back to article Kent police bring obscenity charge over online chat

Kent Police have charged an individual with nine offences under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 (OPA) in a case that could potentially see online chat in the UK subjected to a much stricter regulation regime. A Kent Police spokeswoman confirmed to The Register it had brought the charges against the individual, and that these …


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  1. The Original Ash
    Big Brother

    Jailed for using your imagination!

    Prozac Nation indeed.

    Pass me the lithium salts, Doc. I need to be normal like the rest of the drones.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Sorry, miss clicked you a down vote :(

  2. blackworx

    "fantasy material"

    The clue's in the name, D.S. Numbskull.

    They're gonna have to ban a hell of a lot of books from sale if this precedent gets set. And what about possession? Is Nately's whore's kid sister gonna get me in hot water? Or is Catch 22 gonna be rewritten to make her want to be a CSO when she grows up?

    Massive, massive fail.

  3. Blofeld's Cat

    It's called fiction...

    Could I politely suggest that Kent Police actually tackle some of the existing, well defined, crimes such as burglary, theft and fraud, in their area rather than making up new imaginary ones.

    Thank you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ah, but that could be dangerous... opposed to cheap-pinch thought crime pursued from their desks...

  4. Jimmy Floyd


    'a publication is obscene if its overall effect is to "tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely ... to read, see or hear" it.'

    That's the BOFH stories screwed then!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      Simon's innocent

      I think if you're a BOFH regular reader you're pretty much depraved and/or corrupt already otherwise you'd not get the jokes.

      Paris, corrupt me please?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    I have some questions here....

    Where did Kent Police get their evidence? I can see two scenarios (and would welcome more).


    A) The police received a complaint from the someone who was party to the online conversation. In which case they clearly didn't use any form of 'blocking' or 'barring' feature to remove the offender. The implication is that they were a willing party, but all the same this at least may merit investigation; under harrasment laws perhaps? I doubt it'd be easy to prove under existing law.

    Or, more disturbingly,...

    B) The police were able to intercept the communications of the accused and have done so, either by trawling (which is supposed to be impossible, no?) or because they were already "tapping" and surveiling this individual?

    Either way, this is going to be one to be watched very carefully. Just how encrypted and anonymous do we have to be in order to be free to express ourselves?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      you missed

      You missed the more likely case

      C) After getting them for "The individual is also charged with two offences of making indecent images of children and four of possessing indecent images of children." They went through their machine and found more evidence.

      Which I suppose leads onto another thought, are they brining the OPA charge becouse they want to increase scope (as I thought a moment ago) or are they brining the OPA charge so they can reinforce the "indecent images" charges, because the "indecent images" may not actually be all that indecent, but with support from material brought into scope by the OPA charge they can build a "firmer" case.

      Oh well, we wont know until the smoke has cleared I suppose.

    2. Pablo


      The other party to the conversation WAS the police.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Do we want more police?

    This morning on BBC news, a politican was telling us that the people want a lot more police on the street. She went as far as sayig that people were telling her that they pretty much wanted to open the door and there would be a policeman on the street. This is not the first politician that has been saying that recently .

    What is the general opinion on this subject, do people in Britain really want more police or is this complete and utter lies so they can implement their police state?

    (Saying this, I realise that in this forum, those that respond are likely to have the opposite opinion).

    1. Wommit
      Big Brother

      Re : Do we want more police?

      Well yes. Coppers ON THE STREET.

      Not coppers in the police station, dreaming up new and strange thought crimes, but coppers walking round making their presence known. Reducing street crime and reassuring the public. The people who are paying their wages.

      We need to go back to policing by consent. Currently the few plods who we do see (when they get out of the plod-mobiles) act like arrogant Government enforcers. And woe to you if you dare to disagree with their orders, irrespective of whether you're right or wrong.

      1. IanPotter

        Re : Do we want more police?

        "The people who are paying their wages."

        Thought I was reading the Daily Wail for a minute there...

