The present Government likes to position itself as somehow liberal when it comes to matters of sex. Unfortunately, you only need to read the small print to realise that this is very far from the truth. The following are just some of the issues that suggest that they are far more interested in cracking down on any sexuality that does not conform to their own narrow standard of “normal” or that they find in any way ever so slightly “icky”.
Scotland has separate legislation to England, Wales and Northern Island. We deal with E,W & NI first:
Since enacted CAAN has been pursuing MoJ and CPS to establish what exactly the new legislation (CJIA 2008) criminalising the possession of “extreme porn” means, how it is being implemented and how many people have been prosecuted.
The legislation criminalising images that depict bestiality and necrophilia appeared to be abundantly clear until the “Tiger Porn” viral joke landed someone in court. But we struggled to get clarity relating to images deemed to be “life threatening” or causing “serious injury to breasts, genitals or anus”. Could elaborate bondage or fetish wear, that might have a dual function of controlling breathing, be determined to be “life threatening”? We also tried to establish whether body piercings, for example an image of a “Prince Albert” piercing might be illegal to possess. But the CPS and MoJ were stubborn in refusal to explain precisely what obligations are now placed upon the public.
The Simon Walsh trial may have been a watershed. In the light of the attempted prosecution for ‘fisting’ and ‘urethral sounding’ (wholly acquitted by the jury) we pressed former (Labour) and current government ministers and all members of the Home Affairs Select Committee to provide real clarity. Finally CPS agreed to issue more meaningful guidance. What has appeared is definitely an improvement but still leave much to be desired. We still don’t know if something depicting a “Prince Albert” style of piercing is legal to possess. We have asked but fear a reply may be a long time in coming.
What do you think: -
We have also established that far more people are being caught up in this legislation than government originally indicated would be the case as the following data shows.
In the magistrates court: -
2008/09 2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13
7a 0 5 38 40 30
7b 0 52 132 102 98
7c 0 0 0 6 5
7d 2 213 995 1171 1179
Tot 2 270 1165 1319 1348
7a is “life threatening: 7b, serious injury/breasts,genitals/anus: 7c, necrophilia and 7d, bestiality.
In the Crown Court: -
We expect to shortly receive data from MoJ on the number of Crown Court convictions in 2012.
The data for 2010 and 2011 shows: -
7a 0 3
7b 9 11
7c 0 0
7d 48 67
Those who have been involved in the campaign against the legislation may be aware that government indicated that very few prosecutions were envisaged, with the regulatory impact assessment suggesting around 30 convictions per annum. But this legislation is not only impacting the over 1,000 people per annum who are prosecuted, there are many hundreds more who receive police cautions. Clearly this legislation is affecting thousands of people.
We warned at the outset that the legislation was so poorly drafted that it could impact upon anyone. If you have an interest in fetish wear you might be accused that a mask restricts breathing and is therefore life threatening. You might have an interest in tattooing or body piercing, research this on line and find yourself fined and on the sex offenders register because you retained images relating to a ‘Prince Albert’ style of piercing.
You might receive and send joke e-mails, for example, the one about a new HM Revenue & Customs technique for extracting money – which features a very uncomfortable pair of balls in an S&M vice like contraption (‘serious injury’). Many initially thought that the legislation relating to images of bestiality was clear enough but they were wrong. Our July newsletter reports on the “Tiger Porn” case where a crude joke was circulated featuring simulated sex between a man in a tiger suit and a tiger – with the punch-line that “it beats eating Frosties”. One man ended up in court for that joke, facing the prospect of a heavy fine, imprisonment and being placed on the sex offender’s register.
Given that it is now apparent that the legislation is proving to cause more harm than the material it sought to control, we continue our work to seek the repeal of this nasty, unwarranted and abusive legislation. Please contact us if you are willing to help with our work.
In Scotland even more draconian legislation was introduced that included images depicting rape. Some may initially think that surely non-consensual sex is precisely what CAAN is opposed to, and we are, but it is the interpretation that will be key. We have issued FoI requests and are conducting research into prosecutions to establish if a reasoned and reasonable approach is being adopted by the authorities.
Ours is a small team and we welcome those opposed to censorship of consensual material. If you support our aims and are willing to tackle a mini project of research then please make contact.
For details of the extreme porn ban, see here:
Crown Prosecution Service: http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/d_to_g/extreme_pornography/
Office of Public Sector Information, Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008: http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2008/ukpga_20080004_en_9
Scottish legislation: -
This is the proof that government were not interested in considerations of “harm” when they put together legislation designed to attack the bdsm community. The relevant clauses were passed, with virtually no parliamentary debate, in 2006 – at the very time when government was admitting publically that it had no evidence of a link between porn and harm.
The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 puts in place a whole raft of measures to stop the “wrong” people working in sensitive (“regulated”) jobs. According to government there are about 11 million of these – although we have seen estimates that the final total might be as high as 14 million.
You can be banned from these jobs if you possess “sexually explicit images depicting violence against human beings”. That is far wider than the extreme porn ban – and puts millions of workers on notice that they may have to choose between their sexuality and their job.
The Safeguarding Vulnerable Person’s Act http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2006/pdf/ukpga_20060047_en.pdf
Legal to Do: Illegal to View
This is another example of the government’s flight from logic when it comes to sexual activity. In 2003, they made it illegal to possess pictures of 16 and 17-year-olds engaged in perfectly legal sexual activity.
CAAN is not interested in tinkering with the age of consent (although they can have sex, 16 and 17-year-olds are not legally adult). However, we do believe that this bit of criminalisation is misguided and disproportionate. This particular legal booby-trap is , designed to create yet another area of uncertainty, where adults must risk being branded paedophile (or not) depending to whether they can always distinguish visually between a 17-year-old and an 18-year-old.
This is clearly ludicrous: it is also counter-productive. Adding to the Sex Offenders’ Register the names of individuals whose sole offence is that they are turned on by biologically mature human beings devalues the Register. It also provides an opt-out for genuine paedophiles, who can argue that if ordinary sexual interaction can land someone on the SOR, then whatever they did could not have been that serious.
If parliament – and society at large – wishes to regulate activity in this area, it should do so: but the criminal law is far too heavy handed a tool for the purpose.
Prostitution covers a very wide range of circumstances: from the appalling exploitation of young girls trafficked into the UK from abroad, to fully aware consenting men and women who choose to make a living by using their talents in this area.
A large number of laws already exist to tackle the worst aspects of the trafficking trade (most of the girls involved will have been kidnapped, held against their will and raped). However, the government – and particularly Harriet Harman – are now arguing in favour of the Swedish legal model (which makes it a crime to pay for sex) by citing the worst case scenarios.
So, in order to deal with cases already fully covered by the law, the government is proposing the creation of new laws that will penalise innocent end users in cases where no exploitation is taking place.
For further details of these proposals and how you can fight them, go to IUSW.
A spokesperson for the Met’s Clubs and Vice unit recently informed the parliamentary culture committee that it was difficult to close down lap dancing clubs because their customers are usually well-behaved.
Despite this, the government has said it is considering a change in the law so that the clubs are categorised as “sex encounter” establishments – the same as sex shops. This would mean stricter rules about what is allowed to take place inside.
Yet again, the government is attempting to legislate on grounds of very narrow morality, rather than respond on the basis of available evidence.