back to article Extreme Pr0n - One Year On

One year on from the passage of the extreme porn laws, and it would appear that the worst fears of those who campaigned against them have, in the main, not been realised. At the same time, the case for driving a coach and horses through some basic principles of English Law feels equally unmade. A year ago this week, ss63-68 of …


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  1. Dan Breen

    And the surprise is?

    There is no suprise really. Looking at this governments track record only one of five big publicity bills have achieved what they set out to do.

    Banning Handguns back in 97 is the only success really.

    Anti-Social Behaviour act gave us ASBOs and little else, the Hunting with dogs act has failed to stop people fox hunting with dogs, the Violent Crime reduction Act has failed to reduce violent crime and only managed to inconvenience a few younger airsofters.

    This article really fails to surprise me almost as much as the act has failed to clamp down on whatever the current description of "Extreme porn" is.

    As usual, too many laws and not enough justice.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      Is There a Problem?

      "This article really fails to surprise me almost as much as the act has failed to clamp down on whatever the current description of "Extreme porn" is."

      You seem to be assuming that there is a problem, and that it needs to be dealt with. And you don't even know what this imagined problem would be!

      1. Dan Breen


        That's what I was aiming at.

        How can you solve a problem when you don't know what the problem is or if it genuinely exists.

        If you legislate to percieved problems, you will end up with a perceived result - in this case, a perception of failure.

        @ MIke Bell2

        Again, the fault is mine for not being clear - the amendment to the Firearms Act was the closest thing to success in so far as it removed certain types of handgun, shotgun and rifle from lawful posession, but close to sucecss isn't success, it is, as you point out, still a big fat fail, with 1997 being the only year on record where there hasn't been a year on year increase in gun related crime.

        Not content with this, with the Antisocial Behaviour act of 2000, Brocock, self contained air catridge system guns were effectively outlawed because a small number had been converted to fire percussive cap ammunition, utterly ignoring the fact that it was already illegal to do the conversion under existing legislation. But of course, re-emphasising existing legislation would have denied the government of the day the opportunity to be seen to do something about a problem blown out of proportion.

        Again, legislating by perception has only one result, this one doubly failed as it was knee-jerk legislation of a percieved problem.

    2. Mike Bell 2


      "Banning Handguns back in 97 is the only success really." In what sense, exactly? What's happened to the gun-crime figures since 1997?

      AFAIK there's a lot more gun crime now than there was then. Perhaps you live in Narnia and not Britain?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Banning handguns failed too

      That law had enough loopholes to drive a truck full of AK47's through. It simply meant taking everything .22 out of the collection, and off you went. The only entertaining side effect was the compensation because that was not really operated by competent people.

      I knew someone who was paid several hunderd pounds in compensation by handing in a box with lenses as a high speed bullet impact camera. In reality it was a film-to-photo converter box he picked up for £1 at a boot sale, and he just tried it for laughs.

      My definition of extreme porn is Tony Blair looking at his bank statements.

  2. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    "The case...

    ... for driving a coach and horses through some basic principles of English Law feels equally unmade."

    The case was, of course, *never* made in the first place, just a "precautionary principle" argument that "well, this material might cause problems and we don't like it, so let's ban it".

    Meanwhile, however, we still have a book-burning law which says "if you've got anything that might fall under this law, you'd better delete it youself, just in case we nick you for something else and we use it as an easier way to get a conviction".

    As for our worst fears not being realised, you miss out the important word "Yet". It took some while for Councils etc to realise the power that the RIPA gave them, but when they did figure it out, abuse of these powers rapidly became widespread.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Useful contribution?

    Quite apart from having yet another overly broad and powerful law with which to slam sundry citizens, I do question the wisdom of passing a law that was expected to bring a very small number of cases each year where the harm done in no way justifies spending effort on the specifics of what is outlawed. In that regard this is a prime example of nitpicking on a moral high horse. Whether that is to be classed a safe pastime for useless politicians or egregious leadership failure I'll leave for others to expound upon in more detail.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    It's the Principle of the Thing!

    For me, it's the principles that are important. And I see that John Ozimek is mindful of the question of underlying principles with how he finishes his fine article:-

    "On the whole, therefore, the worst fears have not been realised. On the other hand, once a principle is breached, government has a habit of returning to ask for more – and so it has been with the principle of possession. Last year, government legislated on possession again, this time making it an offence to possess a cartoon that depicted illicit acts with children.

    Concerns remain that as each "loophole" gets plugged, government is all too ready to move on to the next, widening the net of censorship further and further."

