Christian Concern writes a long article criticising the relaxation of UK obscenity law and concludes:
We need your help to monitor the mainstreaming of sado-masochism and extreme pornography in British society from now on. Christians have a unique calling to shed the light of the Gospel on this problem, and to provide a witness to redemption in
a society that has completely lost its way regarding sexual ethics.
The Sandys Superstars brothels in Manchester were operated by Sandy Hankin and her husband, Christopher. The couple has now been convicted of brothel keeping.
The couple were running two brothels with an agreement with the authorities. Manchester's Minshull Street Crown Court heard Greater Manchester Police (GMP) did not take any action in shutting down the brothels due to limited resources. Instead,
GMP agreed that as long as there was no underage services, no trafficking of women, that the business wasn't used as a front for other crime and that it did not affect the local community, then they could continue. Local authorities also knew,
and tax was paid on the business, reports the Manchester Evening News.
The two premises, advertised by a website, were selling sex at £50 to customers for half an hour. Both branches were registered limited companies, and the women, who were all British, were provided with security, health care, fresh towels and
clean premises, the court heard.
Sandy Hankin was described as kind and generous by her defence barrister, who added: (The couple) provided exemplary working conditions.... the working women flourished. Many bought homes, had saving bank accounts, and were real providers for
their families for the first time. All aspects of the women's health and well being was provided for.
However the business was targeted by a local investigative journalist and both premises were shut down after police finally raided them in November 2016.
Following days of legal argument, Sandra Hankin, Christopher Hankin, and 2 others pleaded guilty to keeping brothels to use for prostitution. The Hankins were sentenced to six months custody suspended for two years. They have also been hit with
Proceeds of Crime Act orders demanding that they hand over £350,000.
Comment: Tarts turned out on the streets
Thanks to Alan
Re report in Sunday Mirror. Christopher and Sandy Hankin - suspended porridge and ordered to hand over £350K proceeds of crime in Manchester.
They'd been running their knocking shops quite openly for ten years, paying taxes and with the police turning a blind eye. Then in 2016 they got raided, allegedly after complaints. In other words, when Mr Plod was allowed to take a cut of
proceeds of crime, the pound signs appeared in his piggy little eyes, the safe, well-run brothels are closed, the owners nicked, and the tarts turned out on the streets.
It's years since it was recommended that sex workers - and, ideally, sex work - be decriminalised, but this idiocy continues. The problem may in part lie on the Labour benches. While Jeremy Corbyn and, especially, John McDonnell have made
friendly noises in the past, they risk the wrath of authoritarian feminist zombie Blairites like Jess Phillips and Harridan Hatemen - before her sad metamorphosis the rather good civil liberties lawyer Harriet Harman. Across the floor, there's
the usual hypocritical mix of authoritarianism and quiet visits to a discreet lady.
A repressive French law passed in 2016 that shifted the criminal responsibility for prostitution from the sellers to the buyers has come under a challenge in court by a group of French sex workers, backed by a consortium of non-profits and
activist groups. The law was supposedly intended to help sex workers but the law has made work as a prostitute more dangerous. The sex workers also say the law violates their sexual and commercial freedoms. The group of about 30 prostitutes and
activists took their cause to France's Constitutional Council last week.
France made the customers of prostitutes the criminals. Buying sex now carries a fine of about $1,700 for a first offense and up to $4,200 for repeats. Prostitution consumers who get caught under the law must also attend a workshop to be
'educated' on the conditions of life for a sex worker.
But sex workers in France say that rather than protecting their safety, the law has driven their business farther into the shadows, and as a result, put them in a higher degree of physical danger. They blame the law for the murder last August of
Vanessa Campos, a 36-year-old Peruvian transgender sex worker who was killed in a dark, wooded area of the Bois de Boulogn by criminals attempting to rob her client.
Girls are now forced to hide and promise their clients that the police won't find them, sex worker-turned-activist Giovanna Rincon told The Times.
