With the recent passing of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act , the campaign group Backlash has announced it will be changing (understandably) and it will be interesting to see how they evolve. For me as an outsider looking in, it has the potential to be group that may have a long evolving life just as Stonewall was born out Section 28.

On their website they have published some correspondence with Stephen Ruddell at the Ministry of Justice. He sort of confirms the violent pornography provisions will come into effect in January 2009. I am struck by one section of the letter which states:

‘Taking first the new defence for participants in consensual activity, as you have noted, the amendment was introduced to address a possibly anomaly where, as the legislation was previously constructed, a person might have been at risk of committing an offence by possessing an image of certain acts which he or she had undertaken lawfully. The new defence will apply where a defendant proves that he or she was a participant in the act depicted in the image; and that no harm was caused to any participant, or if harm were caused, it was harm which was and could be lawfully consented to. ‘

Well that sounds reasonable you might think but thanks to the Brown case many BDSM acts can not be consented to and to my mind this so called defence amounts to none at all. It creates massive burdens upon the defendant to prove that “no harm was caused”. I believe this will also criminalize the barebacking pornography that includes HIV positive guys having sex with a negative guy. Given this hasn’t really been commented upon in this debate I suspect it is an implication yet to be realised and there are a lot of gay men who should be carefully reviewing their porn stashes on their PCs and on DVDs. You can read more on this and view a Newsnight item on this in one my earlier posts.

Another significant passage of the letter is:

‘…it is the case that offenders will be subject to notification requirements under Part 2 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 if they are 18 or over but only if they are sentenced to two years’ imprisonment or more. This is towards the top of the scale for an offence where the maximum penalty is three years’ imprisonment, i.e. in respect of violent images, and at the very top in the case of an extreme image in the less severe categories i.e. bestiality and necrophilia.’

This sentence clearly underlines the severe penalties that accompany these new offences.

You can view the full letter here: http://www.backlash-uk.org.uk/ruddell.html
The full text of the Act can be viewed at:
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