    2. JohnG

      More police doing something useful for the general public

      If you are unfortunate enough to live amongst some of the less honest members of society, you might be only too pleased to see policemen on the street but that will never happen. It is considerably easier and safer for a the police to sit on their arses back at the station, spying on the online activities of the public at large or sit in a patrol car on a busy road with a speed trap.

      Somewhere over the last decade or so, the police have morphed into a significant part of an apparatus of state surveillance and control, apparently with ambitions to become much like the much-hated East German Stasi.

  7. ratfox

    What about mangas?

    Many mangas talk of killing children. Say, Naruto. It contains multiple occurrences of attempts on the lives of underage teenagers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      that's nothing you should see MPD Psycho...

      This is just an attempt to get yet another strategic nuclear device for them to use.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Managas. Covered by the cartoon porn law surely?

      Or rather the relevant sections of the relevant deeply bonkers act as favored by a certain backbench Labor MP and Lenin lookalike.

      Mine would be the one with nothing in any pocket, officer.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    kent police

    Kent police are using this case to increase the remit of the OPA they know that if they went after a chat extract on its own they'd get blown out of the water, however if they combine it with someone who has other more serious charges there is a good chance that a jury will take the police line. Once done it gives kent police another string to their already obscenly over powered bow in controlling what people think, say and, make believe.

    Kent police wont be happy until they can force everybody into their narrow view of normality, an opinion supported largely by media and a vocal minority of the public, however a view that is very unhealthy and has already done significant harm to our society.

  9. I didn't do IT.
    Thumb Down

    More Data

    With the current enertia to cases like this, I would like to wait and see if the reason that Kent police will not (can not?) comment on the charges is that the images of "children" are, in fact, images of the person being charged; they being underage themselves and that s/he "self-published" online chat (Chat Roulette?!).

    Not that this would be indecent exposure, harrasement, or any of the other, commonplace, NORMAL crimes this might be, oh no - gotta use the latest, greatest, shiniest (BIGGEST) stick! Hmm... Kent police using the biggest, shiniest stick they have every time they can - Could that fall under extreme porn?...

  10. Anonymous Coward


    First they came for ....

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Come on boys in Kent - you can do better than this surely?

    Obviously what we need here is some sort of massive database of the criminals (i.e. the public). When one wants to engage in a chat with someone else you fill in a form and the on duty KPD (Kent Police Drone) authorises the chat and then monitors it.

    If you fall foul of the regulations (not published of course too easy that way) then your banged up and stuck on the nonce list. And given a thorough kicking for good measure.

    This is what they want so why bother with all this tiresome in-between stuff? Just bring it in now along with the new laws for walking on the cracks in the pavement and thinking about the weekend while at work.


    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @Secret Agent

      "Obviously what we need here is some sort of massive database of the criminals (i.e. the public). When one wants to engage in a chat with someone else you fill in a form and the on duty KPD (Kent Police Drone) authorises the chat and then monitors it."

      Good work that man.

      But a little too transparent for their liking.

  12. scrubber


    "The legislation should include the possession of written or printed material of this nature as it is equally as disturbing as the images and equally contributes to an offender’s motivation and fantasy behaviour."

    Show me the study that shows this, or are you guys making stuff up again?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You want proof?

      Do you even understand the plod's claim? To my ear the sentence isn't even grammatically correct and I have no idea what an offender's "motivation and fantasy behaviour" might be and how one might measure the contribution of images and printed material to it.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is this the same Kent Police?

    Who had an entire Police station and CPS office buying illegally imported cigarettes and booze from one of the custody sergeants over several years?

    How come Kent Police and the CPS failed to prosecute any of those officers and CPS staff and only went after the custody sergeant despite the fact he kept full records and most of the plods and lawyers paid by cheque!

    I guess Kent Police only like to grab certain headlines!

    Good job the guy charged isnt a tall photographer as well!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Threatened suspect with a knife

      On the plus side the pair responsible were prosecuted and found guilty.

