Posts Tagged ‘OPA’

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uk cards association logoATVOD’s chief censor says he’s in discussions with processors about blocking payments to non-U.K. websites that offer hardcore porn.

Peter Johnson, who leads the British Video On Demand censor, claimed that websites that offer hardcore porn outside of restricted sections, without rigorous age-verification barriers, could be violation of the U.K.’s Obscene Publications Act and be operating illegally in the country.

However it seems entirely ludicrous that viewing depictions of such a commonplace and normal activity as sex could ‘deprave and corrupt’ children. They are well prepared for sex via sex education, endless discussions in the media, not to mention sex being a top topic of conversation in just about every classroom in the country.

The ongoing debate has featured the subject in great detail lately, and most commentators seem concerned by the more realistic worries that multi partner sex, and particularly rough sex featured in some material, are not great sex education lessons for kids. But few are suggesting that such harms go as far as to ‘deprave and corrupt’ children as required to breach the Obscene Publications Act.

And of course if the kids were being depraved and corrupted, then we would realise by now, because apparently most of the kids have already seen it anyway. Crime rates are falling in Britain, hardly evidence of this supposed mass corruption.

Johnson claimed at last week’s Westminster forum debate, presumably addressing foreign businesses:

If you’re offering [hardcore porn] in your shop window, you’re breaking U.K. law. Even if you’re not in the U.K., you’re breaking U.K. law because our children can access it.

Therefore your shop is trading illegally. Therefore funds should not be flowing from the U.K. to your shop, because your shop is fundamentally operating in an unlawful capacity.

According to Wired, Johnson mentioned one porn site as a target, Manwin’s Johnson said that this site offers hardcore pornographic content freely without age-verification barriers, including credit card, passport or driving license checks. The free stuff is the shop window, he said, referring to PornHub’s opening web page.

I can’t imagine the payment companies are very impressed by being asked to police internet porn, especially on such a flimsy legal case. Every nutter in the world would clamour for them to ban payments to their pet hates.

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How can the depiction of something that is so commonplace, so central to life, so widely discussed (even amongst teenagers) and so comprehensively taught in schools, possibly deprave and corrupt? Undesirable for children maybe, but depraving and corrupting?

Thanks to Therumbler
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See also Submission to UKCCIS consultation on parental controls [pdf]
See also Submission to Lords Communication Committee on media convergence [pdf]

ATVOD logo 2011 ATVOD has published its submission to the recent consultation by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety on parental controls its submission to the call for evidence from the House of Lords Select Committee on Communicatons on media convergence and its public policy impact

Together the documents begin to articulate ATVOD emerging public policy positions, setting out:

  • ATVOD role and activities, especially in relation to protecting children
  • The limitations of the current regulatory scheme, especially in relation to non-UK services
  • ATVOD’s view that it would be premature to attempt to put in place a rigid new regulatory structure
  • ATVOD’s view that public policy should focus on clearly identified areas of public concern, including the ease with which children can access hardcore porn online
  • ATVOD’s view that parental controls and media education are part of the solution, but their efficacy should not be overstated
  • ATVOD’s view that further consideration should be given to more active enforcement existing legislation, including the Obscene Publications Act
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Old BaileyYou could be committing a criminal offence next time you discuss your deepest fantasies with someone online. Alarmist? Only slightly.

A ruling slipped out quietly by the Appeal Court earlier this year, and lurking in the background while the substantive case to which it applied came to court, makes it plain: the act of publishing as defined within the Obscene Publications Act can take place with an audience of just one individual.

That means it is therefore perfectly possible for the content of online chat, should a jury decide that it is capable of depraving or corrupting , to be judged obscene – and as such for one or both participants in that conversation to be guilty of a criminal offence that carries a sentence of up to five years in prison, and a stint on the sex offenders’ register.

This is legal dynamite – and in one single judgment catapults the UK to the back of the queue on a range of international indices on freedom of speech.

…Read the full article

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So if the authorities want to invent a new angle to a law they prosecute someone, offer a lenient sentence for pleading guilty, then take the inevitable successful prosecution as justification for an extended law.

