Consultation on possession of extreme pornographic material

Possession of 'extreme' pornography to be outlawed

September 10, 2005
Scottish Executive News

The UK government has announced its intention to ban possession of extreme pornographic material and has published a consultation paper inviting views from the public.

Under the proposals, it would be an offence to possess images depicting scenes of serious sexual violence and other obscene material.

All the categories of material proposed for banning are already illegal to publish in the UK under the Obscene Publications Act (OPA) 1959.

However, the global nature of Internet means obscene material can now be published electronically in the UK from abroad.

It is hoped that creating a new offence of possession of violent and abusive pornography will send a clear message about this material, make it easier to combat and may reduce demand for it.

The consultation invites views on:

.  whether there is a need for legislation in this area

.  different ways the law could be amended

.  categories of material that should be proscribed

.  potential penalties for possessing such pornography

Under the proposals possessing images electronically would be no different from possessing actual photographs, as with current laws on possession of child pornography.

Although Scottish laws are different to those in England and Wales, many of the issues involved relate to the internet and are not limited by geographical borders.

The consultation is therefore being carried out jointly by the Home Office and the Executive's Justice Department. If, following consultation, there is a need to legislate, the Executive will do so separately in Scotland.

Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson said:

"Violent pornography is abhorrent. As we have always made clear, the Scottish Executive is committed to tackling abuse and discrimination wherever it appears in our society.

"We have already increased the penalties for possession and distribution of child pornography. And if it is found that the law can be strengthened to cut violent pornography from our society, then we will take action."

Home Office Minister Paul Goggins said:

"This is material which is extremely offensive to the vast majority of people, and it should have no place in our society. The fact that it is available over the Internet should in no way legitimise it. These forms of violent and abusive pornography go far beyond what we allow to be shown in films or even sold in licensed sex shops in the UK so they should not be available online either.

"I am inviting views on whether legislation in this area is required, and if so, what the proscribed material and penalties should be."

Any new law would not be intended to target those who accidentally come into contact with obscene pornography; nor would it target the mainstream entertainment industry which works within current obscenity laws. Responses are invited to the consultation by December 2.

Liz Longhurst, whose daughter Jane was murdered in 2003 by a man obsessed with violent sexual pornography, said:

"I welcome the news that the Home Office is consulting on banning violent internet pornography. Over the last eighteen months I have worked hard to change the climate of public opinion through the Jane Longhurst Campaign by raising public awareness of the issue.

"With the help of many friends, including MPs Martin Salter and David Lepper, we have lobbied the Government and collected over 35,000 signatures for our petition and I am hopeful of reaching a target of 100,000 signatures by Spring 2006. I would be grateful for any help with the petition, which can be downloaded from www.martinsalter.com/pdf/jane-longhurst-petition.pdf."

Metropolitan Police Commander Dave Johnston, a spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers in England and Wales, said:

"The police service welcomes this Home Office consultation. The Internet is being targeted more and more by those who create sites that specialise in sexual violence and other types of extreme perversion. The investigation into such matters proves to be very difficult due to the fact that many of the sites are abroad and outside the jurisdiction of UK law enforcement agencies. Opportunities for prosecution only exist when links to such sites are found in this country.

"The creation of new offences to deal with these matters would assist greatly in preventing the spread of such material."