  14. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Just to be safe

    ***** ** **** ** * *** ** ***** *** *** **-*** *** ** **** * ****. ** **** *** ******** * *** ***** So there!

    1. Blofeld's Cat


      How dare you sir! - My mother was a saint!

      Samuel Morse

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @Pete 2

      "***** ** **** ** * *** ** ***** *** *** **-*** *** ** **** * ****. ** **** *** ******** * *** ***** So there!"

      This is (highly( disturbing and is a clear case of something which might lead to something else and we all know that could lead to, don't we?

      I don't think I can put it clearer than that.

    3. Basic
      Thumb Up


      Surely you didn't mean "5IHIESI5SS..-...SIHEH IHS........ES5 " ? :)

    4. Mr_Pitiful

      You offended my wife

      If you were a real man, you'd turn yourself into the nearest police station...

      Yeah I know they're all closed at night

      So do the decent thing and turn yourself in at 9am

  15. Bitsucker

    But that's what the Police do...

    If the Police arrest someone then they'll try to include as many 'crimes' as possible in the charge sheet for at least three reasons:-

    a) By throwing everything possible at the 'perp', the CPS may be encouraged to take the case to court. The more charges, the higher profile of the case.

    b) Some of the allegations include child porn. The Police pursue those cases with a religious zeal. Anything that might tangentially be associated, if it's not an image can be described as contravening another existing act, in this case the Obscene Pubs Act.

    c) Police forces in England (at least) are put into league tables based on how good their crime clear up rate is. Most forces have enthusiastically embraced 'administrative detections', where incidents/acts that would in the past have been dealt with informally are now deconstructed, tabulated into sequences of 'crimes' (committed both by 'perpetrator' & 'victim'), arrests made, cautions issued. Nothing has been done to REDUCE real crime; the only winners are the Police, whose crime detection & clear-up rates are artificially elevated, and 'difficult to solve' crime is ignored in preference of administrative detections, which carry as much weight in the crime stats.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "The Police pursue those cases with a religious zeal..."

      Religious enough for us to see His Popeship duly arrested and charged when he arrives?

      No? Thought not. One law for us, etc...

  16. corestore

    I'm so glad...

    ...I got out of this bloody country and moved to America years ago. Now America has its faults too, I'd be the first to agree - but at least it has the 1st Amendment. The UK could seriously use one of those.

    In fact, looking at what the authorities obviously think they can get away with in this case - an *obscenity charge* for words used in a *private conversation* (!!!!) - I'd say you need a 2nd Amendment too!

    1. John A Blackley

      Interesting idea - how about a 1st amendment?

      Oh wait, Brits don't have anything to make a 1st amendment to, do they?

      Speaking of which, while the Kent police are busy suppressing speech, the US Supreme Court recently ruled on pictures of dog fighting.

      Their ruling? That while dog fighting itself is illegal, pictures of dog fighting and correspondence about dog fighting (so long as said correspondence is does not arrange or further an actual dog fight) is free speech and therefore protected by the first amendment.

  17. Scott 19
    Thumb Down

    As I was saying...

    To a work collleague this morning the only way to escape the guberments totalitarian advances is going to sign up to go to the NASA built moonbase/Mars base. Because now they've started you got more chance of living on a diffrent planet than getting 'em to stop.

    And for those that think this seems a bit over the top you do realise they are now legislating against yours/my imagination (however funny/sadistic/weird that is).

    The final straw as again i was saying to him will be when they banned kids form climbing trees (although i am aware conkers are now banned).

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Daily Fail.

    They need to stop reading the Daily Fail and join the rest of us back in reality.

    It does appear that this shameless rag is interpreting the law for them.

  19. asiaseen

    Sir Robert Peel

    has a lot to answer for. When he originally established the police, his objective was not the prevention or deterrence of crime but social control, and that as been the guiding principle of governments ever since. The Kent Mob are simply fulfilling Peel's intentions in spades.

