back to article 'Pervy' private chat case springs back into life

The prospect of a dramatic extension of the Obscene Publications Act is once more back on the agenda, as the Crown Prosecution Service last week re-opened a case in which an individual is accused of obscene publishing in respect of a private online chat. The issue, described by one legal commenter as "the most significant …


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  1. JaitcH

    Can it be the CPS has nothing better to do?

    Obviously some uptight Plod or persecutor have their knickers in a twist over the initial court decision.

    Why are they wasting their resources on such a petty matter whilst others await there days in court. often denied bail?

    Accept the initial finding at leave the matter be.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      why are they wasting WHOSE resources

      That's your tax money mate.....

  2. url


    this is just f(/&king amazing.

    Wow, just wow!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    We already have thought police via other obscenity laws. Why not speech police?

  4. Pypes
    Thumb Down

    Thanks guys

    I just love how my taxes are being used to erode my civil liberties while violent criminals are walking the streets, and in an in a period of austerity too. Great jobs there lads.

  5. Matt_V

    that's slightly worrying

    If that gets upheld then what's next? Text messages? Emails? Letters?!

    Would be intersting to know whether this log was available to the general public or not...

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Available to the public?

      Of course it wasn't, this has almost certainly been found after his machine was seized for some other reason and they couldn't find anything else to charge him with.

      It would be fascinating to know what this log contains, after all it's only 45 or so years since the OPA was used against Lady Chatterley's Lover and that was found not to be obscene based on the opinion of the jury so it's quite likely that the CPS are way behind the curve on this as well.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        It appears to centre on the legal definition of publishing and whether making something available to one person is publishing. If it is, the then the OPA can be used.

        Absolutely barking that a conversation restricted to 2 parties can be construed as publishing.

        As someone else has pointed out, it is even stranger and must be being done for some other motive as the guy has reportedly already been charged with other offences.

        Next we'll be prosecuted for what we were thinking about while reading something. Oh wait...

  6. ShaggyDoggy

    I'm a bit fuzzy about

    this whole private/publication thing

  7. Blofeld's Cat

    Good Grief!

    OK I accept that there may be more to this than meets the eye, but even so... Do the CPS really have nothing better to do?

    If not could I suggest they come and sit in one of the local pubs for an evening. Two or three hours of overheard conversation should be enough to come up with several cases of "Conspiracy to Murder", "Conspiracy to defraud", "Incitement of Racial Hatred", "Treason"...

    That's before we get to the bad language.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    How can a PRIVATE chat...

    ... be deemed as "publishing", surely the definition of publish is that is is widely available, not seen by one other person?

    Perhaps sexual harassment if it was an unsolicited private chat, but publishing - not even close.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      This will be publishing in the same way....

      ....that the courts define seeing an image on your computer as "making" that image. In other words definitions made up to support their view of the world.

    2. TeaLeaf

      New Logic

      The conversation wasn't published originally, but when it was introduced as evidence in the first court action, it was published as part of that. Having now been published, the prosecution can proceed.

      1. g e


        Then the CPS is actually the publisher and the accused merely the author?

    3. wibbilus maximus


      This is ridiculous but I bet the reason it's classed as publishing is because it was sent to another computer during the chat. It's not the log itself but the log provides evidence that text was transmitted to another computer and therefore was being "published". It's clutching at straws but since most of the court cases recently seem to be based on some technicality you can bet that's what the reasoning is.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Publishing is well known as a legal reference used by the courts isn't it? No. Thought not.

      The legal definition of publishing is somewhat different. Something can indeed be considered to be published even if nobody reads it, the issue is whether it is made available to be read. Now of course the legal definition may be somehat archaic and doesn't really cover electronic communication but that's why we have courts. This case may well set a precedent, it will test whether a private chat on the internet constitutes publishing.

