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Repeal ‘Extreme Pornography’ Law

Comment 1st July 2010

Section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 makes it an offence to possess an 'extreme pornographic image', where this is defined to be:

"grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character" and "it portrays, in an explicit and realistic way, any of the following— (a) an act which threatens a person’s life, (b) an act which results, or is likely to result, in serious injury to a person’s anus, breasts or genitals, (c) an act which involves sexual interference with a human corpse, or (d) a person performing an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal (whether dead or alive), and a reasonable person looking at the image would think that any such person or animal was real."

Bestiality, necrophilia and grievous bodily harm are already illegal, so there is no need for this clause, as it does not protect anyone from harm. Instead, it criminalises the possession of images which are present in most mainstream films, since many films realistically depict acts which threaten a person's life. Section 64 of the act therefore has to exclude certified works from the provisions of section 63, unless the works have been extracted for the purpose of sexual arousal. It is totally unclear how it is to be determined whether works have been extracted for such a purpose or not.

Section 63 needs to be repealed, rendering sections 64-66 unnecessary, so these should be repealed also.

Why does this matter?

This law is very badly framed and serves to protect absolutely no one. We already have adequate laws against non-consensual sexual crimes and crimes of violence, together with the draconian Obscene Publications Act of 1959. Section 63 goes far beyond these existing laws, by criminalising the possession of images in which absolutely no one is harmed or endangered. Many works of fiction or fantasy are effectively made illegal to possess, and yet the same images would be legal if they appeared in a certified film. 

This law is a total nonsense, and it criminalises a huge number of completely harmless, law-abiding people whose sexual tastes may include bondage or consensual sado-masochism. These sexual activities are not illegal, and neither should be the possession of images depicting them.

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