Another unlicensed Soho sex shop on Walkers Court has been warned to cease trading as part of Westminster Council's long-running campaign against unlicensed shops selling hardcore DVDs.
Westminster Council allows a limited number of vendors of
adult DVDs, magazines and sex toys to trade in the West End, but such businesses are obliged to pay extortionate licence fees that cost about £ 30,000 per year.
Enterprise chief Councillor Brian Connell said
licensing council staff were working hard to put the remaining unlicensed sex shops in the streets and alleyways around Brewer Street out of business. Connell told the West End Extra:
In my view, cleaning up the
worst excesses of this trade is good for London and good for Westminster.
It's what we said we would do prior to the Olympics, so it is delivering on a commitment, and it also has the effect of making sure that legitimate
businesses don't run the risk of losing market share.
In 1999 Soho had 61 unlicensed sex shops. It now has nine, and of these, the courts are set to hear three closure hearings in the coming year. The council's declared intention is
for no unlicensed sex DVD shops to remain operational by the start of the Olympics.
Islington's last unlicensed sex shop has shut after a council raid found unclassified DVDs on the premises. Trading SubStandards and licensing staff visited DJD Retail, trading as Bookshop, at York Way in May last year, and seized DVDs and
The sole officer of the company, David Darbo, pleaded guilty to eight offences under the Video Recordings Act 1984 at Highbury Magistrates' Court last month.
Darbo was fined £ 3,150 and ordered to
pay £ 1,449 costs. DJD Retail admitted eight offences and was fined £ 100 for one offence.
The 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, sleazymichael.com, 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
This case shows the Obscene Publications Act is no longer effective in the age of the internet.
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.
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.
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.
Michael Peacock has been acquitted of all charges after a unanimous jury decision to find Peacock not guilty on 6 counts of obscenity.
Michael Peacock (referred to in the gay porn world as Sleazy Michael) had been charged for
distributing supposedly obscene DVDs including representation of gay fisting, urolagnia and BDSM.
The trial was heard before the Southwark Crown Court. The films in question feature: gay fisting (the insertion of five fingers of the fist into the
rectum of another male); urolagnia (in this case men urinating in their clothes, onto each others' bodies and drinking it); and BDSM (in this case hard whipping, the insertion of needles, urethral sounds and electrical torture ). Also there was an
example of a staged non consensual scene.
The Obscene Publications Act 1959 features the contentious and ambiguous deprave and corrupt test, whereby an article (for example a DVD) is obscene if it tends to deprave and corrupt the reader,
viewer or listener. The Test is defined in Section1 of the Act as:
An article shall be deemed to be obscene if its effect or (where the article comprises two or more distinct items) the effect of any one of its items
is, if taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it.
Peacock was represented by Nigel
Richardson and Sandra Paul of Hodge Jones and Allen
Myles Jackman, a solicitor specialising in obscenity law, said this outcome was a significant victory for common sense suggesting that the OPA has been rendered irrelevant in the digital age
In a tweet, Jackman said that SCD9, the Metropolitan Police unit dealing with human exploitation and organised crime, will meet with the Crown Prosecution Service and the British Board of Film Classification to review guidelines on
And of course the authorities will be considering whether the law itself now needs changing. No doubt nutter campaigners will now be pushing for something new to replace the OPA now that it no longer supports their censorial views.
Speculation: So what may be the outcome at least in terms of BBFC censorship of R18s?
The BBFC have been cutting all such material citing the current
interpretation of the Obscene Publications Act. But now of course this will change. The BBFC will still be at liberty to cut scenes off their own bat. And indeed the board has been regularly cutting scenes involving penetration by objects that could
possibly result in harm justified via its own guidelines.
I think there will be a few changes welcomed by all sides. The current prohibition of female squirting leaves everyone totally baffled as to why. This prohibition can now be rapidly
dropped. Perhaps urolagnia can now be generally allowed albeit with restrictions when it is considered by the censors to be degrading.
Perhaps something similar with fisting which could be generally allowed with a proviso that it must not be seen
to be causing any discomfort to those participating.
The BDSM issue is not going to be easy. The current ban is at least easy to explain. To allow any level of hurt beyond trifling may prove very difficult to define. Maybe it is still banned by
legislation examined during the notable Spanner Case, the judgement of which basically disallows people from giving consent to be hurt. So perhaps the BBFC will just switch justifications but continue to ban BDSM.
