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Extreme porn and state-enabled voyeurism

Laura Davis

103009085 300x199 Extreme porn and state enabled voyeurismIn a landmark case for the state versus privacy, Simon Walsh, former aide to Boris Johnson, was this week cleared of charges of having ‘extreme’ images and an indecent image of a child.

After the allegations emerged in November, the London Mayor and his chief of staff Sir Edward Lister fired Walsh after his refusal to stand down from his post as a mayoral appointee to the London fire authority.

So, was the issue Walsh taking these pictures at work? Viewing scores of illegal images on his work computer? Or sending them over a work email?

In fact they were a handful of personal images. On his personal email account. Of himself and others involved in consensual, adult sex.

I’d prefer not to go into detail about the sexual orientation of Mr Walsh and his friends; it is, as the jury found, irrelevant.

Opening the trial at Kingston Crown Court, prosecutor Thomas Wilkins said: ‘Pornography is extreme and therefore illegal if it is grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise obscene and shows an activity likely to cause serious injury.’

The images at the centre of the case showed acts including fisting and urethral sounding (inserting surgical rods into the urethra). It’s not for everyone, granted, and Walsh was described as having a ‘strange sex life’ – but it wasn’t forced. What’s “grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise obscene“ is for some their more favoured type of porn.

It seems a legal incongruity that one could face criminal prosecution for possessing images of “extreme porn”, which are perfectly legal acts. It’s the possession of images we’re supposed to be alarmed about here, not the safety of the individual presumably, otherwise, the acts would be made illegal.

The Crown Prosecution Service said Walsh possessed an image of a child, despite the accompanying text describing the person’s actual age to be mid-twenties. Presumably this was to bulk up the tenuous charges. The prosecution were unable to prove that he ever opened, viewed or knew about the image.

It is a daunting prospect that people can be fired from their job, dragged through court and publicly humiliated for experimenting sexually. A hint of irony is sprinkled over the case as 50 Shades of Grey – which contains S&M – has recently become the fastest ever selling book replacing Harry Potter. There’s a market outside of missionary, who would have thought?

Fortunately the jury at Kingston Crown Court took just over one hour to unanimously acquit Simon Walsh on all counts.

The main discrepancy lies not with the law, but where exactly the law can be applied and to what extent this should be of any public interest unless anyone was harmed during the activity.

The result when mis-applied: a humiliating trial and a ruined reputation.

Walsh has commented that he had not given up his right to a private sex life when he stood for public office. And nor should he, or anyone.

Voyeurism is a key factor in the success of popular media, and this is an example of that voyeurism being enabled by an arm of the state.

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  • Newsbot9

    So if someone from Russia mails you an image of an underage boy, you will happily go to jail? There are LOTS of ways in which that can be abused to send innocent people to prison.

    Moreover, they were not “on the internet”, as in publically posted. They were in a private email account. You’re a typical moralist, trying to control other people’s behaviours according to your narrow ruleset of “permissible” activities.

  • Newsbot9

    Cautions are not prosecutions, again.

    And no, what needs to be done is for it to be repealed, and any cautions and convictions under it voided.

  • Newsbot9

    Ah yes, you fire people for accessing personal email at work. You must be a great boss to work for!

  • Newsbot9

    “Common sense”. In which part of the law governing the CPS does this occur? Seriously, attacking the CPS for doing their job…this IS the kind of test case which sets their decisions.

  • niged

    Nonsense. She has no public mandate atall. She was interviewed by the BBC recently and at last asked the pointed question “Who are you accountable to?” and all she could say in an embarrassed fashion was “My conscience”. That’s not good enough.

    And Liberty is comical at times in its activities. One was taking to the High Court the case of a man who had been asked who was driving his vehicle when a traffic offence was committed and SS claiming that breached his civil liberties. It’s absurd that a man’s social irresponsibility should be mangled by her into a civil liberties case. Unsurprisingly, the judge threw it out as nonsense. When I think of genuine civil rights campaigners like Martin Luther King Jr. and see the civil rights breaches I have experienced in the Middle East, India and Pakistan where I worked for years, it’s fatuous the trivial nonsense she classifies as breaches of freedom in this country.

    _____

  • negordon

    The problem with the concession that authorities cannot look at the contents of emails, only the sender and receivers details is disingenous to say the least. The packet sniffing technology required to capture source and destination addresses (packet headers) is no different from that required to capture content (payload data). Once you have one you automatically get the other at little cost. We’re being expected to rely on the good natured benevolence of government rather than the recourse of the law.


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