    On the matter of "loopholes" (I remember when loopholes were real loopholes, not the pretend "loopholes" they have these days), I have exactly the concern that Ozimek describes here.

    Reality is not neat and tidy. As we legislate over it, it's like we're laying down crazy paving - the ever advancing edge remains untidy, with gaps at the edge that legislators feel compelled to fill with yet more slabs. And so the edge continues to advance, with new gaps appearing at the newly established edge.

    We can see this with the cartoon porn law. The Protection of Children Act 1978 was originally supposed to protect children from abuse, since the production and distribution of indecent photographs of them was itself abusive. But the edge appeared untidy, since pseudophotographs were not illegal. Concerned that those in possession of real photographs might claim them to be pseudophotographs, and therefore get around the law, the possession of pseudophotographs was criminalised. But then there was concern that photographs and pseudophotographs could be somehow transformed and disguised, such as by tracing them to turn them into drawings. And so the law was extended to cover such derived images as well. And now we have the cartoon porn law, which seeks to cover images that aren't derived, no matter how obvious it is that the images were never real.

    As I understand it, there's no defence for possession of an indecent pseudophotograph on the grounds that it can be shown to be a pseudophotograph rather than a real photograph. This extension of the law doesn't simply fill a perceived gap, but actually extends the law beyond where it was originally intended to reach. The cartoon porn law is a much more obvious example of this, since it's explicitly about images that aren't indecent photographs or pseudophotographs.

    While the legislation becomes increasingly further removed from the original purpose of protecting real children from real abuse (the link with real abuse is extremely tenuous, if it exists at all, in the case of the cartoon porn law), there's a subtle but significant change in important, underlying principles.

    We no longer live in a society in which we are free, in private, to privately express to ourselves, on paper, whatever it is we might happen to think, to imagine. Instead, the State now claims that what we privately express to ourselves on paper is the business of the State. The State believes it rightly has the authority to decide and dictate what kinds of thoughts and ideas we may privately put down on paper.

    There's no guarantee that this deep shift in principle will be limited to just undesirable images of people or animals.

    With that fundamental shift in principle, we are all now far less free than we recently were.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    S funny how...'s our PCs and Officers making the call on what is and is not in their idea extreme porn (in the first instance), but i've never met a more depraved bunch of people with respects to pornography and sex as a whole than..the Police.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Couldn't agree more.

      When it comes to degenerates, you need look no further than our local police force. Their average IQ is in single figures, they're institutionally racist, and there's hardly a law passed they won't find some way of stretching or abusing in search of a cheap pinch. Their sniggering approach to anyone who doesn't fit in with their definition of how proper society should operate is usually as juvenile as it's offensive.

      If we're going to have fishing expeditions for computer porn, I know whose computers I'd be checking first !

  6. Alpha Tony

    @ Dan Breen

    'Banning Handguns back in 97 is the only success really.'

    How exactly has that been a success Dan? I mean assuming that you aren't a member of a competitive pistol shooting team from another country delighted that the British team can't practice in their own country any more..

    The real problem was never licensed handguns, it was illegal unlicensed ones and (obviously) the change in the law has had no impact on those.

    It hasn’t even really stopped people privately owning/shooting pistols as most of the pistol clubs just attached long stocks to their weapons, meaning that they are over the length specified in the law and as such are classed as rifles.

    All it has achieved is buggering up our sportsmen and women who need to train with firearms of a specific specification and who are now not allowed to.

    I'm sorry - In my book that goes down as another fail.

    1. No, I will not fix your computer
      Thumb Up


      The banning of handguns wasn't a matter of eroding personal freedoms, it was a matter of ensuring that what had been shown to be a terrible, if statistically small, risk was removed.

      Sounds like a success to me.

      Is it really that important that the UK (esp. England) isn't on a level playingfield for pistol shooting? OK it's not ideal for the athletes, but think of all the Tug of war, Polo, Cricket, Golf, Croquet, Baseball and Softball athletes who have had their sport removed completely from the Olympics.

      It's a "little" fail in some respects, but given the gun laws in the UK, perhaps it's a major win?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        In a totalitarian state

        non-criminal citizens need firearms.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Stupid Legislation

        The handgun ban is a good example of some very stupid legislation.

        The problem with gun crime wasn't the lawful possession and use of guns by those who complied with the law and never used their guns for crime. The problem was - and remains - the criminal use of guns in breach of the law. And you simply can't solve that problem by criminalising the previously lawful possession and use of guns. The criminal use of guns still remains criminal, and those prepared to commit such crimes still commit such crimes.

        It's like there's a wall, six foot high, that criminals are climbing over. They're not supposed to climb over the wall - it's against the law! But they do climb over it. It's a problem. The wall is supposed to stop them, but it doesn't.

