CRIMINAL JUSTICE BILL On 26th June, the UK Government finally published the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill 2007 (CJB). Sections 64-66 lay out plans to criminalise possession of "extreme pornography" - in terms even more sweeping than those of the original Home Office consultation document. Rather than actions, the proposed law is aimed specifically against pictures. Regardless of what is actually shown, what "appears to be" shown will determine the legality of an image. As well as necrophilia and bestiality, this includes acts which "threaten or appear to threaten a person's life" or "result in or appear to result (or be likely to result) in a serious injury to a person's anus, breasts or genitals".
Coupled with the stricture that images must be "pornographic" in order to qualify as illegal, this means that you can watch all the gruesome cop show murders you like, but if you like pornography of consensual fisting - which could cause serious injury if not done with due care - you risk a three-year jail sentence.
BBFC classification of your favourite porn may or may not help you. You are safe watching sexual violence on an 18-certificate DVD, for example the ball-busting scene in James Bond: Casino Royale. However, if "the image was extracted" - i.e. you have made a screen grab or a clip - then you could be guilty of possessing extreme pornography.
This is demonstrably ludicrous, and the Government actually admits in the notes on the CJB that it "constitutes an interference" with the European Convention of Human Rights. However, it is necessary, we are told, "for the protection of morals".
Part of this "protection of morals" is a blatant attempt to clamp down on the BDSM community. In spite of bland assurances during the consultation process that the proposals were not intended to target anyone in particular, the actual bill drops this pretence, and explicitly refers to the Spanner trial (R v. Brown and Others) as an example of activities that are illegal in themselves and will now become illegal to film or photograph.
What can be done at this stage? Well, the CJB has so far only had its first reading, which essentially means that MPs now know what's in it and can think it over before the second reading and a debate followed by a vote, which is expected by mid-July.
Although the CJB, which totals 245 pages of repressive measures on a whole raft of topics, is unlikely to be thrown out in its entirety, there is scope for the amendment or rejection of certain parts at this stage.
That makes this a particularly good time to write to your MP and express your views. Given the size of the bill, an MP who has received no letters opposing the "extreme pornography" sections is unlikely to even notice them. But an MP who has received one letter might start thinking about the issue; and an MP who has received 20 may well take the time to read the small print and realise just how unworkable this part of the legislation is.
If you need help finding your MP or constructing a letter then please visit the BACKLASH website: http://www.backlash-uk.org.uk - Backlash is leading the campaign against the proposed law with the full support of the Spanner Trust.
If you live in the UK please also consider signing an online petition against the law at http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/extreme-images/
The Government's success with this measure so far relies on decent people seeing the words "extreme pornography" and simply thinking "well, with a name like that, of course it must be bad". Backlash and the Spanner Trust are questioning this assumption as loudly as we can; every voice helps.
Sunday, 15 July 2007
Here is a newsletter from The Spanner Trust (who need a post of their own, if you don't know about the Spanner case). I think this outlines what's gone on in the UK quite nicely.