to prevent government and private databases damaging historic rights to privacy and civil liberties.

Committee chairman Lord Goodlad, a former Conservative minister, warns: The UK now has more CCTV cameras and a bigger national DNA database than any other country. There can be no justification for this gradual but incessant creep towards a situation where every detail about us is recorded and pored over by the state.

The peers warn that the collection and processing of personal information has become pervasive, routine, and almost taken for granted.

The report is being published as ministers prepare proposals to gain unprecedented access to details of every email, internet connection and telephone call made in Britain. Proposals to allow ministers to sanction the sharing of confidential personal data across Whitehall and beyond are also being debated by MPs.

The report calls for a dramatic slimming of the national DNA database, arguing samples should not be kept if people are not charged or convicted, and insisting the law should be changed to ensure DNA samples given by volunteers are removed.

The peers call for senior judges to oversee surveillance. They say ministers should review the powers of local councils to authorise surveillance and say compensation should be paid if people are monitored unlawfully by police or the security services. They also demand that a powerful committee of MPs and peers be established to oversee the data powers of the state.

Dominic Grieve, the shadow Justice Secretary, said: This is a damning indictment of the reckless approach of this Government to privacy. Ministers have sanctioned a massive increase in surveillance over the last decade, at great cost to the taxpayer, without properly assessing its effectiveness or protecting the privacy of innocent people.

David Howarth, the Liberal Democrat justice spokesman, said: This highlights how the Government has ridden roughshod over our freedoms in establishing its surveillance state. Ministers would do well to remember the British state belongs to the British people, not the other way around.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of pressure group Liberty, said: Our postbag suggests the House of Lords is more in touch with public concerns than our elected Government.


6th February   

Seismic Shift...

P4P criminalisation getting an easy ride in Committee
Link Here

A report from the punternet forum concerning the latest Parliamentary committee meeting regarding the P4P legislation which took place yesterday...

Evan Harris, as usual, proved to be the voice of reason and common sense. He spoke very well against the clause as it stands and particularly in the areas of a strict liability offence and that the control for gain clause should not include maids or when girls are working together they have some other person there as security. Nor should control include people who do advertising / arrange rotas for the girls or where the girls and parlour owners are working in a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Alan Campbell made it clear that those people mentioned were excepted, on the issue of a Madam however he couldn't give an answer and said he'd come back to that. However, I can't see that he will come back with a definition which excludes the Madam, because then surely this effectively would legalise brothels?

This still has a way to go, including getting through the Lords, but here's the real kicker. Apparently (and I'm just relaying my findings from the punternet forum) the Conservatives said in committee late on yesterday that they support Clause 13, including strict liability, but it would seem only on the understanding that control for gain was clarified and did not include maids, security, ladies working together and Madam. Campbell said it didn't but on the issue of Madam he said he'd come back to it. Most worrying thing is that the Tories, led by Davis Ruffley, who is Vernon Coaker's shadow, DID NOT really appear to have a problem with strict liability per se. Which does not bode well for future NL legislation.

It would seem as though this bill is proceeding with very minimal changes. What really worries me is that all it would take would be a small oversight, or a bit of wrangling from Campbell and Coaker, and this could get through completely unchanged, with the suggested exemptions in the 'controlled for gain' description falling by the wayside. Then we'd be faced with a law which is exactly the same as Jacqui Smith's nightmare vision.

Just to add insult to injury, Commandant Coaker then proceeded to indulge in a self-congratulatory spot of sabre-rattling (doubtless in an attempt to impress Smith), talking about changing history (so did Hitler) and what a moment this was and how they should all take a moment and reflect on this meeting. He also made a comment about a 'seismic shift' in attitudes. No shit. I smell a VERY big rat here somewhere.


4th February   

Update: Victory on Hold...

A 2nd chance to show Fitna in the House of Lords
Link Here
Full story: Geert Wilders...Geert Wilders winds up the muslim world

As previously reported, a House of Lords screening of Fitna was blocked after pressure from Muslim groups.