The constitutional court is expected to hand down a decision on whether the law is compatible with the French Constitution on February 1.
Update: French court rules that endangering sex workers is constitutional
The French Press Agency reported on Friday that the Constitutional Council failed to be persuaded by the group of 30 sex workers and nine rights organizations, not only upholding the law but also claiming that it actually increased safety for
prostitutes by depriving pimps of their profits.
The Council ruled that the law fights against this activity and against the sexual exploitation of human beings, criminal activities founded on coercion and enslavement.
Under the law, a client of prostitutes can be fined up to $1,700 for a first offense, with penalties hitting $4,200 for repeat patrons. French authorities are serious about enforcing the law, making about 2,800 arrests since the legislation
passed about two-and-a-half years ago, according to a New York Times report.
The upcoming UK internet porn censorship regime being introduced later this year has set the UK authorities to thinking about a more rational set of laws governing what porn is legal and what porn is illegal in the UK. It makes a lot of sense to
get the UK stall straight before the commencement of the new censorship regime.
The most contradictory area of porn law is that often referred to as 'beyond R18 porn'. This includes material historically banned by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) claiming obscenity, ie fisting, golden showers, BDSM, female ejaculation,
and famously from a recent anti censorship campaign, face sitting/breath play. Such material is currently cut from R18s, as censored and approved by the BBFC.
When the age verification law first came before parliament, 'beyond R18' porn was set to be banned outright. However as some of these categories are commonplace in worldwide porn, then the BBFC would have had to block practically all the porn
websites in the world, leaving hardly any that stuck to R18 guidelines that would be acceptable for viewing after age verification. So the lawmakers dropped the prohibition, and this 'beyond R18' material will now be acceptable for viewing after
age verification. This leaves the rather clear contradiction that the likes of fisting and female ejaculation would be banned or cut by the BBFC for sale in UK sex shops, but would have to be allowed by the BBFC for viewing online.
This contradiction has now been squared by the government deciding that 'beyond R18' pornography is now legal for sale in the UK. So the BBFC will now have a unified set of rules, specified by the CPS, covering both the censorship of porn sales
in the UK and the blocking of foreign websites.
This legalisation of 'beyond R18' porn will surely disappoint a few censorial politicians in the House of Lords, notably Elspeth Howe. She has already tabled a private members bill to restore the ban on any foreign websites including 'beyond R18'
porn. Her bill has now been rendered mostly irrelevant.
However there is still one genre of pornography that is sticking out of line, and that is cartoon porn featuring under age characters. Such porn is widespread in anime but strictly banned under UK law. So given the large amounts of Japanese
Hentai porn on the most popular tube sites in the world, then those videos could still be an issue for the viability of the age classification regime and could still end up with all the major porn sites in the world banned.
The new CPS censorship rules
The new rules have already come into force, they started on 28th January 2019.
A CPS spokesperson confirmed the change saying
It is not for the CPS to decide what is considered good taste or objectionable. We do not propose to bring charges based on material that depicts consensual and legal activity between adults, where no serious harm is caused and the likely
audience is over the age of 18.
The CPS will, however, continue to robustly apply the law to anything which crosses the line into criminal conduct and serious harm.
It seems a little bit rich for the CPS to claim that It is not for the CPS to decide what is considered good taste or objectionable, when they have happily been doing exactly that for the last 30 years.
The CPS originally outlined the new rules in a public consultation that started in July 2018. The key proposals read:
When considering whether the content of an article is “obscene”, prosecutors
should distinguish between:
Content showing or realistically depicting criminal conduct (whether
non-consensual activity, or consensual activity where serious harm is
caused), which is likely to be obscene;
Content showing or realistically depicting other conduct which is lawful,
which is unlikely to be obscene.