      IIRC the chat was using some crappy chat client such as ICQ or similar. I think the argument regarding publishing hinged on whether the fact that the server logged the conversation would be considered publishing. Piling one shaky recollection on top of another I seem to recall that the defence argued that the logs did not constitute publishing because the accused thought that "private" chat would not be logged and as such this chat was pureley communication rather than publishing.

      It will be interesting to see what the new evidence is, but I have a sneaky suspicion that it will be something to do with whether or not the accused knew the logs would be kept.

  9. The Fuzzy Wotnot


    I take it it all the while we the tax-paying mugs, front-up the spondoolics to pay for this waste of time?

  10. MinionZero
    Big Brother

    So yet another day & yet another increase in Police State moves :(

    So now we also have outright Thoughtcrime. Oh wonderful :( ... Prosecuted for what is said in a private online chat log? WTF!? When words can be punished by police intervention its time to seriously worry about not what our society is becoming, but far worse, worry about what our society has already become.

    When is enough, really, finally enough?

    At this point, I cannot believe anyone would fail to see we are increasingly becoming a Police State, therefore anyone who says we are not a Police State, must in some way really be denying our Police State is bad. So either they are profoundly ignorant of the hidden danger of the relentless two faced Narcissistic bastards who constantly seek power over others who are creating the Police State or they are one of these two faced bastards who want a Police State. Either way they are the enemy within society we all have against us. They are like two sides of the same coin so to speak, the ignorant and the duplicitous who fool the ignorant. Both are the key ingredients a society needs to allow this Police State to grow without end and both are our enemy within.

  11. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    log of a private online chat

    So a private online chat was deemed to be "obscene" by certain people in the CPS. And what's more, a log of it constitutes "publication".

    If I can vividly remember having sex with someone, is that the same? Can I be prosecuted for it?

    (Note to CPS I probably wouldn't remember it at all after a few days, so you can leave me alone!)

  12. Owen Carter
    Big Brother

    ?pervy? is not the half of it.

    What's also interesting here is that a quick search will shed some light on the full charges.

    Looks like this case has been carefully chosen to further erode our rights by creating a precedent. It contains a built-in defence to the chorus of disapproval using a 'but he was an X' technique; in a very similar manner to a recent case involving encryption.

    That's currently injuncted, but eventually the judge will be asked to lift the ban and in a sad display of media management the authorities will 'reveal' the charges; the illiberal will begin a mass chant of 'think of the X' and our liberties take another knock.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Public Interest?

    They don't even follopw there own guidelines!

    1st test: is it likely to suceed in prosecution?

    Well this is unlikely to be the reason for prosecution as it is clearly pushing the boundries (as previously provem). So that leaves the 2nd guidlein

    Is it in the Public interest?

    Is a private chat between two consenting adults (otherwise other laws would kick in) worthy of taking to court in the public interest. Other than a good Daily Mail headline, then no.

  14. The Other Steve
    Big Brother

    Brat mongling

    The perp was originally pulled for having kiddy pr0n, so maybe his chat session was about brat mongling. Ergo it's perfectly OK to extend a law well beyond its original intent in a liberty crushing manner, because of the very real risk that if this isn't done all our babies will be paedomurdered in their sleep.

    Remember, acting contrary to any notion of sense, logic, or justice is ALWAYS justified when it's for the children, and if you disagree, well, you're next.

    1. I'm Brian and so's my wife

      > Paedomurdered

      That is a great word! It's just a pity that there aren't many (any?) circumstances under which I could employ it.

      1. The Other Steve

        > Can you use it in a sentence

        In the local shopping centre*, they give out wrist bands to 'safe lil shoppers' to prevent them from being peadomurdered in Argos. Apparently this works, since even our pathetic local rag would hardly fail to report such an incident unless there was some really important football.

        *This is really true. Look upon it and weep.

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge


          Why Argos?

  15. Frumious Bandersnatch

    I put on my robe and wizard hat

    Oh no you don't! You're nicked!