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Old BaileyKent Police have set a legal precedent after successfully prosecuting a man for making lewd comments about children during a private online conversation.

Gavin Smith was charged in 2010 with nine offences of publishing an obscene article. Under the Obscene Publications Act, it is an offence to supply material ( interpreted as distribute, circulate, sell, hire, give, or lend) , that tends to deprave and corrupt those view it.

When the case first came before magistrates, it was discharged on arguments of no case to answer. However the CPS said they had received new evidence in this matter and, following a review, decided to re-charge Smith.

At his first trial at Maidstone Crown Court in November last year, the court heard that Smith had online conversations in which he spoke about molesting and spanking children. His counsel claimed Kent Police were on a moral crusade by prosecuting Smith under the Obscene Publications Act 1959. The jury in the trial was discharged by Judge Charles Macdonald QC after hearing legal arguments.

His barrister Roger Daniells-Smith told the court on that occasion: This is a test case. We say it is part of a political campaign by Kent Police. We say this is a moral crusade by Kent Police to extend the law, to try to get this material included as extreme pornography.But their arguments to have online conversations included fell on stony ground , he said: They therefore had nothing other than to try (to prosecute) under this act.

But the court decision was subsequently appealed by the Crown Prosecution Service, with the Court of Appeal ruling in their favour.

Smith was due to go on trial for a second time this week. But after being given a Goodyear direction , in which a judge indicates what the likely sentence would be if a defendant pleads guilty, Smith admitted all nine offences after being told that the sentence would likely be a suspended jail term or community order.

Adjourning sentence for reports, Judge Philip St.John-Stevens described the case as unusual .

The case could now open the doors for police forces across the country to charge suspected offenders for online conversations.

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Thanks to Sergio

Crown Prosecution ServiceThe BBFC published it’s decision to make cuts to the R18 adult DVD titled The Best of Lucy Law. It cut 2:35s with the comment:

Cuts were required to remove the clear indication that one woman is licking urine from another, penetration with an object with potential to cause physical harm, and dialogue encouraging an interest in breath restriction. Cuts made in line with current interpretation of the Obscene Publications Act 1959, BBFC Guidelines and policy, and the Video Recordings Act 1984.

This decision was published after the R v Peacock case where a jury unanimously cleared films depicting full on urolagnia of obscenity.

Sergio enquired of the BBFC whether anything has changed regarding the R V Peacock case and received an email from the BBFC:

The role of the BBFC is not to decide the law but to enforce it, and in this we will be guided by the law enforcement agencies. In relation to this case, the CPS have stated that the fact that a jury has acquitted someone does not mean that the guidance is incorrect.

There are no current plans to revise our Guidelines.

Yours sincerely,

J L Green
Chief Assistant (Policy)

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BBFC logoThe BBFC have just published it’s decision to make cuts to the R18 adult DVD titled The Best of Lucy Law.

It cut 2:35s with the comment:

Cuts were required to remove the clear indication that one woman is licking urine from another, penetration with an object with potential to cause physical harm, and dialogue encouraging an interest in breath restriction. Cuts made in line with current interpretation of the Obscene Publications Act 1959, BBFC Guidelines and policy, and the Video Recordings Act 1984.

So even after such a resounding decision to find urolagnia to be not obscene in the only jury case in recent memory, then the BBFC is still citing bollox that licking urine could somehow deprave and corrupt R18 viewers.

Methinks the censors have watched a few too many golden showers movies themselves.

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Old BaileyThe International Union of Sex Workers is delighted by the unanimous verdicts of not guilty on all counts in the trial of Michael Peacock that concluded at Southwark Crown Court on Friday 6th January.

Michael’s courage and determination in pursuing this case was the first challenge to the Obscene Publications Act 1959 for many years. Understandably, most people charged with offences under this Act plead guilty as an innocent plea followed by a court case that returns a guilty verdict will result in a harsher sentence. This has the effect of leaving police and CPS opinion of what is obscene untested.

