A former civil servant who wrote an internet article imagining the kidnap and murder of the pop group Girls Aloud has been cleared of obscenity.
Darryn Walker was charged under the Obscene Publications Act after the blog appeared on a fantasy
He appeared at Newcastle Crown Court, but was cleared on Monday. His defence argued that the article was not accessible, and could only be found by those looking for specific material.
Walker's 12-page blog - Girls
(Scream) Aloud - was brought to the attention of police by the Internet Watch Foundation.
David Perry QC, prosecuting, said: A crucial aspect of the reasoning that led to the instigation of these proceedings was that the article in
question, which was posted on the internet, was accessible to people who were particularly vulnerable - young people who were interested in a particular pop music group. It was this that distinguished this case from other material available on the
internet. The CPS concluded, with the benefit of counsel's advice, there was a realistic prospect of conviction."
However, a report for the defence by an information technology expert said that it could only be discovered by internet
users seeking such specific material.
A report from a consultant psychiatrist also said it was baseless to suggest that reading such material could turn other people into sexual predators.
Tim Owen QC, defending Walker, said :
It was never his intention to frighten or intimidate the members of Girls Aloud. He had written what he had described as an adult celebrity parody and was only meant to be for an audience of like-minded people. As soon as he was aware of the upset and
fuss that had been created, he took steps himself to take the article off the website. This type of writing is widely available on the internet in an unregulated and uncensored form. In terms of its alleged obscenity, it is frankly no better or
worse than other articles.
The court heard that Walker had lost his job since his arrest.
Judge Esmond Faulks formally returned a not guilty verdict to the charge of publishing an obscene article.
Jo Glanville, editor of the
freedom of expression group Index on Censorship, said the prosecution should not have been brought in the first place: Since the landmark obscenity cases of the '60s and '70s, writers have been protected from such prosecutions and have remained free
to explore the extremes of human behaviour. This case posed a serious threat to that freedom. In future, obscenity cases should be referred directly to the Director of Public Prosecutions before any prosecution is triggered.