This afternoon’s comprehensive not guilty verdict, in the case of Michael Peacock, charged with publishing obscene material that featured fisting, urination and heavy-duty sado-masochistic activity is a good result – but what comes next could be a real challenge to those who see this as ushering in a new era in sexual liberation.
The verdict was broadly welcomed by Myles Jackman, solicitor at Hodge Jones Allen with a special interest in obscenity law, who provided support for the defence case.
Myles said: “This could be the final nail in the coffin of the OPA in the digital age. The jury’s verdict shows that normal members of society are entirely used to consensual adult pornography and see nothing obscene about it.”
This sentiment was echoed by Chris Ashford, who lectures on Law and Sexuality at the University of Sunderland. He said: “The case brings some much needed clarity to this area of complex criminal law. I understand that the Metropolitan Police will be sitting down with the CPS and the BBFC and this is a welcome step. There will obviously need to be some revision to the CPS guidelines on prosecution in light of this case.
“Longer term, there are sure to be questions about the continued appropriateness of the law in this area, and whether we still need this obscenity law”.
While generally accepting this analysis, Jane Fae was more cautious about what comes next. She said: “the OPA has been on its last legs for a while, as far as prosecutions were concerned. However, it still had a great deal of social influence through its influence on the policy of organizations such as the British Board of Film Classification.
“This has been an ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ moment, with the fiction that the OPA was actually doing anything finally blown out of the water.
“However, opponents of censorship need to be very cautious indeed: what comes next is likely to be a thoroughgoing review of obscenity and, in the current climate, my expectation is that that will see a widening and toughening of existing restrictive laws such as the Criminal Justice Act (2008) – more colloquially known as the “extreme porn law”.
“That is not at all necessarily a progressive move.”
The CPS and BBFC elected not to comment at this moment in time.
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