The screening, planned for last Thursday, was cancelled after a meeting between Lord Nazir Ahmed, senior House of Lords figures and Muslim leaders.

The Associated Press of Pakistan quotes Lord Ahmed terming the cancellation a victory for the Muslim community.

However Melanie Phillips is now reporting in the Spectator that Geert Wilders has been re-invited to speak and screen his film in the Lords later this month.

A Supreme Case

Based on article from

Meanwhile Wilders has asked the Dutch Supreme Court to halt his prosecution on hate speech charges for anti-Islamic remarks.

Geert Wilders says the remarks — including labeling the Quran a fascist work and calling for it to be banned — fall within the realm of normal discourse and his prosecution threatens his right to freedom of speech.


27th January   

Safety Conscious MPs...

MPs sign Early Day Motions supporting sex workers
Link Here

Early Day Motion 523 : Prostitution And The Criminal Law

Proposed by Lynne Jones on 20.01.2009

That this House considers that the measures in relation to prostitution contained in the Policing and Crime Bill, though well-intentioned, are deeply flawed; believes that there is no justification for involving the criminal law in consensual transactions that cause no public nuisance; notes the opposition to the proposals from the Royal College of Nursing and other members of the Safety First Coalition, who call for an end to the criminalisation of prostitution, which they consider makes sex workers more vulnerable to attack; further notes that police evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee has cast doubts on the enforceability of the proposals on paying for the sexual services of a prostitute controlled for gain and therefore opposes these provisions in the Bill; and calls on the Government to make more effective use of existing laws against trafficking and sexual exploitation and to enlist the support of purchasers of sexual services to help expose those establishments that use trafficked women.

Signed by:

Lynne Jones, Evan Harris, Mark Fisher, Brian Iddon, Greg Pope, Alan Simpson, Paul Holmes, Glenda Jackson, Nick Harvey, Andrew George, Rudi Vis, Philip Davies

Early Day Motion 524 : Policing And Crime Bill Provisions Introducing Orders Requiring Attendance At Meetings

Proposed by Lynne Jones on 20.01.2009

That this House notes that Clause 16 in the Policing and Crime Bill providing for the introduction of Orders Requiring Attendance at Meetings for those found to be loitering or soliciting for the purposes of prostitution is simply a rehash of the abandoned proposal in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill for compulsory rehabilitation; considers that there is no evidence that compulsion assists in rehabilitation and agrees with the Royal College of Nursing that the proposal will lead to greater detention of some of the most vulnerable, stigmatised and marginalised people in society whose criminalisation helps institutionalise them in prostitution; and therefore urges the Government to concentrate instead on providing high-quality outreach programmes, independent of the criminal justice system, which offer healthcare and support, sexual health advice and drug rehabilitation opportunities that individuals who want to leave prostitution can access.

Signed by:

Lynne Jones, Evan Harris, Mark Fisher, Brian Iddon, Greg Pope, Alan Simpson, Paul Holmes, Glenda Jackson, Andrew George, Dai Davies

Early Day Motion 525 : Definition of a Brothel

Proposed by Lynne Jones on 20.01.2009

That this House notes with disappointment that the Government has failed to use the Policing and Crime Bill to honour the commitment in the Home Office report of January 2006, A Co-ordinated Prostitution Strategy and a summary of responses to Paying the Price, for an amendment to the definition of a brothel so that two or three individuals could work together from shared accommodation; and is concerned that the omission of this provision misses an important opportunity to allow women in the sex trade to work more safely, to have more control over their work and to make it easier for them to leave the trade should they so wish.

Signed by:

Lynne Jones, Evan Harris, Mark Fisher, Mike Hancock, Bob Spink, Brian Iddon, Greg Pope, Alan Simpson, Paul Holmes, Glenda Jackson, Nick Harvey, Andrew George, Rudi Vis


26th January   

Fair Play to the Bar Council...

Bar Council object to the discouragement of prostitution at the cost of fairness
Link Here

Re 2nd reading of the Policing and Crime Bill, primarily the section on the criminalisation of men who pay for sex with someone who is 'controlled for gain'.

