LONDON — Gay fetish filmmaker Michael Peacock on Friday was exonerated on six obscenity counts for distributing DVDs featuring male fisting, urination and BDSM.
The Peacock ruling is perhaps the most significant U.K. obscenity trial of the decade and could clarify Britain's Obscene Publications Act 1959.
Peacock was charged after an undercover officer purchased six DVDs at his house in January 2009. He ran a gay escort site called "Sleazy Michael" and advertised the hardcore gay DVDs for sale on Craigslist.
Jurors in the case were asked to weigh whether Peacock violated the statute's “deprave and corrupt” test.
Under the test, defined in Section 1 of the Act, "An article shall be deemed to be obscene if its effect or (where the article comprises two or more distinct items) the effect of any one of its items is, if taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it."
The panel, representative of men and women, unanimously found Peacock not guilty on all charges at Southwark Crown Court.
Myles Jackman, an attorney at Hodge Jones and Allen LLP, which represented Peacock in the case, tweeted after the case that the Metropolitan Police plans to "sit down with" the Crown Prosecution Service and the British Board of Film Classification "to review guidelines on obscenity."
Jackman said at the start of the case that it was the "most significant in a decade."
"This could be the final nail in the coffin for the Obscene Publications Act in the digital age because the jury's verdict shows that normal people view consensual adult pornography as a part of everyday life and are no longer shocked, depraved or corrupted by it," Jackman said.
Nigel Richardson, who lead Peacock's defense, told the BBC that jurors watched "large amounts [of the films over] several hours" during the trial, which began on Tuesday.
"Although they were quite shocked initially, they started to look quite bored very quickly," Richardson said.
U.S. adult industry attorney Allan Gelbard, who represented John Stagliano in his 2010 obscenity case in the U.S., told XBIZ that the Peacock ruling is "a hugely important case in the U.K., both legally and politically."
"While the British aren’t as fortunate as U.S. citizens, as they don’t have the full protection of our 1st Amendment, this case, along with several recent obscenity cases here (e.g., Lou Sirkin’s victory in Kentucky) and what the jurors said after our win in the Evil Angel trial (that they would never have convicted him anyway) show that the underlying assumption by prosecutors (here and abroad) in main stream content obscenity cases — that jurors will be so shocked that they will send someone to jail for making a movie — may well be out of step with the realities of our more modern society," he said.
"People have been exposed to pornography for years and they haven’t burst into flames. Younger people have grown up with pornography all around them and they just aren’t shocked by what consenting adults choose to do or watch anymore.
"Even those who are personally offended understand that they don’t want to live in a country where people can’t watch what they want, sexually explicit or otherwise, because it offends someone else. Hopefully, the right wing here will learn a lesson from these recent cases. Sadly, I doubt it."
Another U.S. adult industry attorney, Marc Randazza, said that governments should never have the opportunity to weigh in on speech.
"No civilized society should have laws that would imprison a person for watching, producing, or possessing films, photographs, or books simply because the government does not like the content," Randazza told XBIZ.
"This decision shows that the empire we threw out because we wanted our liberty seems to have progressed beyond its worst export ever — the Victorian sense of horror at sexual liberty.
"Meanwhile, those with political power in this country continue to cling to those idiotic ideals," he said.
"It is refreshing to see that despite the fact that British citizens are still too weak to rid themselves of titles and the inherited privilege of nobility, they still manage to be progressive when it comes to certain civil liberties."