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 Obscenity in the UK

    Gay fisting, urolagnia and BDSM found not obscene by jury

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18th July
2011
  

Diary: Call to Protest...

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DVDs, Blu-Ray, VOD, Sex Toys & Lingerie...

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Consensual fisting becomes the subject of a Dangerous Pictures prosecution

protest fist t shirt Presumably the UK authorities have decided to prosecute someone for the possession of consensual gay anal fisting.

A website has been set up to highlight an upcoming case:

We know what is offensive and illegal, and images of consensual sex are neither! Don't be told what should and shouldn't be in your spank bank!

Currently there is a crime under the offensive publications act [Criminal Justice & Immigration Act 2008] which impacts us all.

It is about the act that came in force in 2009 The law makes it an offence punishable by up to three years in prison for someone to possess what it calls extreme images . An extreme image is defined as one which portrays in a realistic way any of: . An act which threatens a person's life . An act which results in or is likely to result in serious injury to a person's anus, breasts or genitals and the image... . Is grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character . Has been produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal.

Unfortunately many of the terms used in the Act are vague and open to interpretation. So until some unfortunate people end up in court and a jury decides, it is difficult to give absolutely definitive advice on what the Act means and how it will be enforced.

Our friend Sleazy Michael is the unfortunate who is being the test case for this. This impacts any of us who partake of pornography that involves any images that could be interpreted as Offensive, disgusting or obscene by the definition above. This includes images of consensual fisting!

Trial starts on the 1st of August at Southwark Crown Court.

If you can come along and show that we queers, know what is offensive or illegal, and images of consensual sex are neither!

Please be respectful of the court (no need to piss off the judge) and come and show support. Please- no banners or chanting outside or inside court, we want to show our support without jeopardising the chances of a fair trial.

 

5th January
2012
  

Updated: Obscenity Trial of the Decade...

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Contested jury trial seems to be accepted as a test case to decide on the legality of depictions of fisting, urolagnia and BDSM

Old BaileyThe 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 electricaltorture ).

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..

...Read the full article

Update: Follow Live on Twitter

5th January 2012.  See  article from  lawandsexuality.blogspot.com

Twitter logoThe #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.

 

7th January
2012
  

Update: Obscenity Trial of the Decade...


Nice 'n' Naughty

Jury clears gay fisting, urolagnia and BDSM DVDs of obscenity

Old BaileyR v Peacock

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 electricaltorture ). 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 obscenity.

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?

R18 StoryThe 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.

 

8th January
2012
  

Update: Delighted...

Comments about the recent victory over the Obscene Publications Act

Old BaileyThe 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 isobscene 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 todeprave 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 cases states:

This case shows the Obscene Publications Act is no longer effective in the age of the internet.

See also Obscenity trial: the law is not suitable for a digital age from  guardian.co.uk by Myles Jackman.

See also Interview with Myles jackman: Freedom Fister from  vice.com

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.

In the Press

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.

See  article from  guardian.co.uk

Feona Attwood 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.

See also It's time to abolish the obscenity law from  newstatesman.com by Nichi Hodgson

Other Comments

See also Obscenity trial ends from  sexonomics-uk.blogspot.com by Dr Brooke Magnanti

See also An end to Obscenity Law? from  janefae.wordpress.com by Jane Fae

See also 'Obscenity Trial Of The Century' Ends In Acquittal from  strangethingsarehappening.com

See also The End of the English Obscene Publications Act from allvoices.com by Mike Freeman

And from the not so delighted

Few nutter campaigners have commented so far.

From  article at  bbc.co.uk .

The BBC prompted a few words from Vivienne Pattison

Mediawatch-UK said the Obscene Publications Act needed to be tightened up. Its director Vivienne Pattison says the case illustrates the problem with the act:

There is not a list which says what is obscene and what is not. It makes it incredibly difficult to get a conviction on that.

As a society we are moving to a place where porn is considered as kind of fun between consenting adults, but porn is damaging.

 

9th January
2012
  

Offsite: Trial Report...

Making a Fist of It: The Law and Obscenity

Old BaileyChris Ashford has written an excellent report of the trial:

On Friday 6 January 2012, a historic case came to a conclusion in Courtroom 7 of Southwark Crown Court in Courtroom 7. Michael Peacock was unanimously acquitted, after a four-day trial that saw the outdated obscenity law of England and Wales in the dock.

Peacock had been charged under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 for allegedly distributing obscene gay DVDs, which featured fisting, urolagnia ('watersports') and BDSM.

Peacock had advertised the DVDs through Craigslist, his own website (which also promoted his services as a male escort), and in a magazine. The Human Exploitation and Organised Crime Command (SCD9) or London's Metropolitan Police --- which encompasses the former Obscene Publications Squad --- saw the advert and began an investigation.

...Read the full article