All the usual noises being made by the ghastly Fiona MacTaggart and good old goose-stepper Vernon Coaker, but the biggest surprise is the response of Keith Vaz. He may have an utterly unwarranted and prejudiced outlook on the issue of violent videogames, but he's not buying this for one minute. He's clearly not impressed with the fact that the police have not been properly consulted for their opinion on the proposals either (a pretty fundamental oversight) and, according to Vaz, Fatty Smith seems to have neglected to mention that the police consider the proposals UNENFORCEABLE!

Lots of opposition MPs getting stuck right into the strict liability angle too. The Bar Council seem to be recommending that unless the strict liability aspect of the legislation is amended significantly, it is essentially unworkable:

Problems with the strict liability offence

14. The principal concern that the Bar Council has with the proposed new offence is that a defendant may be found guilty in circumstances where he could have had no idea at the time that he was committing the offence. The offence as currently drafted risks convictions which may well be seen as unfair by reasonable people. Such convictions would bring the criminal law into disrepute, particularly given the stigma which would result.

15. There is a further problem with the proposed clause. If the prostitute is controlled by a third party, by offering sexual services he or she will in most circumstances commit an offence under section 44 of the Serious Crime Act 2007 (And under section 44 of the Magistrates Courts Act 1980). They will almost inevitably (It is possible that he or she may have a defence under section 51 of the Act as a person in a ‘protected category’) be doing an act capable of “encouraging or assisting the commission of an offence.” A prosecution under this section requires the Crown to prove a specific intent in respect of his or her role, but not for the purchaser of the sexual activity. The double standard that results is an additional reason why the clause as currently drafted should not form part of the proposed Act.

16. The view of the Bar Council is that the proposed clause as currently drafted is unworkable, wrong in principle and will create unfairness.
Following the Second Reading debate, the Bar Council will provide a further briefing on how the clause as currently drafted could be, in our view, made more workable.


17. The Policing and Crime Bill 2009 is a substantial piece of draft legislation. It currently runs to ninety-one clauses comprising eight separate parts. The Bar Council is generally supportive of the Bill but urges Parliamentarians to consider carefully our reservations concerning the changes proposed to proceeds of crime and extradition legislation as well as the provisions that create an offence of strict liability relating to prostitution. While this last provision may serve to discourage the use of prostitutes, it raises the question of at what cost. If the cost is fairness, that cost is too great."

Now, it would seem, Harman, McTaggart and Smith must rework this so that it does not clash with existing law, and is deemed acceptable by the Bar Council, police and magistrates.


25th January   

Liberal Opposition...

Liberal Democrats accuse Government of driving prostitution underground
Link Here

A mixture of the pernicious, the vexatious and the supernumerary was how Chris Huhne summed up the Government's Policing and Crime Bill, which got its second reading in the House of Commons on 19th January.

The Liberal Democrats did not call a division on the bill at this stage, but Chris vowed that the party would do their best to amend the proposals in committee.

The most objectionable part of the Bill, according to Chris, was the part dealing with sexual offences and sex establishments. The Government's proposals would, he said, drive sex workers underground, into less safety, more isolation and a greater risk of disease. He said the right way to protect vulnerable sex workers would be to regulate the sex industry so that brothels are places of safety.

Evan Harris intervened on the Home Secretary to make a similar point, arguing that driving prostitution underground would make it more difficult to identify women who have been trafficked. He said we should recognise that prostitution in western societies would not be obliterated and that the key thing was harm reduction.

Paul Holmes, also intervening, asked the minister to explain why the Government were following the policies of Finland in this area when no successful prosecution had been made in the two years since the policy was introduced there.


24th January   

Update: A Victory for the Muslim Community...

Fitna banned from the House of Lords
Link Here
Full story: Geert Wilders...Geert Wilders winds up the muslim world

APP reports that a scheduled screening of Geert Wilders’ film Fitna in the House of Lords has been cancelled. It was due to be shown on Jan 29th.

