U.K.'s Crown Prosecution Service Seeks to Revise 'Obscenity' Laws

U.K.'s Crown Prosecution Service Seeks to Revise 'Obscenity' Laws

LONDON — The U.K.’s Crown Prosecution Service today launched a public consultation effort to help revise legal guidance to the country’s “obscenity” laws.

The Crown Prosecution Service said that a 12-week public comment period, starting today, will offer assistance to prosecutors making charging decisions in cases that fall under the U.K.’s Obscene Publications Act of 1959.

“When complete, it is anticipated that the revised legal guidance will come into effect in late 2018,” the Crown Prosecution Service said in a statement.

The Obscene Publications Act of 1959 makes it a crime to publish material which might “deprave or corrupt” those who are likely to see, read, or hear it.

Now, the Crown Prosecution Service could change make some alterations to it after hearing from the public.

“The guidance is being revised to provide more clarity about what an ‘obscene’ publication” might be and places an increased focus on those who may view this material which may determine whether a criminal offence has been committed,” the Crown Prosecution Service said.

“Prosecutors might also consider other offences when dealing with ‘obscene publications,’ for example outraging public decency, possession of an extreme pornographic image, disclosing private sexual images without consent, and offences against the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and Electronic Communications Act 2003.”

U.K. industry lawyer Myles Jackman, known as the “obscenity” attorney in the country where he practices, called the consultation effort “a watershed moment in U.K. ‘obscenity’ law.” 

“The consultation on the Obscene Publication Prosecution Guidance may return a liberal result that effectively decriminalizes content depicting consensual sexual activities,” Jackman told XBIZ today.

“This would be an enormous victory for free speech for performers and consumers of adult content in the U.K., with an inevitable benefit to the economy, as well as enshrining consent culture in U.K. law.”

The consultation will run for 12 weeks through Oct. 17. The current legal guidance is available here.

Consultation is framed within five Crown Prosecution Service questions that can be responded to online and through the mail. The questions are:

  • Do consultees agree or disagree with the guidance that the showing or realistic depiction of sexual activity / pornography which constitutes acts or conduct contrary to the criminal law is (subject to the statutory defenses) likely to be obscene?
  • Do consultees agree or disagree with the guidance that prosecutors must exercise real caution when dealing with the moral nature of acts not criminalized by law, and that the showing or realistic depiction of sexual activity / pornography which does not constitute acts or conduct contrary to the criminal law is unlikely to be obscene?
  • Do consultees agree or disagree with the guidance that prosecutors, when assessing obscenity, should consider: Whether the activity is consensual; whether or not serious harm is caused; whether or not it is inextricably linked with other criminality; and whether the likely audience is not under 18 or otherwise vulnerable.
  • Do consultees agree or disagree with the guidance that the showing or realistic depiction of other acts or conduct which are contrary to the criminal law is also capable of being obscene?
  • Do consultees have any further suggestions for guidance to prosecutors in assessing “obscenity” when considering allegations falling under the Obscene Publications Act 1959?

To respond to the Crown Prosecution Service’s consultation, click here for the questions. Once downloaded and answers are completed, send back to dla.team@cps.gov.uk by midnight (GMT) on Oct. 17. Include your name, organization, address, telephone number and email address in the response.