The only obscenity is something called British Justice
An important avenue of porn distribution in the UK is via mail order. Many of these companies are based in mainland Europe and only have a skeletal duplication and distribution operation actually in the UK. The police have been hounding one particular operation for some time and last December (1999) it came to trial. However the jury could not come to a decision and so it was declared a mistrial. The case will recommence sometime this year, July at the earliest.
To date the case has cost the tax payer more than £500,000. What a criminal waste of money on something that is no longer considered obscene by anywhere near enough number of people to justify this horrendous persecution.
This is the story as relayed to me by one of the defendants
I have had links with the porn industry for around seven years. I first started printing video catalogues for a Dutch company called Premier Choice way back in 1993/4. They consisted of the same kind of material as the Canamax catalogue over which I was prosecuted. I also printed a catalogue for Jennifer Clifford and numerous other Dutch companies and these were all printed, packed and posted by myself from premises in York, just over the road from York Central Police Station.
Selling Satellite Porn
This is the story of a Trading Standards prosecution which was initiated slightly before the porn guideline changes in mid 2000.
Mark Smith tells his story in his own words
Question: When is disgusting not obscene?
By David Pannick QC
From the Law Report section of the Times, September 1998
Ferman last month published his last annual report before his retirement
after 23 years as the director of the British Board of Film Classification
(BBFC). He criticises the police and magistrates for applying the law of
obscenity in too strict a manner to allow the material the customers want
and he concludes that as we enter a new millennium, we must find a solution
to the problem of pornography, which will not go away.
The Obscene Publications Act 1959 suffers from three main defects: it is poorly drafted, it is inconsistently applied and it lacks any coherent principle. It states that an article is obscene if its effect is 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 a judgment in the House of Lords in 1972 concerning the magazine Dingle Dangle No 3, Lord Wilberforce complained that the statute offers no definition of deprave and corrupt and does not even identify whether the concern is that the impugned material may cause people to commit wicked acts, or whether the mischief is simply that erotic desires may be aroused. (The courts have held that the latter may be sufficient to establish obscenity.)
Because the Act provides no further criteria for the application of this branch of criminal law, Parliament has imposed as subjective a test of obscenity as that stated by Mr Justice Stewart in the United States Supreme Court in 1964: I know it when I see it.
The courts have emphasised that a film is not obscene simply because it is disgusting. In the Oz case in 1971, Lord Chief Justice Widgery for the Court of Appeal accepted the defence's submission that the test under the 1959 Act is not whether material is repulsive, filthy, loathsome or lewd. In 1972, the House of Lords explained that corrupt is a strong word, meaning much more than to lead astray morally.
The consequence is that, in applying the current standards of ordinary decent people (the principle stated by Lord Reid in 1972), juries rarely convict videos or other material for obscenity where they simply show consensual sexual intercourse between adults, however graphic the detail. The Crown Prosecution Service does not expect to secure convictions for obscenity in jury trials unless the work contains images relating to children, animals, non-consenting adults, or gross degradation. However, by contrast, magistrates, purporting to apply the same legal principles, regularly and unjustifiably order the forfeiture of material similar to that which is acquitted of obscenity in jury trials.
This branch of the law lacks any coherent principle. Courts must determine whether a film may deprave and corrupt, and yet are forbidden from hearing any expert evidence on a complex question with profound psychological and ethical implications. It is, in any event, difficult to understand how magistrates can rationally conclude that pornographic films tend to deprave and corrupt viewers when there is no evidence that ready access to such material in (for example) France, Germany and The Netherlands has resulted in widespread depravation and corruption.
There is - so far as I know - nothing to suggest that those police officers, magistrates and barristers who regularly watch pornography in the course of duty are any more depraved and corrupt than their colleagues. Perhaps they all adopt the approach recommended in 1978 by John Mortimer, QC, who wrote that as counsel for the defence: At the showing of blue movies at Scotland Yard I take the precaution of removing my glasses, which reduces the whole messy business to an impressionist blur.
I must here declare a professional interest as counsel for the distributors of a pornographic film in a recent appeal before the Video Appeals Committee sitting in Frith Street, Soho.
Mr Mortimer conceded that pornography was far from attractive, but he was sure that censorship is more dangerous. The BBFC, under Mr Ferman, has sensibly recognised that in all but very extreme cases a system of classification rather than censorship is appropriate. Those who may be offended or disgusted have no obligation to watch. Those who wish to buy pornography should be able to do so, but only in licensed sex shops, out of sight of the rest of the community. To ban such material is an indefensible restriction on freedom of expression, it is contrary to the contemporary community standards expressed by jury acquittals and it is futile in an age of ready access to such material through the Internet, satellite broadcasting and purchase abroad.
Mr Ferman has spent much of the past 23 years watching the unpleasant, the vile and the evil. It has not impaired his ability to analyse the need for reform of our obscenity laws.
Offsite Article: The Oz Obscenity Trials
From 1967 until 1973 Oz was the irreverent colour supplement of the London underground press. In June 1971 the editors (Jim Anderson, Felix Dennis and Richard Neville) went on trial at the Old Bailey for, among other things, conspiring to corrupt the morals of young children and other young persons by producing an obscene article, sending said article through the mail, and publishing obscene articles for gain. Had they been on trial for obscenity alone, the maximum penalty would have been a fine of £100 or 6 months imprisonment. However, the use of an (archaic) conspiracy charge meant that there was no limit on the fine or sentence that could be imposed.
|UK Censorship News Archive: 1998 1999|
|UK Parliament Watch Archive: 1996 1997 1998 1999|
|Opinion: 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005|
|Legal Debate Mail order R18s, satellite proscription etc|
|Proscription of Adult Satellite Channels Department for Culture, Media, Sport & Proscription|
|Human Rights Abuse - Where Do You Draw The Line? by IanG|
|BSC Guidelines Worthless guidelines on taste and decency from the defunct Broadcasting Standards Commission|
|Obscene Interpretation of the Law A police raid on porn historian David Flint|
|Obscenity Trials The only obscenity is British Justice|
|The Black Market for Sex Videos The Pornographer's Best Friend|
|Customs Guidelines & Seizures Up until 2000|
|The People vs HM Customs Heroic battles against HM Customs|
|Escalating Costs HMRC uses as much money as it takes to ensure decisions cannot be challenged in court (Oct 2000)|
|Customs Poking Around in your Lap-top|