U.K. Officials Asked to Review 'Extreme Pornography' Law

Rhett Pardon

LONDON — A man who was wrongly accused of possessing a video of a woman having sex with a tiger is attempting to change the law on "extreme pornography" in the U.K.

In 2009, Andrew Holland was charged with possessing two videos containing "extreme pornography" that were sent by friends as a joke.

But Holland, after more than six months on bail, was exonerated by prosecutors who realized that an “animal” in one of the videos mentioned in the complaint depicted a man dressed up in a tiger suit.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it only recognized that it was a man when the tiger was heard on the soundtrack saying, “That’s grrrrrrreat,” just like Tony the Tiger from the Kellogg's Frosted Flakes commercials.

Similar charges against Holland in relation to a second video called "The Pain Olympics," a spoof put together using “prosthetics, cocktail sausages and ketchup.”

The 51-year-old Holland suffered a heart attack and received hate mail after being charged with possession of "extreme pornography" under Section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act of 2008 for the two videos that he was sent by friends as a joke.

Holland, a bus driver, was denied contact with his young daughter for more than a year and forced to leave his home town after a campaign of abuse against him as a result of the charges.

Now Holland's counsel led by famed U.K. "obscenity" attorney Myles Jackman are seeking to change the "extreme pornography" law to prevent “harmless but crude jokes” from ending in prosecution.

Jackman's firm, London-based Hodge Jones & Allen LLP, today asked that the Secretary of State for the Home Department carry out a "Human Rights Impact Assessment" in relation to the statute for what Holland was charged.

The  term "extreme" pornography is not clearly defined in the legislation, and therefore a potential defendant would not be able to understand anticipate if being in possession of certain images might be illegal, Jackman said of Holland's claims.

He also said that there is insufficient guidance from the director public prosecutions as to when these offenses will be prosecuted and that the offense is disproportionate to the legislation's intended aims. 

"Holland does not want others to go through the ordeal that he has faced," Jackman said in a statement made today. "Mr. Holland wants to ensure that others are not prosecuted unnecessarily in the manner that he was.

"He remains subject to the risk of further criminal charges in the event that he is in possession of similar joke images in the future."

Jackman said that if his firm's plea fails the Human Rights Impact Assessment, his firm has requested that this be confirmed in writing so that he can issue judicial review proceedings at the high court.

"This review comes when it has become clear that millions of adults using mobile phone messaging services like WhatsApp can be sent potentially 'extreme' material to their phones, by friends, without knowing that they are actually in technical possession of illegal images," Jackman said. "If it is unclear whether an image might be extreme and therefore illegal, how can a person be expected to know if they’ve broken the law?"

The offense of possession of an "extreme" pornographic image was introduced in 2008 under Section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act of 2008 and has resulted in more than 5,500 prosecutions, with the lion's share for clips of bestiality.

Under the U.K. statute, a person can be prosecuted for possession of a pornographic image labeled “extreme” if it shows necrophilia or bestiality, threatens someone’s life or could cause serious injury to anus, breasts or genitals. In addition, the law applies to “grossly offensive” or “disgusting” images.

Jon Fuller, a spokesman for Backlash, which campaigns on matters of sexual freedom, said the issue “potentially criminalizes” millions of people.

“This law threatens anyone with a sex life they want to keep private,” he said in a release today. “It threatens ordinary members of the public who exchange dirty jokes by phone and over the Internet.”