        So, in an effort to stop the criminals from reaching the six foot high wall, a small fence is erected in front of it - a full foot in height! This is there to stop people from walking over the grass in front of the wall and climbing over it. What's more, there are little signs on the grass, saying, quite clearly, "KEEP OFF THE GRASS".

        The law-abiding do indeed keep off the grass. Some complain that they used to be allowed on the grass, that they weren't hurting anyone by walking, sitting or lounging around on the grass, and that the fence and signs haven't stopped criminals from just walking over to the wall and climbing over it. Indeed, criminals do still climb over that wall, while the law-abiding have lost the enjoyment of that grass.

        The handgun ban is much like that. Criminals still break the law and commit crimes with guns. But the law-abiding have had something taken away from them, without this doing anything much at all to stop the criminals.

        It really is spectacularly dumb to expect criminals to be stopped from committing big crimes by relying on them to abstain from committing smaller crimes.

  7. JohnG

    "...worst fears have not been realised.."

    ....worst fears have not been realised - YET.

    It is not good to have vague laws on the books which the authorities can choose to use to "get" someone they do not like. We have too many laws for which the scope and definitions are unclear and open to interpretation. The ministers who have introduced such legislation have always claimed these laws have been introduced to address specific issues but then one wonders why the laws were not written with the original intent clearly specified.

    I cannot find the link now but there was a case some years ago where a newsagent was raided by the police and charged under the Obscene Publications Act. The material in question turned out to be girlie mags that you could buy at any WHSmith. The reason for the raid turned out to be because the local council wanted the newsagent out of their building but he had a long lease.

  8. Elmer Phud

    Bart Simpson

    Nothing to get worked up over --

    Or as Bart Simpson might say "Don't have a cow, man"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sage advice indeed.

      After all, if you did have a cow and took pictures......

  9. Anonymous Coward

    No pension needed

    I've given up saving for my old age. I fully expect to spend my retirement at her majesty's pleasure. The reason? I looked at some squiggly lines which some twat in power deems to be pornographic. There will be no defense. Alternatively, I'll just slash my wrists now.

  10. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Some history on the gun ban

    1 word.


    Suspected kiddly fiddler holes up in primary school and kills a bunch of kids + (IIRC) teacher.

    Note. His weapons (I think a shotgun and rifle) were *all* legally held and the police AFAIK could have withdrawn his Firearms Certificate *had* they chosen to. they did not.

    He was ejected from the Boy Scout movement by their special investigation department, who spotted he was odd.

    He was described as paranoid and believed the the Police were out to get him. This did not seem to have been followed up. It would suggest the Police harassed him hoping he'd kill himself. If this is correct (and word got out) it would have marked the Scots police as the most stupid, irrisponsible bunch of numpties imaginable. I wold suggest that predatory paedophiles are *much* more likely to commit homicide rather than suicide.

    As it was it gave the police a virtual ban on the legal holding of hand guns in the UK.

    And a number 1 for the charity record.

    Yes it *was* appalling. But "something must be done" historically has been just about the worst reason to make law, and made some of the worst laws.

    1. browntomatoes

      Legally held

      AFAICR, although his *guns* were legally held, the guy who committed the Dunblane massacre used Hollowpoint bullets which were *not* legal at the time in the UK, unless he had special permission for their use in the humane dispatch of deer or other vermin.

    2. SirTainleyBarking

      Dunblane was a police act of gross negligence

      More history, The local police sent out a couple of plod to do a standard firearms check, and on meeting the guy were convinced to recommend that the guys licence was pulled. He had also been reported for threatening locals with a firearm.

      Now from experience within my family who at the time had more than a few club shooters, any hint that you were being outside the law would mean that they would fall on you like a tonne of bricks, and your collection would be in the back of a plod van in a second. Certainly this was policy in the South Wales police areas.

      So the inspecting plod recommended he be refused a licence, and his weapons disposed of either by sale into the licenced trade, or confiscated.

      They were overruled by a superior officer and the rest is history. The Superior officer IIRC left the force on ill health retirement.

      Business as usual in Tony's "Cool Brittania"

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Grossly offensive? That is nearly anything

    A jury in this country will consider nearly anything grossly offensive.

    If you think this statement is incorrect count the number of "Jury Sitting Joe Average" Brits on Plaja de Jandia, Plaja de Maspalomas or any other place which is inhabited by Germans in standard German Beach Uniform - sandals, backpack & hat. That is ONLY sandals, backpack & hat. Count the number of Brits that do not get offended by seeing German pensioners playing bowls. The difference between Brits and Gerries is that while the former play this game on a manicured lawn in prim white suits, the latter play in hats. That is HATS ONLY. On a beach. Produces some "outraging public decency" (by the British standard) images when they throw the ball. Immensely hilarious if you are neither one or the other and have seen both.


