As already reported by The Register, Kent Police are in the process of using the Obscene Publications Act as a means to prosecute an individual, Gavin Smith, of Swanscombe for publishing obscenity in respect of a log of a private online chat he had with another individual.
This case has now been given the green light to proceed.
Due to reporting restrictions, theregister.co.uk are unable to give any further details of the alleged content of the conversation at this point in time.
The legal principle at stake here is whether internet chat constitutes publication in the ordinary sense of the word, or can be treated as private conversation. If the former is the conclusion, then anyone with even a passing interest in more extreme fantasies (not just underage, but also BDSM, rape and other matters currently covered by the extreme porn laws) may need to be very careful in respect of any online conversations they have in future. IRC will no longer be quite the refuge of the bizarre and the outlandish it once was.
Yesterday’s hearing, before magistrates in Gravesend (the date was moved from May 6) resulted in the date of a committal hearing being agreed for 9 July. At that time, a judge may decide that the case has no legal merit. Otherwise, a date will then be set for trial, and the seriousness of this matter will escalate another notch.
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