  16. Anonymous Coward

    The law is obviously in desperate need of reform

    And it needs to be done immediately before this farce goes any further and we become the poster boy for Iran, Saudi Arabia and any other nation who wants to persecute it's citizens every word and thought.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "...whose log of a private online chat he had with another individual was deemed by Kent Police to be obscene..."

    Okay. It's that definition of 'obscene' that worries. Since we are obviously not going to be told what exactly was being written about it is presumably safe to assume it's something that currently falls within the current legal definition of 'obscene' - granted, these days still leaves the field pretty wide open, but it's possible to imagine what that might be. That's what our coppers appear to have done.

    Why Kent police should be quite so troubled by all of this is also a cause for concern. What are they hoping to achieve here? To solve a crime? Prosecute a dangerous criminal? Who, exactly, has been placed in harm's way by even the most disturbing personal fantasies of this total nobody? Or does he have form? Is he a 'known quantity' to the Kent outfit?

    Far too many unanswered questions here, but the implications are troubling.

    Finding a case (which means some unlucky sod) upon which to 'test' a new law, or expand the remit of an existing one, is one possible reason for the whole ridiculous exercise. Why the police might want to do that is anyone's guess, but if the past decade tells us anything it's that 'legal precedents' are a handy tool in their line business.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Stop Bleating

    If you don't think or say anything, you have nothing to worry about.

  19. Graham Bartlett

    Depends on the other person in the online chat

    And this hasn't been made clear here.

    Situation A: Terry Tugstackle surfs over to a sex chatroom where Sally Stickyfingers is also logged in (Ms Stickyfingers may actually be a 20-stone bloke, but never mind). And they take it to a private chat.

    Situation B: Terry Tugstackle surfs over to Bebo where Tina Teeny (age 12) is logged in. He says he's got a hot tip on a secret JLS gig and sets up a private chat. Miss Teeny clicks on "OK", whereupon Mr Tugstackle proceeds to tell her in detail what he'd like to do with her and what he's doing himself.

    If this is about Situation A, then the law is seriously broken.

    But if this is about Situation B, then it could well be an attempt by the police/CPS to get judges to tell them what to do people for when they start harassing people online. Which seems fair enough, TBH.

    1. Tom 35

      But if this is about Situation B

      There are other laws in place for that.

      More likely Situation C. The cops know he is bad (or they don't like him) but could not find anything worth while to charge him with so they just bent a law out of shape to fit what they did find.

      This is never good, even if the guy really IS a bad person, because next time they may use it on some one they just don't like.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not enough information to judge

    There is simply not enough information to substantiate any opionion on this.

    It could be for example, that the private conversation was about child pornography and was then made availble for others to see - in which case they have a valid argument to chase this one.

    After all, how does a private conversation come to the attention of the police?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      @ Not enough information to judge

      After all, how does a private conversation come to the attention of the police?

      Well, given that it was Kent police, maybe the perp was using a camera or doing something else illegal and terroristy, and after demolishing his house in a search, they found a computer and examined every file on the disk...

      (Anon because I will be going back to Kent over Christmas)

  21. ShaggyDoggy


    "...whose log of a private online chat he had with another individual was deemed by Kent Police to be obscene..."

    No, Kent police do not "deem" anything, thakyou very much we have courts to decide this stuff

    k thx

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    double jeopardy?

    If he's already been before the beak and had it dismissed, I didn't think it could be dragged back to court again.

  23. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    So anyway,

    What are you wearing?

    I'm wea{ing a cardigan

    (as well as the usual other stuff)

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Oh yes they do

    I thought they were the ones who deemed a photographer to be too tall?

    Load of k*nts.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Motes and beams

    I tell you what's offensive: X-Factor. Police corruption. Ias Hislop (the smug little twat).

