Barrister Simon Walsh and former Boris Johnson aide has been acquitted of possessing extreme pornography in a landmark case over the boundaries of what can be described asextreme .
The jury was unanimous and took less than 90 minutes to clear Walsh after a week-long trial.
The case is believed to be the first to address whether images of anal fisting, a sexual practice which is legal, and urethral sounding are extreme pornography, as defined under the disgraceful law, section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.
After searching Walsh’s home and office computers, the investigators found nothing incriminating. All they could come up with six email attachment images, on a Hotmail server account he set up to receive and send sexual messages.
Surely this lack of substantial evidence, coupled with the desperately thin set of email attachments must have sounded a few warning bells about persecution. Anyone owning a computer must know that there are bound to be a few undesirable images hanging round somewhere, especially in email folders. It must have gone through the minds of jurors that should the police ever take an interest in their computers, then this could easily happen to them or their families.
Walsh was sacked from his position on the London Fire Authority on his arrest in April last year. He was a man of impeccable character who had made an outstanding contribution to society, the court heard, and had previously chaired the City of London Corporation police authority and licensing authority.
Walsh faced five charges under the 2008 act, which stipulates images are extreme if they are grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character and if they portray, in an explicit and realistic way any act which results in, or is likely to result, in serious injury to a person’s anus, breasts or genitals .
The prosecution claimed three images, found in attachments in Walsh’s sent box, showed urethreal sounding, where a medical instrument is inserted into the tip of the penis to stretch the urethra and stimulate the prostate, acts that were likely to cause injury to a person’s genitals. Two images showed anal fisting, which was likely to cause injury to a person’s anus, it claimed.
The defence argued there was no evidence of any serious injury in any of those images, and that the activities were low risk. Walsh had taken the urethral sounding images himself at a New Year’s Eve party and sent them only to other participants at the party, the court heard.
Medical evidence was examined showing that there were risks in these activities, but these risks were not generally ‘likely’ to occur.
A sixth charge, of possessing an indecent image of an underage boy, related to an attachment sent to Walsh which showed a sexually aroused male with a ligature. Walsh told the court he had no recollection of ever opening the attachment on the email, which was unsolicited and unanswered. The defence claimed the image was not of a child but an adult. It was also not possible to prove Walsh had opened the attachment, the court heard.
Three defence experts viewed the image and stated in written reports that Jason was in his twenties. As a matter of legal procedure, the jury never heard this expert evidence. Instead they used their common sense and acquitted Walsh.
Prosecutor Thomas Wilkins told the court Walsh was a gay man who has what he described as a strange sex life . Wilkins said: He doesn’t dispute that he uses the email account purely for his sex life. He doesn’t dispute that he is interested in bondage and sadomasochism.There was no dispute that Walsh had sent three of the images, but, added Wilkins, he disputes that they are extreme or pornographic .
Trial Report: The acquittal of Simon Walsh at Kingston Crown Court
See article from heresycorner.blogspot.com
Trial Report: Prosecutors, extreme porn and 50 Shades of Grey
See article from politics.co.uk by Alex Dymock
Comment: Extreme porn trial: consensual sex and the state
See article from guardian.co.uk by Defence Lawyer Myles Jackman
Unlike the Obscene Publication Act, which covers distribution, the CJIA shifts the burden on to individuals in possession of pornography. People need to know how to modify their behaviour in accordance with the law, yet it is unclear what acts constituteextreme pornography .
As well as criminalising acts which are legal to perform, the CJIA would seemingly outlaw images which have been exhibited in art galleries. In 2008, the Barbican Gallery’s Seduced exhibition included photographic images of male on male anal fisting and male urethral insertion from artist Robert Mapplethorpe’s X Portfolio. The gallery cleared them with the City of London police before the exhibition opened.
Police also regularly misclassify images they discover. In the Stafford extreme pornography trial, my client was initially charged with being in possession of over 1,250 extreme images. Upon viewing them, it became clear that over 900 were of clothed performers not engaging in any form of sexual activity. That defendant was eventually acquitted by a jury of all charges.
So, would you even know what material might be illegal? Have you been sent junk emails and not opened them? How much do you know about operating systems caching images attached to unopened emails?
Comment: Why the porn trial verdict is no reason to celebrate
See article from blog.indexoncensorship.org by Jane Fae
Red faces over at the Crown Prosecution Service and the Metropolitan Police, as a jury took under three hours to clear former aide to London Mayor Boris Johnson , Simon Walsh of a string of charges brought under extreme porn laws. Indeed, were Twitter an accurate reflection of the nation’s views on a topic, Keir Starmer, Head of the CPS and all those involved in the prosecution would this afternoon be looking for new jobs: such has been the mix of disbelief and outrage that public money and police time should be wasted on footling state attempts to interfere in the private lives of consenting adults.
The effect of this [extreme porn] law is pernicious. It doesn’t seem to have done much to stem the tide of porn that so many politicians obsess about. It has given police and prosecution another stick with which to beat the unwary — and to punish them should they not be punishable for any other crime.
For all that this result has been embarrassing to the CPS, they continue to make progress on what is beginning to feel like a serious moral agenda at the heart of their practice. Calls for review of prosecuting practice have followed swiftly. Ian Dunt, of politics.co.uk, thinks it is time to look again at the culture within the CPS. Ben Goldacre wonders aloud whether it is mere coincidence that a lawyer who has made a career of bringing corrupt police officers to book should be the target of such legal manoeuvring, also suggestingwe need an inquiry into why CPS and police keep bring these [cases].
Comment: The shameful and nasty prosecution of Simon Walsh
See article from newstatesman.com by David Allen Green
It was a sensible jury decision, and one well-deserved by Walsh and his fine legal team.
But this is a matter which should never have got before a jury, for this was a shameful and nasty prosecution of a good man.
The law is bad to begin with. The offence in its entirety is dealt with over four sections of the relevant statute, and is perhaps the most complex as well as one of the most illiberal prohibitions in criminal law. However, the effect of the law is stark: possession of certainextreme pornographic images of adults is a serious crime even if the acts portrayed are consensual or staged.