Coming to a home near you. Now is the time to do something

A bill outlawing the possession of “extreme pornography” is set to become law next week. But many fear it has been rushed through and will criminalise innocent people with a harmless taste for unconventional sex.Five years ago Jane Longhurst, a teacher from Brighton, was murdered. It later emerged her killer had been compulsively accessing websites such as Club Dead and Rape Action, which contained images of women being abused and violated.

When Graham Coutts was jailed for life Jane Longhurst’s mother, Liz, began a campaign to ban the possession of such images. WHAT IS EXTREME PORNOGRAPHY?

As defined by the new Criminal Justice Bill
An act which threatens or appears to threaten a person’s life
An act which results in or appears to result in serious injury to a person’s anus, breasts or genitals
An act which involves or appears to involve sexual interference with a human corpse
A person performing or appearing to perform an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal

Supported by her local MP, Martin Salter, she found a listening ear in then home secretary, David Blunkett, who agreed to introduce legislation to ban the possession of “violent and extreme pornography”.

This was eventually included in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, which gets its final reading this week and will get Royal Assent on 8 May.

Until now pornographers, rather than consumers, have needed to operate within the confines of the 1959 Obscene Publications Act (OPA). While this law will remain, the new act is designed to reflect the realities of the internet age, when pornographic images may be hosted on websites outside the UK.

Under the new rules, criminal responsibility shifts from the producer – who is responsible under the OPA – to the consumer.

But campaigners say the new law risks criminalising thousands of people who use violent pornographic images as part of consensual sexual relationships.

People like Helen, who by day works in an office in the Midlands, and enjoys being sexually submissive and occasionally watching pornography, portrayed by actors, which could be banned under the new legislation.

She feels the new law is an over-reaction to the Longhurst case.
“Mrs Longhurst sees this man having done this to her daughter and she wants something to blame and rather than blame this psychotic man she wants to change the law but she doesn’t really understand the situation,” says Helen.

“Do you ban alcohol just because some people are alcoholics?”

She has an ally in Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer, a Liberal Democrat peer who has fought to have the legislation amended.

“Obviously anything that leads to violence against women has to be taken very seriously,” says Baroness Miller. “But you have to be very careful about the definition of ‘extreme pornography’ and they have not nearly been careful enough.”

She has suggested the new act adopt the legal test set out in the OPA, which bans images which “tend to deprave and corrupt”.

But the government has sought to broaden the definition and the bill includes phrases such as “an act which threatens or appears to threaten a person’s life”.

Speaking from her home in Berkshire, Mrs Longhurst acknowledges that libertarians see her as “a horrible killjoy”. I’M NOT DOING ANYTHING WRONG
A lot of people would like to march and demonstrate against this law but if you stick your head above the parapet you are going to get yourself in the firing line

Helen defends extreme porn
“I’m not. I do not approve of this stuff but there is room for all sorts of different people. But anything which is going to cause damage to other people needs to be stopped.”

To those who fear the legislation might criminalise people who use violent pornography as a harmless sex aid, she responds with a blunt “hard luck”.

“There is no reason for this stuff. I can’t see why people need to see it. People say what about our human rights but where are Jane’s human rights?”

Mr Blunkett echoed her views in a recent column in the Sun newspaper.

“Nothing can bring Jane back,” he wrote. “But all of us have a duty to ensure that, in a world where there are enough crazy acts already, we don’t allow others to incite, stimulate or gratify those with sick minds.”
Could images like this be banned?

Recently, the much-publicised rompings of Formula 1 boss Max Mosley have served as a reminder that kinky sex is found in all walks of society.
And just as Mr Mosely is fighting the expose of his antics, calling it an invasion of private life, so Baroness Miller says the new law also threatens people’s privacy.

“The government is effectively walking into people’s bedrooms and saying you can’t do this. It’s a form of thought police.”

She says there’s a danger of “criminalising kinkiness” and fears the legislation has been rushed through Parliament without proper debate because it is a small part of a wider bill.

Deborah Hyde, of Backlash, an umbrella group of anti-censorship and alternative sexuality pressure groups, has similar concerns.

Having engaged in it consensually would not be a crime, but to have a photograph of it in one’s possession would be a crime. That does not seem to make sense to me

Lord Wallace of Tankerness

“How many tens or hundreds or thousands of people are going to be dragged into a police station, have their homes turned upside down, their computers stolen and their neighbours suspecting them of all sorts?”

Such “victims” won’t feel able to fight the case and “will take a caution, before there are enough test cases to prove that this law is unnecessary and unworkable”.

Another opponent of the new law is Edward Garnier, an MP and part-time judge, who questioned the clause when it was debated in the Commons.

“My primary concern is the vagueness of the offence,” says Mr Garnier. “It was very subjective and it would not be clear to me how anybody would know if an offence had been committed.”

But the Ministry of Justice is unrepentant, saying the sort of images it is seeking to outlaw are out of place in modern-day Britain.

“Pornographic material which depicts necrophilia, bestiality or violence that is life threatening or likely to result in serious injury to the anus, breasts or genitals has no place in a modern society and should not be tolerated,” says a spokeswoman for the ministry.
Graham Coutts, who killed Jane Longhurst after viewing extreme pornography
She points out the law is not intended to target those who accidentally come into contact with obscene pornography and nor would it target the mainstream entertainment industry or those who sell bondage material which is legally available.

Yet opponents have also seized on what they see as an ideological schism in the new law, noted by Lord Wallace of Tankerness during last week’s debate in the House of Lords.

“If no sexual offence is being committed it seems very odd indeed that there should be an offence for having an image of something which was not an offence,” he said. With that partly in mind, the government is tabling an amendment that would allow couples to keep pictures of themselves engaged in consensual acts – but not to distribute them.

“Having engaged in it consensually would not be a crime, but to have a photograph of it in one’s possession would be a crime. That does not seem to make sense to me.”
Thanks to BBC News

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