    Maybe you don't agree with me: Maybe you think Paul Merton's more of an offensive twat what with him being an ex-alcoholic who got on his high horse about someone else taking cocaine. Well that's your prerogative. For me Hislop's face is nothing more than an anus on legs, an affront to humanity, a festering pox on the world. I'm willing, however, to embrace the idea that what offends you may not offend me (and vice versa). Offense is subjective and making laws about matters subjective is a great way to tie yourself in legal knots, make a fool of precedent and make yourself look like a proper mental cripple.

    As Steve Hughes pointed out when you're offended nothing happens. Your legs don't fall off, demons don't fly out of your backside, the milk doesn't turns sour - you just get butthurt for a while then you gather yourself and carry on. Or you avoid watching Have I Got News For You. Or you accept the fact that someone else's private conversation - a conversation in which you took no part - isn't exactly to your taste, chalk it down to experience, admit that it's non of your damn business, then fuck off and live your life.

    Kent Police seem to believe differently. They seem to believe that private conversations are public property. Perhaps, therefore, they should put their money where their is and publish transcripts of all conversations carried on in all Police Stations in Kent, of all conversations carried on between policemen and anyone else they come into contact with, of any and all paper, email, fax, text or pager transmissions involving their staff. See, when someone gets nosey about me I tend to get even more nosey about them because it's usually the nosey parkers who are hiding something.

    So what /are/ Kent Police hiding?

    The fact that they've taken officers off the beat to look for shopping trolleys? (

    The fact that they've illegally stopped and searched people? (

    That they've interefered in the democratic process? (

    That they've had some security breaches? (

    What else are they hiding, and what are the CPS intending to do about that?

  26. ShaggyDoggy

    re: double jeopardy

    That's "convicted" you can't be convicted of the same crime twice - you can be tried as many times as they like, Denmark-election-style, until they get the result they are looking for

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Double jeopardy?

      No, you can't be tried for the same crime twice, except in the specific circumstance of "new and compelling evidence" becoming available, and even then the CPS has to go to the Court of Appeal to get the previous acquittal quashed.

  27. Owen Carter

    @ac with the Iain Hislop fetish..

    Piers Morgan? is that you???

    There's a line where stuff ceases to be offensive and becomes abusive.. One is OK and even sometimes funny, the second is not. Many journalists confuse the two.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    'Intelligence led policing' (NOT)??

    If my undertanding from other press reports is true, this was an entirely private chat between two consenting people.

    In which case, wtf is Kent Police's problem? I mean, really......

    W T F

    I wouldn't be at all surprised if the person involved is someone they didn't like, and after combing through his life this was the best they could come up with - in which case its pathetic and vindictive, given the negative publicity generated for the person involved, whatever the outcome.

    If it was a text chat that didn't amount to incitement or conspiracy to commit a crime (and if it had done then I assume that would have been the charge) then the law has no business interfering.

    If two people wanted to discuss smearing Gordon Brown in butterscotch and licking it off (shudder) then I might question their taste or sanity, but I wouldn't consider it a matter for the law, however obscene 'society' might find the idea.

    There is also plenty of opinion that I find obscene on FaceSpace and TwitBook but I wouldn't consider the OPA to be the right avenue to use against it.

    Almost regardless of the real facts, if they were to get a prosecution in this case then it would be a very dangerous example of where the police need to be reigned in. As has been pointed out, this wouldn't be the first case of Kent trying to overstep their authority.

    A verdict in this case could mean that all cybersex would become illegal (Unless your chosen cybersex is to make love in the missionary position only once married, with the lights out and no children in the house!).

    Maybe the police need reminding that are supposed to be investigating crime, not investigating people and then searching through the statutes for something to pin on them because they don't like the cut of their jib

    Or maybe they just want to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Lady Chatterley in style and have no sense of irony?

    Either way this should be laughed out of court and scorn heaped on whichever wuckfit thought it was a good idea.

    That is all...

  29. Sam Therapy
    Thumb Down

    My own experience with the CPS...

    ...leads me to believe they will pursue any old case in the hope *something* will stick, never mind the expense, wasted time and damage to innocent people's lives.

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