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The UK 'extreme' p*rn law

By Caroline Shepherd - posted Friday, 23 May 2008

On the May 9, 2008, The Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill received Royal Assent. Part of this Bill, Part 5, Clause 63 to be precise, is to criminalise “extreme” pornography.


An “extreme image” is an image of any of the following -
(a) an act which threatens or appears to threaten a person’s life
(b) an act which results in or appears to result (or be likely to result) in serious injury to a person’s anus, breasts or genitals,
(c) an act which involves or appears to involve sexual interference with a human corpse, a person performing or appearing to perform an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal, where (in each case) any such act, person or animal depicted in the image is or appears to be real.
From UK Parliament.


Let me give you a little background.

This new law is in response to the campaign by Liz Longhurst whose daughter Jane was found dead on April 19, 2003, having gone missing on  March 14, 2003. She had been murdered by Graham Coutts (found guilty on February 4, 2004, and again after an appeal on July 4, 2007).

Coutts was obsessed with asphyxiation and strangulation. The day before he murdered Jane, he had downloaded violent pornographic images depicting such content. According to the prosecution, the pornography triggered Coutts to murder Jane.

After the trial, her mother Liz Longhurst stated:

I feel pressure should be brought to bear on internet service providers to close down or filter out these pornographic sites, so that people like Jane's killer may no longer feed their sick imaginations and do harm to others. BBC.


The Jane Longhurst Trust was set up and, with the support of Martin Salter MP, they petitioned to criminalise the possession of extreme pornographic material (gathering about 50,000 signatures), which would include that which realistically depicted, as outlined above, violent sexual acts. This material, to clarify, is now illegal to possess irrespective of no laws having been broken in the making of it.

Some feminists in the UK have responded favourably to this new law on the grounds that “extreme” pornographic websites promotes violence against women in the name of sexual gratification. Some even argue, “Pornography killed Jane Longhurst”.

The fact that Coutts was known to be fascinated with asphyxiation before he was looking it up on porn sites seems to be lost in this. Coutts had said himself he wanted to kill women from the age of 15. Believing that these thoughts would one day lead to criminal actions, he sought psychiatric treatment - this was twelve years before the murder. Five years before the murder, he discussed his obsession with his GP.

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About the Author

Caroline Shepherd blogs about feminism, sex work and the sex industry, religion, fashion and other bits and bobs.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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