  20. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    @you missed

    You want to get a precedence set in court that this online chat is illegal - and you have the power to regulate it, - you don't start with an online message criticizing the police and try and get that banned.

    You pick someone that the press/public/jury is going to have no sympathy for (child porn) add this charge onto the end of an automatic conviction and bingo you have a new crime.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      yes that's more or less how it works.

  21. Dennis


    "a publication is obscene if its overall effect is to 'tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely ... to read, see or hear' it"

    So that would include the rules for MP's expenses then. Many MPs have certainly been corrupted by rules for expenses. Although I'm not sure they've all become depraved.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


      "So that would include the rules for MP's expenses then. Many MPs have certainly been corrupted by rules for expenses."

      Given their *effect* on the behavior of these (presumably) normal people they would indeed seem to have been corrupted by them, turning them in to self -serving leeches who would include *every* penny spent .

      So yes I think the expense instructions could have a case under the OPA.

  22. The Metal Cod

    Wouldn't It Be Ironic

    If the News Of The World did one of their famous "investigations" and nailed Kent Police officers (preferably the Chief Constable and his cronies) in a bondage brothel sting?

  23. David 45

    New laws?

    I suppose it makes a change from harassing and unlawfully arresting over-tall hobbyist street photographers in Chatham, UK. I am, of course, referring to a brand new law, made up on the spot by the arresting officers. I think the charge was "the use of an Olympus OM1 analogue camera in a public place instead of an up-to-date whizz-bang digital model ". (That's 'koz we can't immediately see what pictures he's actually taken and illegally order him to delete said pictures. Never mind, we'll just illegally confiscate his film instead).

  24. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    Possesion of an imagination.

    Plod don't like this *at* all.

    They don't seem to have a very good grasp of the difference between fantasy and reality.

    Funny as so much of the authoritarian police state is founded on *imaginary* threats.

    Time to start the "Campaign for Real Policing"?

  25. Graham Marsden

    Here come the Thought Police (again!)

    Despite the failure of the attempt by Baroness O'Caithan to introduce an "Extreme Writings" provision into English Law, it seems that Kent Police are trying to bring one in by default by suggesting that an online chat counts as "publishing"!

    Of course they will probably decide to claim that this is a "loophole" in existing legislation and we'll then see some politician who's heading for defeat jump onto the bandwagon to help generate some positive headlines because "well, it's For The Children, isn't it?" and anyone who disagrees is obviously not "Thinking of the Children!"

    What's next? Banning Viktor Nabakov's "Lolita"??

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "There remains a legislative gap in terms of written fantasy material specifically about child rape and murder, which is now commonplace."

    Does he have some scientific studies/research to back this up? I am guessing he simply typing these terms into google and if he gets any results then it must be common place.

    I just did my own "research" and was shocked to discover that it is commonplace for police officers to sodomize suspects with tasers, broom handles, and other implements!

    I also discovered that it is common place for people to lie, invent facts and make statements they they themselves don't believe for personal/political gain.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    A theory

    I have a theory that the reason the police force want to concentrate on these kind of crimes is that they want the easy way out. Speed cameras are all automated, otherwise they can just sit down in their patrol cars with their speed guns. Some computer crime where they can sit down looking through people's stuff. They just want to sit down and not go walking the streets.

    If they do walk the streets, they don't want to deal with chasing burglars or those that are physically dangerous, but instead they want to attack those with expensive equipment (cameras) that they feel could be threatening. They know that once they claim some crime has been done with the camera, the person is less likely to argue back due to danger of having their equipment damaged.

    So, in summary, the reason the police do not go out on Friday and Saturday nights to keep order in the streets is due to them being scared of being hit despite all the body armour and so on.

  28. Mark Davies

    What is wrong with this?

    The accused loses all my sympathy when I read about indecent images of children.

    I think that is a very legitimate crime to investigate and prosecute - the more the police can use to (legitimately) convict the accused the better.