The DVDs that were the subject of this prosecution were sold through Michael’s website,, and on Craigslist. They contained scenes of male fisting, urination and BDSM. Michael was charged with six counts of publishing obscene articles likely to deprave and corrupt. The jury saw a substantial amount of the content which the police and CPS deemed illegal and required less than two hours deliberation to return unanimous not guilty verdicts on all counts. Therefore material showing the activities depicted is no longer defined as obscene in law.

It’s time to decriminalise sex between consenting adults. Lady Chatterley trial of 1960 (R v Penguin Books) is still quoted as precedent in obscenity trials; the jury’s response in R v Peacock shows public opinion has clearly moved on considerably.

Catherine Stephens, activist with the International Union of Sex Workers, says:

In a week that has also seen the collapse of the Sheila Farmer trial for brothel keeping, it is time to decriminalise the sexual activities of consenting adults, whether or not they are in front of a camera. These two trials were an appalling waste of public resources: the law as it stands does nothing to enhance the safety either of the general public or those who work in the adult industry and often actively increases the dangers we face.

Michael Peacock says:

Responsible treatment of pornography would allow adults who want to access sexually explicit materials freedom to do so and protect those who are underage or do not wish to view such content. The current legal framework fails to do either of these things. I give my thanks to my legal team at Hodge Jones Allen, the judge who heard my case and the twelve people who served on the jury whose maturity and commonsense has changed the law.

Hazel Eracleous, Chair of Backlash comments:

Backlash is delighted that a jury decided it is no longer appropriate to prosecute people based on consensual adult sexual activity. We support the rights of adults to participate in all consensual sexual activities and to watch, read and create any fictional interpretation of such in any media. We will continue to raise awareness of the unseen consequences of these draconian laws, provide legal advice and defend those same consenting adults caught up in the Extreme Pornography and Obscene Publication laws.

Myles Jackman, solicitor at Hodge Jones Allen with a specialist interest in obscenity cases states:

This case shows the Obscene Publications Act is no longer effective in the age of the internet.

See also Obscenity trial: the law is not suitable for a digital age from by Myles Jackman.

Jerry Barnett, Chairman of the Adult Industry Trade Association (AITA), says:

We congratulate Michael Peacock on his victory. The idea that depictions of consenting adult sexual activity can be deemed obscene is a throwback to an earlier age. The adult industry continues to develop and adopt technologies that prevent children from accessing sexual content. We see no need for adults to be protected from it — a free society should protect the rights of adults to participate in any consenting sexual act they choose.

In the Press

The judgement seems to have captured little attention from the newspapers with the exception of the Guardian/Observer which has published several items about the news.

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Feona Attwood of Sheffield Hallam University, who lectures in sex, communication and culture, and who attended the trial, said:

I think the law does not make sense. All the evidence that was heard was about whether the material had the ability to harm and corrupt. The question now is, what does that actually mean? What is significant is that the jury understood [the issues at stake].

Attwood, like others experts in the field, believes that the law has been overtaken by new understandings of the way in which people think about sexuality and the depiction of sex including whether a process actually exits that leads to moral corruption.

Others who have been deeply critical of the attempted prosecution include solicitor and New Statesman legal blogger David Allen Green. Writing during the case he said:

Obscenity is a curious criminal offence, and many would say that it now has no place in a modern liberal society, especially when all that is being portrayed in any obscene material are the consensual (if unusual) sexual acts between adults.

See also It’s time to abolish the obscenity law from by Nichi Hodgson

See also Obscenity trial ends from by Dr Brooke Magnanti

See also An end to Obscenity Law? from by Jane Fae

And from the not so delighted

Few nutter campaigners have commented so far.

From article at

The BBC prompted a few words from Vivienne Pattison

Mediawatch-UK said the Obscene Publications Act needed to be tightened up. Its director Vivienne Pattison says the case illustrates the problem with the act:

There is not a list which says what is obscene and what is not. It makes it incredibly difficult to get a conviction on that.

As a society we are moving to a place where porn is considered as kind of fun between consenting adults, but porn is damaging.