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Church gives blessing for phone masts

Radiation and porn concerns raised

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The Anglican Church has given its blessing for mobile phone masts to be erected in two of its church towers in Yorkshire - just as long as they're not used to transmit porn.

Around 50 people protested to plans by Vodafone to erect masts within the towers of St Margaret, Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales and Holy Trinity, Knaresborough, claiming that the masts could cause health problems.

However, last week an ecclesiastical court gave the go-ahead - just as long as the masts met safety guidelines and weren't used to carry mucky material.

The Chancellor of the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds, His Honour Judge Simon Grenfell, said that the masts should be checked regularly to ensure that they don't breach international guidelines for radiation emissions.

And in a bid to alleviate local concern that the churches might be used to transmit obscene material, he ruled that Vodafone must "use reasonable endeavours, so far as technology allows, to prevent the use of the equipment for sending a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character, or for any purpose referred to in section 43 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 (as amended) or which might otherwise be contrary to English law."

In his ruling Judge Grenfell added that he was aware of the possibility that the content of some telephonic messages along with text messages and some Web content "would be inconsistent with the role of the church".

However, he said: "So long as a telecommunications company does not promote, for example, indecent traffic over its network, it cannot be said to be responsible for such traffic any more than a highways authority is responsible for the way in which people drive on its roads.

"Similarly, there is no distinction between the transmission of a radio signal and telephone signal that passes through a cable through or over church property. The responsibility for the transmission of an inappropriate signal or message is that of the person or body transmitting it and the receiver, not that of the telecommunications provider," he said.

Apparently, Vodafone has come up with a "possible formula for a condition that could be imposed on the faculties, which could, so far as practicable, minimise the use of the network for inappropriate traffic.

"I have assumed that this is technically feasible," said Judge Grenfell. ®

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