The decision was taken after a meeting between Lord Nazir Ahmed, Government Chief Whip of the House of Lords and Leader of the House of Lords, and representatives from the Muslim Council of Britain, the British Muslim Forum and others.

Protests and demonstrations have been cancelled,

Lord Ahmed called the decision a victory for the Muslim community


21st January

 Offsite: Paying to Get Screwed by Labour...

Link Here
Paying for Sex criminalisation bill received 2nd Reading in the House of Commons

See article from


21st January   

Sketchy Law...

Government draws on extreme porn law for Dangerous Pictures of Children Act
Link Here

No mention of such fundamental issues as level of realism or the vagueness of depicted age. As it stands a simple stick drawing could get you 3 years in jail.

The new Dangerous Pictures of Children Bill is described by the government in their explanatory notes for the Coroners and Justice Bill

Clause 49: Prohibited images

Subsection (1) creates a new offence in England and Wales and Northern Ireland of possession of a prohibited image of a child.

Subsections (2) to (8) set out the definition of a prohibited image of a child . Under subsection (2) in order to be a prohibited image, an image must be:

  • pornographic;
  • fall within subsection (6) and
  • be grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character.

The definition of “pornographic” is set out in subsection (3). An image must be of such a nature that it must reasonably be assumed to have been produced solely or mainly for the purpose of sexual arousal. Whether this threshold has been met will be an issue for a jury to determine.

Subsection (4) makes it clear that where (as found in a person’s possession) an individual image forms part of a series of images, the question of whether it is pornographic must be determined by reference both to the image itself and the context in which it appears in the series of images.

Subsection (5) provides that, where an image is integral to a narrative (for example a mainstream or documentary film) which when it is taken as a whole could not reasonably be assumed to be pornographic, the image itself may be not be pornographic, even though if considered in isolation the contrary conclusion would have been reached.

Subsection (6) and (7) provide that a prohibited image for the purposes of the offence is one which focuses solely or principally on a child’s genitals or anal region or portrays any of a list of acts set out in subsection (7):

  • (a) the performance by a person of an act of intercourse or oral sex with or in the presence of a child;
  • (b) an act of masturbation by, of, involving or in the presence of a child;
  • (c) an act which involves penetration of the vagina or anus of a child with a part of a person’s body or with anything else;
  • (d) an act of penetration, in the presence of a child, of the vagina or anus of a person with a part of a person’s body or with anything else;
  • (e) the performance by a child of an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal (whether dead or alive or imaginary);
  • (f) the performance by a person of an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal (whether dead or alive or imaginary) in the presence of a child.

Subsection (8) provides that for the purposes of subsection (7) penetration is a continuing act from entry to withdrawal.

Subsection (9) requires proceedings to be instituted by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Clause 50: Exclusion of classified film, etc

This clause provides an exclusion from the scope of the offence under clause 49 for excluded images.

An “excluded image” is defined in subsection (2) as an image which forms part of a series of images contained in a recording of the whole or part of a classified work. A “recording” is defined in subsection (7) as any disc, tape or other device capable of storing data electronically and from which images may be produced. This therefore includes images held on a computer. A classified work is a video work in respect of which a classification certificate has been issued by an authority designated under section 4 of the Video Recordings Act 1984.

The effect of the exclusion is that a person who has a video recording of a film which has been classified by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), and which contains images that, despite their context, might amount to a “prohibited image of a child” for the purposes of the clause 49 offence, will not be liable for prosecution for the offence.

However, the effect of subsection (3) is that the exclusion from the scope of the offence does not apply in respect of images contained within extracts from classified films which must reasonably be assumed to have been extracted solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal. Essentially the exemption for an image forming part of a classified work is lost where the image is extracted from that work for pornographic purposes. Subsection (7) defines “extract” to include a single image.

Subsection (4) provides that when an extracted image is one of a series of images, in establishing whether or not it is of such a nature that it must reasonably be assumed to have been extracted for the purpose of sexual arousal, regard is to be had to the image itself and to the context it which it appears in the series of images. This is the same test as set out in subsection (4) of clause 49. Subsection (5) of clause 49 also applies in determining this question.

