On 26 June, the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill 2007 was finally published. Sections 64-66 criminalise the possession of ‘extreme’ pornography — in terms even more sweeping than those of the original Home Office consultation document.
On June 26, the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill 2007 was finally published. Sections 64-66 criminalise the 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-cert DVD, for example the ball-busting scene in the James Bond movie Casino Royale. However, if ‘the image was extracted’ — ie you have made a screengrab or a clip — then you are guilty of creating 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’.
‘Interference with our Human Rights is necessary for the protection of morals, says the Government. Part of this “protection” is a clampdown on the BDSM community’
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 1994 Brown case (Spanner) as an example of activities that are illegal in themselves and will now become illegal to film.
Given that Spanner, the case of a group of gay men who filmed themselves engaging in consensual SM, caused a public outcry at the time, government arrogance in using it as a basis for further, even more repressive legislation is staggering.
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 ejection 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.
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 is questioning this assumption as loudly as we can; every voice helps.
You can visit the Backlash website and view the text of the Criminal Justice Bill via the links in the left-hand column.
‘The Government’s success so far relies on decent people seeing the words “extreme pornography” and simply thinking, with a name like that, of course it must be bad’