    So the "gross and offensive" hurdle is NOT grea and is not making any police officer fret over it. In fact there is no hurdle at all. Just read the British law - it is in fact not particularly different from UAE or a taleban country with regards to public decency, indecent exposure and so on.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Like any law...

    ....the only people it really affects are those who wouldn't intentionally/willingly break it anyway...People who know they are breaking the law and do don't give a f*ck about the `what ifs` of getting caught, largely because they don't plan on getting caught. Perfect example being firearms. Sports clubs - fucked, Violent criminals - completely unaffected.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      carry on...

      Carry on with that view please...

      it won't take long till sharia law is fully implemented in UK for our sake

      There are laws and laws and only depend on how crazy/sane law makers werer when they wrote them. The difficulty is to find the right balance between a just and unjust law.

      For the looks of it UK would soon either adopt Vatican law used during Inquisition times since majority of these new laws are poorly written.

      If not, then UK is a step closer of adpoting the sharia law. Either way it would probably not be a bad thing but for sure it would be better for many to scream now because they won't be able to scream afterwards.

      Ah! And btw no shag outside your house if you aren't married... it will follow soon. :-)

      This is what can be called "society de-evolution"

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The government has stopped animals from being shagged.

    I expect the animals would be even more chuffed if the government could stop people killing them and eating them.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      use the correct law

      So, most of the cases could have been quite easily dealt with by the existing laws regarding beastiality!

    2. Anonymous Coward

      That's not strictly true...

      ...I heard there are some deeply perverted pigs who are well into being killed and eaten.

  14. Mark .

    Worst Fears

    On the one hand, we can take it as a success that the law has mostly not been used to target those possessing images of consenting adults. On the other hand, you do mention "two were brought in respect of adult porn alone", and we still have the outstanding case. Even just one case is one case too many, and disproves the assurances by some supporters that people were worrying about nothing. And never would I have dreamed that the law would have been used to prosecute someone for an unrealistic joke image of a tiger. Whilst he may have received justice in the end, he still went through a terrible ordeal. So I would say that is something beyond even people's worst fears.

  15. Mark .

    Snuff Babes From Guatemala? So where are they?

    Another question that ought to be asked of the Government and supporters of the law - where are all those alleged "extreme" and "snuff" videos that they claimed so obviously exist? MP Martin Salter, with his claim in the 2nd reading in the House of Commons, "images of young women being captured, raped live on camera and sometimes killed to feed this evil trade and to promote private profit and sexual gratification", referring to servers based in Guatemala. Many supporters tried to conflate the extreme porn law with that of women being abused - whilst assuring that it had nothing to do with consensual practices.

    Of course, we knew this was all nonsense - the real intent was to criminalise images for being disgusting, whether or not they were consensual. But many seemed to be swayed by their claims, and didn't want to be seen to oppose such a law.

    Yet here we are, a year on, and still not a single of these dreadful images of actual abuse alleged to exist has been found.

  16. E 2

    "database of cases"

    Publish it

  17. Gray

    Giggles & Hysteria

    Consider: naughty school boy scribbles pencil art of stick figures doing "the nasty" because he and his pals get the giggles doing forbidden note passing behind the teacher's back. Kid gets caught. Now we have a suspension, followed by a formal hearing, followed by expulsion, conviction, and a sentence of one year in juvenile detention, followed by a lifetime "sex offender" brand and mandatory address reporting to local authorities. For an eight-year-old boy. Can't happen? It can. Kids are being given lifetime "sexual offender" branding for sending pix of themselves over their cellphones. Scribbled nasty artwork is just the next step.

    Hysteria rules.

    Meanwhile, "zombie" pasengers will walk naked through airport screening terminals, be given knock-out gas, loaded into boxes with lids clamped down, and delivered to their destination "safe and secure" from any possible terrorist threat. All are safe from one another, until the non-inspected package in the baggage bin under the plane explodes.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    More To Come

    "...Concerns remain that as each "loophole" gets plugged, government is all too ready to move on to the next, widening the net of censorship further and further..."

    So who is driving those loopholes to get plugged? Ministers don't think up this stuff in a vacuum. In the case of the 'cartoon pr0n' farrago (and much other child-centred 'safeguarding™' law in recent times) we need look no further than the many interested parties so keen to sit at the table every time these issues go out for consultation. Children's charities loom large (they always do when there's a possibility for yet more public funding in sight), as does the newly quango'd CEOP - perhaps the most vociferous and insistent of all the self-interested parties to have a very big hand in cooking up ever-more draconian laws in this area.

