UK wants to ban viewing of violent porn

By EDRi · September 8, 2005

The UK government is planning to outlaw the possession of “extreme pornographic material”. The proposed new law is outlined in a consultation document published by the UK Home Office.

The consultation sets out “options for creating a new offence of simple possession of extreme pornographic material which is graphic and sexually explicit and which contains actual scenes or realistic depictions of serious violence, bestiality or necrophilia.” Possession could be punished with a prison sentence of up to 3 years. The law is limited to material featuring adults as the possession of child pornography is already a criminal offence in the UK.

It is already illegal to publish, sell or import extreme pornographic material in the UK under the Obscene Publications Act. The proposed new law is specifically aimed at pornographic material on the Internet, from websites outside of the UK which can not be prosecuted for publishing under UK law. The proposal will make it illegal to access such sites as the consultation document describes viewing as downloading and thus possession. Home Officer Minister Paul Goggins told the BCC radio that the proposal would especially protect young children and “reduce demand” for the material.

In detail the proposal will ban the viewing of intercourse or oral sex with an animal, sexual interference with a human corpse and serious violence in a sexual context. Accidentally accessing the material will not be penalised according to the document.

The consultation document acknowledges that the UK will take a particular position if the law is introduced: “We are not aware of any western jurisdiction which prohibits simple possession of extreme material”. The Home Office acknowledges that “the proposal (…) will impact upon the freedom of individuals to view what they wish in the privacy of their own homes”. The UK government sees no conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights, “our view is that both our domestic courts and the Strasbourg court will find our proposal compatible with Article 10 (freedom of expression) or Article 8 (private life)”.

The proposal is the result of a campaign against extreme pornographic by the family of the British murder victim Jane Longhurst. The murderer was supposedly addicted to violent pornography on the Internet. The BBC quotes the founder of the UK pressure group Internet Freedom, Cris Evans. He questions the supposed link between viewing violent images and acts of violence. “I think the serious problem with it is the assumption that ordinary people cannot be trusted to make up their own minds about what they read, watch or see”.

The document does not discuss at all how the law can and should be enforced and which means the UK police would use to do so. The Guardian writes in an editorial that “the document (does not) explain how police can be helped from being swamped by the scale and difficulty of bringing viable prosecutions”.

The consultation will run for over three months until 2 December 2005.

Consultation: On the possession of extreme pornographic material (August 2005)

Ban on violent net porn planned (30.08.2005)

Not whether but how (30.08.2005),,1558823,00.html

(Contribution by Maurice Wessling, EDRI-member Bits of Freedom, NL)