The effect of subsection (5) is that, in determining whether a recording is a recording of a whole or part of a classified work, alterations due to technical reasons (such as a failure in the recording system), due to inadvertence (such as setting the wrong time for a recording) or due to the inclusion of extraneous material (such as advertisements), are to be disregarded.

Subsection (6) makes it clear that nothing in clause 50 affects any duty of a designated authority to take into account the offence in clause 49 when considering whether to issue a classification certificate in respect of a video work.

Subsection (7) sets out the definitions used in this section. Subsection (8) states that section 22(3) of the Video Recordings Act 1984 applies. The effect of section 22(3) is that where, an alteration is made to a video work in respect of which a classification certificate has been issued, the classification certificate does not apply to the altered work.

Clause 51: Defences

348. This clause sets out a series of defences to the clause 49 offence of possession of prohibited images of children. These defences are set out in subsection (1). They are the same as those for the offence of possession of indecent images of children under section 160(2) of the Criminal Justice Act 1988.

  • that the person had a legitimate reason for being in possession of the image (this will cover those who can demonstrate that their legitimate business means that they have a reason for possessing the image);
  • that the person had not seen the image and did not know, or have reasonable cause to suspect, that the images held were prohibited images of children (this will cover those who are in possession of offending images but are unaware of the nature of the images); and
  • that the person had not asked for the image - it having been sent without request - and that he or she had not kept it for an unreasonable period of time (this will cover those who are sent unsolicited material and who act quickly to delete it or otherwise get rid of it).

349. Subsection (2) provides that “prohibited image” in this clause has the same meaning as in clause 49.

Clause 52: Meaning of “image” and “child”

Subsection (1) defines “image” and “child” for the purposes of clauses 49, 50 and 51.

Subsection (2) sets out the definition of an image. It states that for the purposes of this offence, “an image” includes still images such as photographs, or moving images such as those in a film. The term “image” also incorporates any type of data, including that stored electronically (as on a computer disk), which is capable of conversion into an image. This covers material available on computers, mobile phones or any other electronic device.

Subsection (3) provides that “image” does not include an indecent photograph or indecent pseudo-photograph of a child, as these are subject to other controls.

Subsection (4) defines “indecent photograph” and “indecent pseudo-photograph” in accordance with the Protection of Children Act 1978.

Subsection (5) defines a child to be a person under 18 years of age.

Subsection (6) requires that a person in an image is to be treated as a child if the impression conveyed by the image is that the person shown is a child, or the predominant impression conveyed is that the person shown is a child despite the fact that some of the physical characteristics shown are not of a child.

Subsection (7) provides that references to an image of a person include references to an imaginary person, and subsection (8) makes it clear that references to an image of a child include references to an imaginary child.

Clause 53: Penalties

The penalties that will apply to persons found guilty of an offence under clause 49 are set out in this clause. In England and Wales and Northern Ireland on conviction on indictment the maximum sentence is imprisonment for three years.

The maximum sentence on summary conviction of the offence in England and Wales is six months’ imprisonment. On the commencement of section 154(1) of the 2003 Act, the maximum sentence on summary conviction in England and Wales will rise to 12 months (see paragraph 13(1) of Schedule 20 to the Bill). The maximum custodial penalty on summary conviction in Northern Ireland is six months.

Clause 54: Entry, search, seizure and forfeiture

Subsection (1) applies the entry, search, seizure and forfeiture powers of the Protection of Children Act 1978 to prohibited images of children. Subsection (2) applies the equivalent Northern Ireland legislation.

Subsection (3) applies these powers to prohibited images to which clause 49 applies.

Paragraph 13(2) of Schedule 20 to the Bill provides that these powers of forfeiture have effect regardless of when the images were lawfully seized.

Clause 55 and Schedule 11: Special rules relating to providers of information society services

362. Clause 55 and Schedule 11 ensure that the provisions outlined above which make it an offence to possess prohibited images of children are consistent with the UK’s obligations under the E-Commerce Directive.