    Please stop conflating separate issues like this - freedom of speech is a good issue to right about, but only when it involves consenting adults.

    1. Graham Marsden
      Big Brother

      What is wrong with this...

      ... is that you are being suckered by the Police who are the ones conflating separate issues.

      They want you to think that "oh, he had indecent images of children, so that justifies them misusing other laws and stretching them way beyond any legitimate bounds simply to give them a better chance of getting a conviction".

      They are trying to create an association in people's minds between child porn and "extreme writings" such that they're allowed to act as the Thought Police and get laws banning anything they don't like, even when there is *NO* evidence of harm at all.

      As for "freedom of speech is a good issue to right about, but only when it involves consenting adults", what about non-consenting adults? What about all those people who are killed, raped and so on in many books and films? They clearly don't consent, so should any such writings be made illegal...?

    2. ph0b0s


      Yes, if the person has pornographic images of real children on their computer, they will get what is coming to them. There is no disagreement on this.

      But if this extra crazy charge stands then don't come crying to us when the police knock in your door for chatting dirty to your girlfriend over the internet. This is how they get this cr@p in, by using it first against pedo's and terrorists and then once they have the precedent, then using it against the rest of society.

      Please don't be so naive. Just because people say any of these new puritan law's are wrong they do not support pedo's or terrorists. They just, like me, know that if they don't make a stand about this stuff now, next on the chopping block will be other 'imaginary crimes' contained in computer games, movies and books.

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @Mark Davies

      "The accused loses all my sympathy when I read about indecent images of children."

      Exactly. You're critical facilities (along with quite a lot of the general public's) have *completely* shut down. You have no idea what was being talked about in detail, and it was being *talked* about. There is *no* evidence *anything* was done IRL.

      On here its known as the "Think of the children" routine.

      Freedom of speech is about the right of others to hold views *you* don't like. I happen to think that the all cars capable of exceeding the maximum speed limit of the countries they are sold in should have all *driver* safety features deleted. You can buy a car that you can break the law with but if you're incompetent or unlucky (or both) you won't be bothering the gene pool again.

      You may disagree. You may disapprove. Were I to push for legislation you might argue against it.

      I have done *nothing* wrong and I certainly would not go around sabotaging those features on cars I came across IRL. It's the difference between a thought, a crime and a thought-crime.

      Perhaps *you* hold some views I might disagree with. Better hope *none* of those views is disapproved of by plod in your area.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    Comments fail

    Once again, I read through the comments associated with a "police" story and find that like lots of other places on the Internet, is filled with comments by people who think they are some kind of expert in the legal system and know all of the facts associated with the story.

    1) CPS are nothing to do with the police. They are a separate body, and have no interest in crime detection rates, clear up rates etc.

    2) CPS lawyers decide upon on the evidence submitted as to what charges are appropriate and within the public interest. By "appropriate", that means with no worse than a 50/50 chance of conviction.

    I would expect that in building the case, the police brought evidence of the chat in question to CPS, because it would suggest the individual has a propensity towards the sexual abuse of children and may also contain evidence of guilt related to any of the other charges. CPS have obviously looked at this in relation to what the OPA and relevant case law says and feel there is a good chance of conviction.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Enough blame to go round

      You are right that maybe most on this forum do not understand the finer points of who investigates the crime and who decides if it should be prosecuted or not. But I don't think it matters who you blame as I think they are all to blame in their own ways.

      From the Government who enact fuzzily written knee jerk laws on the back of newspaper fear of pedo's or terrorists that can be misused to punish people the laws was not designed to punish.

      The police who lobby for overreaching laws to make their jobs easier, and then take the law's given to them and try to use them for things they were not designed for, to get their stats up.

      Or the CPS who cannot tell the different between a real or cartoon tiger.

      To me they are a trifecta, of this seemingly puritanical movement to extend laws on anything sexual, even imaginary where there are no victims and where you don't know if you have broken the law until a jury has decided. And therefore all get equal blame....

