Thursday, 2 October 2008

No, you wouldn't want your wife and servants to see this

Very interesting story about the civil servant who has been charged under the venerable Obscene Publications Act in relation to a 'fantasy porn blog' on which he apparently described, presumably with some lipsmacking relish but without images, the kidnap, rape, mutilation and murder of Girls Aloud. It's incredibly rare for a prosecution under the OPA to be brought solely in respect of the written word - a very quick Google hasn't shown anything since Chatterly, though I'm sure I'm missing a couple of reasonably well-known examples. (The Mary Whitehouse private prosecution of the 'gay Jesus' poem in the 70s was for 'a blasphemous libel'.)

It should be a fascinating case, both legally (noteworthy that the blog was hosted outside the UK) and more generally, raising important issues about freedom of expression in the 21st century: I'm surprised there hasn't been more discussion about it among the usual libertarian suspects. The infamous test of the 'tendency to deprave and corrupt' has, of course, shifted hugely since the Chatterly trial, and in view of the video material that now gets the relatively new R18 certificate, you really have to wonder how grim this bloke's blog was for the CPS to think there's a decent chance of a conviction here.
Update: a couple of quick further thoughts.
1. In case it's not clear from the above, the charge has obviously been brought because of the violence (specifically sexual violence) rather than the sexual content. I don't believe that any written description of sexual activity between consenting adults could now be considered to tend to deprave or corrupt.
2. There is no suggestion that the charge relates to this man inciting others to commit an offence. But I wonder how much of the rationale for the charge relates to a perceived threat to the members of Girls Aloud. To put it another way, if the site had exactly the same content but in relation to a fictional group, would the charge still have been brought? It would, it seems to me, have the same tendency to d or c; but would it be perceived as less dangerous, in a wider sense, and therefore not so much in the public interest to bring a prosecution?

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