363. Under Schedule 11 providers of information society services who are established in England, Wales or Northern Ireland are covered by the new offence even when they are operating in other European Economic Area states. Paragraphs 3 to 5 of the Schedule provide exemptions for internet service providers from the offence of possession of prohibited images of children in limited circumstances, such as where they are acting as mere conduits for such material or are storing it as caches or hosts.


19th January   

Update: Suicide Loophole...

Websites encouraging suicide made illegal under the Justice Coronary Bill
Link Here
Full story: Suicide Censorship...UK government proposes to ban suicide information

The Government have included a clause in the Coroners And Justice Bill to extend the crime of encouraging suicide to websites and internet messaging services etc.

Part 2- Criminal Offences
Clause 46: Encouraging or assisting suicide: England and Wales

It provides that a person will commit an offence if he or she does an act which is capable of encouraging or assisting another person to commit or attempt to commit suicide, and if he or she intends the act to encourage another person to commit or attempt to commit suicide.

The person committing the offence need not know, or even be able to identify, the other person. So, for example, the author of a website promoting suicide who intends that one or more of his or her readers will commit or attempt to commit suicide is guilty of an offence, even though he or she may never know the identity of those who access the website.

Clause 48 and Schedule 10: Encouraging or assisting suicide: providers of information society services

Ensures that providers of information society services who are established in England, Wales or Northern Ireland are covered by the offence of encouraging or assisting suicide even when they are operating in other European Economic Area states.

Paragraphs 4 to 6 of the Schedule provide exemptions for internet service providers from the offence in limited circumstances, such as where they are acting as mere conduits for information that is capable, and provided with the intention, of encouraging or assisting suicide or are storing it as caches or hosts.

The Coroners And Justice Bill also reinforces the general internet position that laws apply to a person or company that is established within the jurisdiction of the law even if the website or service is operated from elsewhere. Eg if British residents use foreign internet services or web hosting they are still liable to UK law.


15th January

 Offsite: Praise Where Praise is Due...

Link Here
Parliamentarians receive their Erotic Awards

See article from


13th January   

80% Bollox...

Parliamentary questions raised about trafficked sex workers in the UK
Link Here

Written Questions to the Home Department, 17th Dec 2008

Dominic Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many (a) arrests and (b) convictions there have been for human trafficking offences under Operation Pentameter 2.

Jacqui Smith: Of the 528 arrests as a result of Operation Pentameter 2, 99 were for human trafficking. Many of those arrested were charged with offences other than human trafficking, such as causing or inciting prostitution for gain and money laundering offences.

It is not possible to disaggregate the conviction figures to provide a breakdown of convictions resulting from Operation Pentameter 2 and many cases arising from that operation are still progressing through the criminal justice system.

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what her Department's definition is of a person who has been trafficked.

Alan Campbell: The UK uses the definition of trafficking set out in the Protocol to the 2000 UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime called the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, which states that:

Trafficking in persons shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.

Neil Gerrard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if she will place in the Library a copy of the research her Department used to inform its calculation that 80% of women working in prostitution have been trafficked into the UK.

Alan Campbell: The Home Office has neither made nor cited this calculation.

Dominic Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if she will break down the sentences issued to those convicted of human trafficking offences under Operation Pentameter 2 by (a) category and (b) length of sentence.

Jacqui Smith: It is not possible to disaggregate the sentences received as a result of Operation Pentameter 2 from those which may result out of other operations. Additionally many of cases are still progressing through the criminal justice system.

Dominic Grieve To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proportion of the estimated number of UK sex establishments Operation Pentameter 2 visited.

Jacqui Smith: It is not possible to accurately state what proportion of UK sex establishments were visited under Pentameter 2.

Operation Pentameter 2 was an intelligence-led operation which involved a total of 822 premises being visited. Of these 157 were massage parlours/saunas, 582 were residential and 83 were other premises including airports, seaports and hotels.


9th January   

Financial Censorship...

