Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Illegal Images of Legal Acts

Lib Dem Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer puts forward an amendment to Clause 62 of the Criminal Justice & Immigration Bill, dubbed the 'Dangerous Pictures Act' by campaigners.
IMAGE: From Parliament Live TV coverage of the debate)

The legislation concerned is one of the most ill-thought out that the Government have come up with. It is a law that was drafted on the basis of a one-woman campaign. A law, potentially coming into force as early as next month that:

  • will criminalise, with sentences of up to 3 years* in prison, the possession of images portraying consensual acts that are legal to actually perform, either because they do not breach existing laws or because they are acted rather than real.
  • could criminalise the possession of stills from well-known films.
  • whose definitions**, using words such as "extreme" are so vague and subjective that it is difficult to be sure what is in breach and what isn't, and surely makes it equally difficult for a jury to reasonably convict.
  • Is considered by Rabinder Singh QC to be incompatible with Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Despite the fact that the legislation is poorly drafted, illiberal and unworkable, a bid to have the relevant clauses removed from the Bill fell through on division in the Lords on 21 April. However, only 13.1% voted.

At today's 3rd Lords reading of the Bill, a bid by the same Liberal Democrats, Baroness Miller and Lord Wallace, to shore up the legislation by adding a requirement for the images to pass the Obscene Publications Act's definition of obscenity also failed, by a margin of 134 to 91 against amendment 13.

This amendment was, however, drafted in a way that (as Ministry of Justice Lord Hunt pointed out during the debate) could potentially have made the legislation wider-ranging than it already is, by removing the necessity for a pornographic image to be 'extreme' (threatening, violent, or of bestiality or necrophilia) in order to be criminal to possess under the new law, only to be obscene as per the OPA. It might also have made it easier to gain a conviction, by bringing in a well-established 'definition' of obscenity in place of the new and subjective definition of 'extreme'. So, I'm not sure that the failure of this amendment is such a bad thing.

What is, of course, is the fact that having completed its third reading this deeply flawed Bill has now left the Lords and is now expected to gain Royal Assent as early as May 8th, with this absurd legislation still largely unchanged.

* Clause 65 of the bill. An amendment to reduce the maximum sentence to 2 years also failed today
See point 1.50


TBRRob said...

It's really terrible this law.

Graham Marsden said...

And so we see the inexorable progress of Thought Crime into English Law.

The Government says that "if you don't see this stuff, you won't try to do it", but they don't trust us to behave like reasonable, sensible people because of the actions of *one* deranged idiot and their exploitation of the grief of a mother for their own puritanical ends.

People need to write to their MPs NOW via and *demand* that this Bill not be implemented until it has been properly considered by a Select Committee and the dangers to Human Rights it contains removed. (And if that involves removing the whole "Dangerous Pictures" bit, that's not a problem!)

Little Black Sambo said...

So would having a picture like this be actionable? What is happening to us?

Anonymous said...

What about Madonna's 1992 (I think it was) coffee table book of erotica called 'Sex'? From Wikipedia's description of it, it sounds like it contains at least one photographic portrayal of rape, and one photographic portrayal of Madonna participating in oral sex with a dog!

How many people in the UK are in possession of that book? Is possession of that book about to become a criminal offense? How many people are at risk of ending up on the sex offenders' register as a result?

Please spread the word!

Anonymous said...

This is a bill about immigration. Even the title says so.

The overgeneralisation in the definitions is made obvious by the need to include a paragraph exempting bbfc classified material, but this means that any number of legal films become illegal if you own, say, the Polish release, which is obviously not bbfc classified.

We can't turn away immigrants just because they're Polish, so instead we create excuses to turn them away for having Polish releases of films.

QT said...

Spam deleted

Anonymous said...

Will they start bannind words, too?