Vincent Tabak, who has been found guilty of murdering Joanna Yeates, regularly viewed violent pornographic films featuring women
The Dutch engineer also had images on his computer of a Joanna Yeates look-alike wearing a similar pink t-shirt to the one she had on the night she was killed.
Other images found on Tabak's home and work computers included a series in which-semi naked women lay bound and gagged in the boot of a car. During the trial it emerged that after strangling Miss Yeates, Tabak placed her body in the boot of his
car before going shopping at Asda.
Detectives who seized Tabak's laptop computer and two hard drives found evidence that he had viewed a number of violent pornographic films, in which women were abused, humiliated and physically restrained by having hands placed around their
throat. Analysis showed he had viewed films from a series called Sex and Submission, featuring scenes of sexual violence towards women. In some of the scenes, the actors were bound and gagged and in others they were choked before having
intercourse. Also it was shown that Tabak logged onto a pornographic website on the morning of December 17, the day he murdered Miss Yeates.
Details of the Dutchman's interest in violent pornography was only revealed, after the conviction as Tabak's defence team successfully argued the viewing of such material did not provide evidence that he had intended to kill Miss Yeates or cause
her serious harm and that it might unfairly influence the jury.
Vincent Tabak, who was sentenced last Friday to at least 20 years in prison for the murder of Joanna Yeates, was obsessed with
violent pornography on the internet. Rightly or wrongly, the trial judge had ruled that the jury should not be told about his extreme predilections.
But there can be little doubt that the images which Tabak found online literally corrupted his imagination, and influenced his behaviour. In the words of the prosecution, he moved from observer to participator as a result of his relentless
trawling of hard-core sites.
Offsite: Daily Mail Editorial: In Joanna's name, close these vile sites
We already have a law that bans possession of the most extreme kinds of pornography yet it has resulted in only a handful of
But as Stephen Glover argues powerfully on this page, defeatism on this issue is not an option. Other countries police the internet. With determination, so can Britain.
Opponents of censorship argue that we should not interfere with the free viewing choices of grown-ups. But this freedom comes at too high a price if it means that potentially violent individuals such as Vincent Tabak become violent in reality.
Offsite: Inciting hatred of men by claiming they are all easily led to violence
There is, whatever the libertarians and porn apologists say, a direct link between violence against women and pornography.
I am not advocating the state censorship of pornography, ... [BUT] ...just that we bring in legislation akin to that which criminalises racial hatred. We should introduce a crime of incitement to sexual hatred in order to sanction
those who produce and consume images of females being tortured and violated because of their gender.
Tabak is an extreme example of how pornography can feed sadistic fantasy to the point of where it is no longer enough to be a passive viewer.
The UK Government passed the Criminal Justice & Immigration Act 2008 criminalising the possession of adult, staged, consensual
violent pornography with draconian penalties of up to 3 years in prison. The law also bans images of bestiality and necrophilia.
Since that time the law has achieved:
Numerous paedophilia cases have been pepped up with lesser charges of extreme porn that is found when computers are searched.
The authorities have been able to persecute people when no evidence of their suspected original crime has been found. The resulting computer search has turned up some extreme porn 'so at least they can be done for something'.
A few innocent people have got into trouble about jokey bad taste video clips found on their phones and computers.
Zero reports of dangerous sex criminals being detected from their extreme porn use.
Following the disclosure that Jo Yeates's killer Vincent Tabak was obsessed with websites showing sexual violence, bondage and strangulation, campaigners are inevitably claiming that an unstoppable flood of hard-core and violent pornography is
corroding the very fabric of society.
This has been put down to the apparent failure of laws introduced in 2009 to outlaw images of rape, torture and extreme sexual violence as well as bestiality and necrophilia. Anyone caught visiting such websites to view violent and extreme pornography was threatened with up to 3 years in jail and an unlimited fine.
But officials admitted they expected to see only a small number of prosecutions and no extra funding was made available for a proactive police response. The policy contrasts with proactive inquiries into the use of child-abuse images which are the
responsibility of specially trained teams.
Liz Longhurst, who led the fight for a new law after her daughter Jane was murdered, said she was disappointed that there have been few prosecutions and attacked the recklessness of internet companies. She claimed:
The internet service providers have so much to answer for. They go on about freedom, but for goodness sake where was Jane's freedom?
The police should make it routine that if somebody is accused of murder or a serious attack they should investigate if this stuff is on their computer.
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) said that last year they have investigated 2700 complaints from the public claiming llegal adult porn but these resulted in only 12 cases that were judged as potentially criminal and 8 take down notices were
issued. The other 4 presumably been hosted abroad and not liable to IWF intervention. 49 take down notices have been issued in the last 3 years.
IWF chief executive Susie Hargreaves said: The IWF is able to act on any public reports of online obscene adult content where it is hosted in the UK and contravenes UK Law. However, we receive very few reports of this type of content which
satisfies these criteria.
Former Labour MP Martin Salter, who campaigned for the new laws, said he wants to see police using them and sending out a clear message.
There are some people so evil and so depraved that nothing will deter them. But it was hoped that by tightening these laws we might prevent some unbalanced individuals from being tipped over the edge.
Quite frankly, every time the police use these powers and there is more publicity about their existence, the greater the deterrent factor in these cases.
The conviction of Vincent Tabak for the murder of Jo Yeates has thrown the issue of online criminally obscene adult content, sometimes known as
extreme porn, into the limelight. The vast majority of the IWF's work concerns the removal of images of child sexual abuse from the internet, for which we have an international remit, but we also deal with criminally obscene adult material hosted
in the UK.
In 2007 the Home Office asked the IWF to allow our public internet reporting mechanism to be used for the reporting of UK-hosted criminally obscene adult content. Following consultation with our industry members, our Board informed the government
of our agreement to fulfil this role, from 26 January 2009, as part of our original remit.
We are able to act on any public reports of online obscene adult content when it is hosted in the UK and contravenes UK Law, we cannot act if the content is hosted abroad and do not action legal adult content. The online industry fully supports us
issuing takedown notices for this part of our remit. However, we receive very few reports of this type of content which satisfies these criteria and enable us to issue a takedown notice:
In 2010 we issued eight notices for criminally obscene adult content.
In 2009 we issued two notices.
In 2008 the number was 39.
The reason there are so few is a reflection that the UK online industry provides one of the harshest environments for hosting criminal material. On those rare occasions when material believed to be unlawful is depicted on a website hosted in the
UK, we work in partnership with the online industry and the police to provide information to assist investigations into the distributers of the content. The material is removed in hours.
The IWF is not an organisation which makes moral judgements on what is hosted on the internet. We are solely concerned with the prompt removal of criminal content within our remit and we have achieved great successes in this.
Offsite: Interview with Susie Hargreaves, IWF Chief Executive
In recent years, the IWF has widened its net slightly. To its original concern with child abuse images, and imagery that breaches the Obscene Publications Act, it has added extreme porn (2008) and cartoon images of child abuse
Which brings us full circle to the question of whether the IWF is in danger of turning into a net police ? Hargreaves thinks not: There is no one on the IWF board from the police. Members come from a range of backgrounds, including human
rights and some have strong anti-censorship views: the role of the IWF is to implement a takedown and filtering of material in line with what the industry wants.
And there, she suggests, is the heart of the matter. It is not unusual to hear the IWF praised by government -- or even ministers suggesting, sotto voce, that the IWF could be used as a solution to this or other problems, namely online bullying,
terrorist sites and even piracy.
But so far, all such pressures have been resisted. MPs, she tells us, recognise that the IWF does what it does best by sticking to a very specific focus .