    2. Anonymous Coward

      @AC 26/04/2010

      Sorry, but the CPS do have prosecution figures to achieve and especially when teh end of year is approaching you will suddenly see a jump in "borderline" prosecutions going through to the courts.

      Thats is why more and moe innocent people end up having their names blackened by the crown, all in the name of hitting targets.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Kinda hopeful actually

    We could do with a court ruling that online chat is speech.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There's more?!

    So if the MP's making dumb laws like the extreme pornography and the cartoon law was not enough we now have police forces trying to extend laws in crazy ways. I don't know why they need to be so greedy. From the article, they already have the person on child porn charges, I don't get why they have to add crazy stuff on top.

    It has not escaped my notice though that again the powers that be are using 'Pedoggedon' as a way of extending their powers and outlawing crazy stuff. And gerneraly we seem to sit here and take it, as long as the laws are supposedly protecting our children or defending us from terrorists. So it is OK for them to inacting laws for these reasons, that turn otherwise normal law abidding citizens into enermies of society...

    I cannot belive I am going to say this (don't tell Jon Stewart I did), but we almost need a UK version of FOX news. With UK versions of Hannity and Beck shouting 'What is happening to our country...' and 'Oh the evil government with too much power...' I know being Republicans they would probably support these above laws though.

    But suddenly I can understand why people over in the US join militia's to protect themselves from overeaching governments. Even though they are mainly racists. How about a milita to where we can watch porn (but not child stuff), look at dirty drawings and type dirty things without government interference? Anyone? And for the government / police reading this, I'm only joking please don't break my down my front door...

    I just don't get when the Puritan's got into power again. I thought they all left the country a couple of centuries ago.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    @AC 14:36

    I think you may be the nearest. Here's a scenario that I could see being entirely likely.

    D) Police scoured through a computer or computers looking for something to charge someone they didn't like and found a few images that were very borderline as to whether they were indecent or not. (I suspect the same case would occur if almost anyone's computer was examined in these 'enlightened times').

    Knowing the CPS might well not proceed with just those charges, they then tried to bolster their case with some OPA charges, knowing that the CPS might well find that part of law interesting and therefore be willing to proceed with the whole lot, avoiding the police having to admit they hadn't really found anything.

    The CPS may well be a seperate body but when they work so closely with the police what are the chances of them not being corrupted by the same zealous urges as the police?

    As has been said before, Kent Police have 'form'

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Jobs For The Boys

    The police will always look for new ways to criminalize people, especially if the 'think of the children!' banner can be invoked. Idiot politicians, spurred on by self-interested advocacy groups, will always be more than happy to bend over and grant them their new legislation. Recent evidence of this is the introduction of new (serious) offences such as 'extreme porn' and 'cartoon porn'. Fantasy laws, dreamt up to serve agendas that have little or nothing to do with justice or common sense.

    This will continue and it will get worse - this story suggests as much. 'Fantasy' fiction of a sexually explicit nature has long been on the Police hit-list; this is not the first time it has emerged as a target for new laws. Whatever the complexion of the next Parliament here in the UK, we can be certain the Police will get what they want: on past evidence they simply always do, as far as the Paedogeddon goes.

    ACPO, CEOP and countless police 'child protection' units up and down the UK are all in the business of finding new work - the creation and policing of new offences makes for job security and inflated budgets. This has little to do with 'protecting children' and everything to do with 'jobs for the boys'. It isn't police work in the sense we might all once have understood it: it's a never-ending assault on civil liberties, freedoms of expression and an extension (as if any were needed in a country whose citizens are more spied on by their police forces than any other in Europe) of this surveillance nation.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    These new law great for police stats

    I agree with you. When you think about it these new laws are great for the police, as by their very nature you solve them at the same time as finding an offence has happened. None of that time wasting doing detection work in between needed.....

This topic is closed for new posts.