    CEOP, a public-private company with a CEO and a thriving sideline in organised conference hosting and 'partnership' workshops, is concerned, primarily, with creating a future for itself. Every new law - no matter how nonsensical (and in the case of 'cartoon pr0n' we really are through the looking glass, people) - represents a potential new business opportunity. As the remit of possible offences widens, so the statistics build up nicely for CEOP's annual report. It all looks so very convincing.

    Catching lonely middle-aged men for looking at wholly fictional 'pr0n' where no child was ever harmed because no child ever existed, yet still insisting (as CEOP did at consultation, for whatever twisted reasons) that those successfully prosecuted for looking at or possessing 'cartoon pr0n' should potentially face jail time, a heavy fine, entry onto the SO register and the loss of livelihood, relationship, family and home is a truly shocking indictment of just how surreal this witch-hunt has now become.

    It's not over folks. Not by a long shot. Next up: 'indecent' fiction. CEOP have already shown a willingness to pursue a change in the law to make this heinous act of writing a truly serious sexual offence, right up there with downloading CP, as part of their child 'safeguarding™' crusade.

    In other words: a thought-crime. I can't think of any other way to explain it.

  19. Ned Fowden

    @gun law commenters

    I could be way off, but my understanding for the reasoning behind that law was to make it harder for such weapons to be made available in the UK.

    and again, if my understanding is correct, the only success that it has acheived is in making it harder for weapons used in gun crimes harder to trace.

    as for the topic at hand, i think the most important word has been pointed out several times already "yet"

  20. Tim Jenkins

    Dunblane is NOT a good example to reference in this debate!

    Firstly, out of respect for the dead if nothing else, try to get the spelling right. 16 children and one teacher died that day (plus one maniac, who should forever remain nameless)

    Secondly, 30 seconds research shows the weapons to have been handguns. All the victims were killed or injured using a 9mm Browning pistol. Suicide was with a .357 S&W revolver. All were legally owned under the law as it then was. Soft/hollow-point ammunition for handguns was NOT illegal for licensed civilians to purchase or home-load; as a Fire Arms Certificate holder of several similar weapons at the time I did both.

    The official report is available here:

    It is, of course, true that the subsequent handgun ban did not 'reduce gun crime'. It did however, almost eliminate the possibility of a similar event happening in the future (which the change of law after Hungerford did not, as that 'banned' self loading rifles only). Like all legal gun owners, I protested the change in the law. 15 years later, as a parent, I imagine that day in that school, and weep. I also think of the assorted nutters and weirdoes who I encountered on the shooting scene (be honest; every club had them), and am so glad that they no longer have even the possibility of becoming the next one to go down in history in this way.

    Sometimes 'something must be done' because something MUST be done...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Thankyou for bothering to think and post something that is contrary to the knee-jerk reactionary comments above...

  21. Anonymous Coward

    I thought that....

    ....Hamilton's guns were no longer legally held because he was not a current member of a gun club and hence his firearms certificate's requirements were violated.

  22. Tim Jenkins

    @ Brian Morrison

    Section 27(1) of the Firearms Act 1968 stated:

    "A firearm certificate shall be granted by the chief officer of police if he is satisfied that the applicant has a good reason for having in his possession, or for purchasing or acquiring, the firearm or ammunition in respect of which the application is made...

    While gun club membership was often the "good reason" cited in applications for the grant or renewal of an FAC, it was not an absolute requirement in law at the time. It was quite possible for an individual to not have a 'home' club, particularly once a Certificate had been granted, but still remain in legal possession of arms and ammunition. Shooting as a guest competitor would also fulfil the 'good reason' criteria, for example. Ceasing to be an 'active' club member, or not being a current member of a club at all (for example because of moving to another area of the country), were not in themselves grounds for revoking a certificate; section 8.4 of the Cullen Report goes into this matter at some length and identified this as a weakness of the licensing system prior to those tragic events.

    We seem to have drifted a little from any IT angle, but misinformation clouds debates that deserve clarity...

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I remember that guy who sprialled his face.

    He was shagging kids, and the government spent millions getting him.

    Don't get me wrong on this, I think he should be killed.

    However, i'll believe that the government cares about this, when it starts prosecuting the woman shagging the dogs, rather than some guy looking at the photo.

    I don't imagine the government's response to a woman coming across a phot of a bloke shagging dogs would be to ignore him and jail her.

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