Do consultees agree or disagree with the guidance that prosecutors must exercise real caution when dealing with the moral nature of acts not criminalized by law, and that the showing or realistic depiction of sexual
activity / pornography which does not constitute acts or conduct contrary to the criminal law is unlikely to be obscene?
The following conduct (notwithstanding previous guidance indicating otherwise) will not likely fall to be prosecuted under the Act:
Activity involving bodily substances (including urine, vomit, blood and faeces)
Infliction of pain / torture
Bondage / restraint
Placing objects into the urethra
Any other sexual activity not prohibited by law
It is consensual;
No serious harm is caused;
It is not otherwise inextricably linked with other criminality; and
The likely audience is not under 18 or otherwise vulnerable.
When considering whether the content of an article is "obscene", prosecutors should distinguish between:
Content relating to criminal conduct (whether non-consensual activity, or consensual activity where serious harm is caused, or otherwise inextricably linked to criminality), which is likely to be obscene;
Content relating to other non-criminal conduct, which is unlikely to be obscene, provided the audience is not young or otherwise vulnerable.
Conduct will not likely fall to be prosecuted under the Act provided that:
It is consensual (focusing on full and freely exercised consent, and also where the provision of consent is made clear where such consent may not be easily determined from the material itself); and
No serious harm is caused (whether physical or other, and applying the guidance above at paragraph 17); and
It is not otherwise inextricably linked with other criminality (so as to encourage emulation or fuelling interest or normalisation of criminality); and
The likely audience is not under 18 (having particular regard to where measures have been taken to ensure that the audience is not under 18) or otherwise vulnerable (as a result of their physical or mental health, the circumstances in which
they may come to view the material, the circumstances which may cause the subject matter to have a particular impact or resonance or any other relevant circumstance).
Note that extreme pornography is considered illegal so will likely be considered obscene too. But the CPS adds a few additional notes of harmful porn that will continue to be illegal:
Publications which show or depict the infliction of serious harm may be considered to be obscene publications because they show criminal assault notwithstanding the consent of the victim. This includes dismemberment and graphic mutilation. It
includes asphyxiation causing unconsciousness, which is more than transient and trifling, and given its danger is serious.
So it seems that breath play will be allowed as long as it doesn't lead to unconsciousness. Another specific rule is that gags do not in themselves imply a lack of consent:
Non-consent for adults must be distinguished from consent to relinquish control. The presence of a gag or other forms of bondage does not, without more, suffice to confirm that sexual activity was non-consensual.
The BBFC changes its R18 rules
The BBFC has several roles, it works in an advisory role when classifying cinema films, it works as an independent and mandatory censor when classifying mainstream videos, but it works directly under government rules when censoring pornographic
films. And in this last role, it uses unpublished guidelines based on rules provided by the CPS.
The BBFC has informed BBC News that it will indeed use the updated CPS guidelines when censoring porn. The BBC explains:
The BBFC's guidelines forbid material judged to be obscene under the current interpretation of the Obscene Publications Act.
A spokeswoman told the BBC: Because the Obscene Publications Act does not define what types of material are likely to be considered obscene, we rely upon guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) as to what classes of material they
consider likely to be suitable for prosecution.
We are aware that the CPS have updated their guidance on Obscene Publications today and we have now adjusted our own internal policies to reflect that revised guidance.
Myles Jackman And Pandora Blake
And a thank you to two of the leading campaigners calling for the CPS to lighten up on its censorship rules.
Obscenity lawyer Myles Jackman, who has campaigned for these changes for a number of years, told Yahoo News UK that the change had wider implications for the law. He said:
"It is a very impressive that they've introduced the idea of full and freely exercised consent in the law.
"Even for people with no interest in pornography this is very important for consent and bodily autonomy."
Activist and queer porn filmmaker Pandora Blake, who also campaigned to have the ban on the depiction of certain sex acts overturned, called the news a 'welcome improvement'. They said:
"This is a happy day for queer, feminist and fetish porn."
Acts that were banned that can now be depicted include: