Repeal laws criminalising creation of images with no illegal source material

The creation and personal possession of any image which has been created manually, be it through being sketched, painted or rendered using a computer, should be legal regardless of the contents of the images. If these images incorporate elements sourced from photographs (or similar) then they should still be legal to create or possess so long as the source image was also legal.

Any laws banning these images should be placed on the distribution or publication stage, and normally only where there is a justifiable reason to believe that distribution to the target audience will result in genuine harm to one or more individuals or products.

Example images where the publication or distribution could be controlled.

If the image contains pornographic or extremely violent material it would be desirable to make intentional distribution to minors illegal. There should already be plenty of laws covering this.

If the image has been created in such a way that when people look at the image they would mistakenly believe that a particular element of the image (e.g. a person, company or product) was involving in an act or situation that that element or its owner would not like to be believed to be involved in then it should be illegal to distribute under libel (or similar) grounds (this is most likely to occur when legal photographic source material has been manipulated so that it looks like an illegal act has occurred).


 

Why is this idea important?

The creation and personal possession of any image which has been created manually, be it through being sketched, painted or rendered using a computer, should be legal regardless of the contents of the images. If these images incorporate elements sourced from photographs (or similar) then they should still be legal to create or possess so long as the source image was also legal.

Any laws banning these images should be placed on the distribution or publication stage, and normally only where there is a justifiable reason to believe that distribution to the target audience will result in genuine harm to one or more individuals or products.

Example images where the publication or distribution could be controlled.

If the image contains pornographic or extremely violent material it would be desirable to make intentional distribution to minors illegal. There should already be plenty of laws covering this.

If the image has been created in such a way that when people look at the image they would mistakenly believe that a particular element of the image (e.g. a person, company or product) was involving in an act or situation that that element or its owner would not like to be believed to be involved in then it should be illegal to distribute under libel (or similar) grounds (this is most likely to occur when legal photographic source material has been manipulated so that it looks like an illegal act has occurred).


 

Revert to the Protection of Children Act 1978

Over recent years we have seen the definition of 'child pornography' stretched beyond all credibility. The 1978 Protection of Children Act made the simple possession of indecent images illegal, where to be indecent the image had to:

1. Depict an actual person younger than the age of consent (then, and still, 16 years of age)

2. Depict them in a sexual context (that is, the material was produced for the purposes of arousal and is thus 'pornographic')

This was a simple and clear definition. You could easily know what was legal and what was not. Any person old enough to consent to sex could be photographed without danger of being caught by the Act. Simple child nudity of the sort that might appear in holiday photos or family photos of very young children was excluded.

The Act did precisely what it set out to do – protected children. By allowing police to arrest individuals for possession of actual child abuse images, it made it possible for them to target those who produced and supported the production of such material.

Since the 1978 Act, we have had a slew of amendments and new legislation that:

1. Created the notion of the pseudo-image. This is an image which is doctored in some way to make it appear to be an indecent image of a child when in fact it wasn't.

2. Criminialised material where the person depicted looks like (or could be interpreted to look like) a child. An image of a 20-something porn star dressed in a schoolgirl outfit and acting young could be considered child pornography depending on the context.

3. Changed the definition of 'child' to include persons over the age of consent but under 18, thus creating a legal anomaly where a person may legally consent to sex but cannot be photographed doing so, and retrospectively criminalising previously legal material including back-copies of newspapers and top-shelf magazines that featured 16 and 17-year old models.

4. Changed the interpretation of 'indecent' to include simple nudity or even 'provocative poses' by fully-clothed subjects, thus making innocent family pictures potential 'child pornography'.

5. Allowed material depicting imaginary characters – computer-generated or cartoon – who were (or might be construed to be) underage to be prosecuted as 'child pornography'.

6. Most recently, attempting to make written material simply describing any of the above equivalent to 'child pornography'.

Even the most cursory consideration of these changes will reveal that the clear intent of these changes to the law is to outlaw any material which pedophiles – or 'potential' pedophiles – might possibly find arousing. If you follow this route to its logical conclusion you ought to make any photograph or description of a child illegal, and lock all children away from public view lest someone become aroused at the sight of them.

This single-minded witch-hunting of the unseen but ever-threatening pedo-under-the-bed does not make children safer. Indeed, most of the changes have been made to permit the prosecution of individuals who have not harmed children at all. Its purpose is clear – it is thoughtcrime legislation, designed to satisy the baying calls of the gutter press and to keep CEOP and similar agencies in business.

It is now effectively impossible to know if a particular image is illegal or not. There is no safe standard. A picture of a fully-clothed adult may be child porn if they happen to be dressed and posed in a particular way. Offences being now largely based on 'context' mean that until it goes before a jury, you cannot be sure you're safe. People are being sent to jail as pedophiles for 'offences' which, only a few years ago, would have been laughable and which most certainly have not involved any actual children coming to harm.

My proposal is simple. Repeal and amend the various acts as necessary to return the definition of child pornography to that of the 1978 Protection of Children Act, and let the police get on with the business of actually protecting children and catching child abusers.

Why is this idea important?

Over recent years we have seen the definition of 'child pornography' stretched beyond all credibility. The 1978 Protection of Children Act made the simple possession of indecent images illegal, where to be indecent the image had to:

1. Depict an actual person younger than the age of consent (then, and still, 16 years of age)

2. Depict them in a sexual context (that is, the material was produced for the purposes of arousal and is thus 'pornographic')

This was a simple and clear definition. You could easily know what was legal and what was not. Any person old enough to consent to sex could be photographed without danger of being caught by the Act. Simple child nudity of the sort that might appear in holiday photos or family photos of very young children was excluded.

The Act did precisely what it set out to do – protected children. By allowing police to arrest individuals for possession of actual child abuse images, it made it possible for them to target those who produced and supported the production of such material.

Since the 1978 Act, we have had a slew of amendments and new legislation that:

1. Created the notion of the pseudo-image. This is an image which is doctored in some way to make it appear to be an indecent image of a child when in fact it wasn't.

2. Criminialised material where the person depicted looks like (or could be interpreted to look like) a child. An image of a 20-something porn star dressed in a schoolgirl outfit and acting young could be considered child pornography depending on the context.

3. Changed the definition of 'child' to include persons over the age of consent but under 18, thus creating a legal anomaly where a person may legally consent to sex but cannot be photographed doing so, and retrospectively criminalising previously legal material including back-copies of newspapers and top-shelf magazines that featured 16 and 17-year old models.

4. Changed the interpretation of 'indecent' to include simple nudity or even 'provocative poses' by fully-clothed subjects, thus making innocent family pictures potential 'child pornography'.

5. Allowed material depicting imaginary characters – computer-generated or cartoon – who were (or might be construed to be) underage to be prosecuted as 'child pornography'.

6. Most recently, attempting to make written material simply describing any of the above equivalent to 'child pornography'.

Even the most cursory consideration of these changes will reveal that the clear intent of these changes to the law is to outlaw any material which pedophiles – or 'potential' pedophiles – might possibly find arousing. If you follow this route to its logical conclusion you ought to make any photograph or description of a child illegal, and lock all children away from public view lest someone become aroused at the sight of them.

This single-minded witch-hunting of the unseen but ever-threatening pedo-under-the-bed does not make children safer. Indeed, most of the changes have been made to permit the prosecution of individuals who have not harmed children at all. Its purpose is clear – it is thoughtcrime legislation, designed to satisy the baying calls of the gutter press and to keep CEOP and similar agencies in business.

It is now effectively impossible to know if a particular image is illegal or not. There is no safe standard. A picture of a fully-clothed adult may be child porn if they happen to be dressed and posed in a particular way. Offences being now largely based on 'context' mean that until it goes before a jury, you cannot be sure you're safe. People are being sent to jail as pedophiles for 'offences' which, only a few years ago, would have been laughable and which most certainly have not involved any actual children coming to harm.

My proposal is simple. Repeal and amend the various acts as necessary to return the definition of child pornography to that of the 1978 Protection of Children Act, and let the police get on with the business of actually protecting children and catching child abusers.

Modifying laws dealing with “indecent images”

In the sexual offences act, "indecent images of children" needs replacing with something more representative of disruption to society. This is likely to be more complex than current laws. The basic problem is that the scope for interpretation of "indecent" is routinely being abused, leading to a form of "legal discrimination". And the public are none the wiser. This is limiting the protection of children by the significant diversion of resources towards cases of dubious value, actively and intentionally contributing to a public misunderstanding of paedophilia as a group, and ruining the lives of many who should be considered moraly innocent. Of course, there are many, many effects in reality, which I'm not going to go into here, but the more you look into it, the more you realise how badly we're… well, getting it wrong.

I'm not talking about people who have obviously accrued large collections of serious child pornography. If you thought I meant that we should be legalising that, with respect, you probably have a lot to learn. All I'm saying is that justice should be proportional to the disruption caused to individuals and society by an offence. Many indecent image convictions are based on actions for which such disruption is practically 0. At the moment the situation is far from adequate, with even "making" (i.e. causing to be displayed on a computer screen) a single "level 1" image portrayed as a "serious" offence, and branding somebody a sexual offender.

Why is this idea important?

In the sexual offences act, "indecent images of children" needs replacing with something more representative of disruption to society. This is likely to be more complex than current laws. The basic problem is that the scope for interpretation of "indecent" is routinely being abused, leading to a form of "legal discrimination". And the public are none the wiser. This is limiting the protection of children by the significant diversion of resources towards cases of dubious value, actively and intentionally contributing to a public misunderstanding of paedophilia as a group, and ruining the lives of many who should be considered moraly innocent. Of course, there are many, many effects in reality, which I'm not going to go into here, but the more you look into it, the more you realise how badly we're… well, getting it wrong.

I'm not talking about people who have obviously accrued large collections of serious child pornography. If you thought I meant that we should be legalising that, with respect, you probably have a lot to learn. All I'm saying is that justice should be proportional to the disruption caused to individuals and society by an offence. Many indecent image convictions are based on actions for which such disruption is practically 0. At the moment the situation is far from adequate, with even "making" (i.e. causing to be displayed on a computer screen) a single "level 1" image portrayed as a "serious" offence, and branding somebody a sexual offender.