And I don't suppose that the
non-consensual scene will impact BBFC guidelines at all. This will no doubt continue to be banned from R18s.
The 3rd January 2012 marks the first day of the most significant obscenity trial of the decade; which will ultimately clarify the law on the representation of gay fisting, urolagnia as well as BDSM.
The defendant in the case, Michael Peacock, is
charged on indictment with numerous offences under the Obscene Publications Act for distributing supposedly obscene DVDs.
The Obscene Publications Act 1959 features the contentious and ambiguous deprave and corrupt test, whereby an article
(for example a DVD) is obscene if it tends to deprave and corrupt the reader, viewer or listener. The Test is defined in Section1 of the Act as:
An article shall be deemed to be obscene if its effect or (where the
article comprises two or more distinct items) the effect of any one of its items is, if taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter
contained or embodied in it.
In this trial, which will be heard before the Southwark Crown Court, the films in question feature: gay fisting (the insertion of five fingers of the fist into the rectum of another male); urolagnia (in
this case men urinating in their clothes, onto each others' bodies and drinking it); and BDSM (in this case hard whipping, the insertion of needles, urethral sounds and electrical torture ).
These activities feature on the current list of
what the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) currently consider to be obscene. Ultimately though, it is a matter for a jury to decide whether these acts are obscene by virtue of whether they deprave and corrupt the viewer.
Interestingly this case
seems to have found unofficial tacit support from the BBFC; and the Metropolitan Police's Abusive and Extreme Images Unit (the Met's old obscene publications squad is now part of SCD9): on the basis that this case will establish whether the depiction of
fisting and urination pornography is legal or not.
Hence, if the jury decides that such pornography is not obscene, on the basis that it does not deprave and corrupt the viewer; then it is entirely likely that both the producers and distributors
of pornography will make such material available for sale, for example via licensed sex shops.
Consequently, this significant obscenity prosecution will either reaffirm or rearrange the boundaries of obscenity law.
Mr Peacock is represented
by Hodge Jones and Allen LLP..
The #ObscenityTrial involving the issue of fisting (among others) goes into day three today.
If you're not already doing so, be sure to follow on twitter the excellent activist and scholar,
@lexingtondymock . I'd also suggest following the journalist @NichiHodgson . Both have been
providing fascinating coverage through their live tweets from the courtroom.
Many of the exchanges today would be comical, were they not so serious.
Strip clubs across Britain are facing closure as an increasing number of councils use new laws to ban them. Local authorities are at varying stages of implementing licensing changes to close clubs and businesses.
There are about 300 clubs in
Britain and many opened after a relaxation of the licensing law in 2003. A subsequent 2009 law rebranded lap dancing, pole dancing, and strip clubs as sex entertainment venues gave councils new morality controls.
Ten councils, given the
power to impose repressive restrictions, have already opted for nil policies which will refuse applications for any new venues.
Among them is Tower Hamlets Council in East London. It is supposedly awaiting the result of a public
consultation whilst keenly anticipating the closure of 11 clubs in the borough.
In Leicester three clubs were denied licences last week while in the City of London repressive licensing rules saw its only club decline to apply.
Council in North London, one of a number of local authorities to ban the clubs despite never having had any. It passed a motion last month, under the slogan no sex please, we're Enfield , which stated that it would not allow new clubs.
Elsewhere in London, Hackney, Haringey, and the City of London have all capped their quotas for new clubs at zero, though Hackney has made one area, Haggerston, an exception for existing clubs.
Islington, which has four clubs, has also voted in a nil policy on new venues. Richmond upon Thames has adopted a nil policy on new venues and its last remaining venue will hear its fate next month.
Cambridge City Council brought in new
licensing laws in June and its only club declined to apply.
Newcastle City Council capped the number of clubs at five, and all are having licences considered. There are a further 15 occasional venues , many of which have not applied.
A lap-dancing club has appealed against the arbitrary refusal of a licence to allow it to continue trading. Angels, in Braunstone Gate,
West End, Leicester, faces having to close or cease its shows by the end of March, unless it can overturn the decision by Leicester City Council.
Leicester councillors said they were concerned the application was being made on behalf of a third
party for someone they would not grant a licence to. Councillors also claimed the club was not in an 'appropriate' location given that a sports centre is being built by De Montfort University, in nearby Dun's Lane.
The council's head of licensing,
Mike Broster, said Angels had appealed on both grounds and the case was due to be heard by magistrates at a date yet to be set.
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