Scottish Daily Newspaper Society oppose D-Notices for financial news
Link Here

The Scottish Daily Newspaper Society has added its voice to the chorus of disapproval that the media might be restricted in the way it reports financial crises.

In the wake of the recent banking collapses, the Treasury Select Committee at Westminster is holding an inquiry. So-called D-Notices are used to restrict the reporting of stories that may jeopardise the national security, leading to concerns that something similar might be applied to financial journalism.

Says SDNS director Jim Raeburn: This is a classic case of ‘shoot the messenger’. Quite apart from the practicalities of any such proposition, this would amount to blatant censorship in breach of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights relating to freedom of expression. It should also be said that financial journalists are already subject to statutory and self-regulatory controls, the latter under the Editors’ Code of Practice administered by the Press Complaints Commission and its Financial Journalism Best Practice Note published in 2005.

The SDNS totally and utterly rejects any notion that readers should be deprived of information on financial matters which might assist them in making perfectly rational decisions to secure their investments.


4th January   

Foul Language...

Nutter MPs praise the Daily Mirror over its strong language on TV bollox
Link Here

Labour MP Jim Devine has generated an Early Day Motion on 17.11.2008.

Foul Language On Television

That this House deplores the level of foul language on television; and congratulates the Daily Mirror's campaign to stop this abuse.

The motion has now been signed by the following MPs:

Devine, Jim
Hamilton, David
Cunningham, Jim
Ruane, Chris
Anderson, David
Taylor, David
Kaufman, Gerald
Russell, Bob
Humble, Joan
Keetch, Paul
Meale, Alan
Campbell, Gregory
Drew, David
Bottomley, Peter
Wareing, Robert N
MacNeil, Angus
Simpson, David
McCrea, Dr William

McDonnell, Alasdair
Brooke, Annette
Vis, Rudi
Winterton, Nicholas
Robinson, Iris
Jenkins, Brian
Cummings, John
Dismore, Andrew
Hancock, Mike
Vaz, Keith
McCartney, Ian
Dobbin, Jim
Foster, Michael Jabez
Taylor, Dari
Hopkins, Kelvin
Williams, Betty
Wilshire, David
Smith, Angela C (Sheffield)


3rd January   

Cosmopolitan Metropolitan...

London police tolerate well behaved brothels
Link Here

London's Metropolitan police have admitted turning a "blind eye" to many of London's brothels and massage parlours because it believes the public would not support a total clampdown on prostitution.

Commander Allan Gibson told a committee of MPs the force knew rapidly when sex was being sold and could devote a lot more of its resources to tackling the problem, but chose not to do so.

Gibson, the officer in charge of the force's human trafficking unit, claimed this was because police felt Londoners were willing to tolerate a certain level of prostitution and a full-scale crackdown would be a very difficult thing to sell to the public. The Met insisted it was determined to stamp out serious criminality connected to brothels, such as people-trafficking. But the admission that it allows many to operate produced an angry response from fem-Nazis. The Met's stance was revealed in evidence to the Commons home affairs select committee.

Gibson said the force only raided brothels where it believed serious offences were being committed. We could commit a lot more of our resources to prostitution. Would that be the right thing to do? It is a matter of to what extent we target our resources at this problem. There is a sense in which there is a tolerance of a certain level of prostitution in society.

Gibson added that prostitution would be a difficult problem to eradicate and conceded, when asked if the Met was turning a blind eye , that it frequently did so. However, Gibson said raids to combat people-trafficking, rape and other serious crimes were conducted regularly.

He added: I f we were to focus on prostitution alone, I think you would end up in a situation of saying there is a certain amount we should do but perhaps not exhaust all our resources doing it.

Jenny Jones, a man hating member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, said many women would support a far more aggressive approach: Who are the Met to decide that we want them to turn a blind eye? This a very misogynistic view which is out of date

London MEP Mary Honeyball, who campaigns against men's rights, described the Met's stance as astounding. Giving brothels the green light so publicly is to say, 'Yes, we will tolerate violence and abuse against women so long as it's behind closed doors'.

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