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However, they further pointed out that when it came to interpreting the law, Ministerial statements were largely worthless. The courts would look at what was written into statute: not what was handed out in the press releases.

They also added that it was not uncommon for the Police to receive as little as two weeks warning of imminent changes to the Law. Therefore no real advice could be provided until they had received official guidance from either the Crown Prosecution Service or government.

According to CAAN: “West Midlands CID were polite, helpful and as supportive as they could be under the circumstances. They treated us with respect and believed our questions to be valid and worthy of consideration.

“However, two weeks is not enough time to allow everyone who would need advice to visit police stations for advice and properly dispose of images which would be an offense to own.”

During debate on this law in parliament, Harry Cohen, MP, was very concerned to ensure that it used clear definitions, to ensure the public would know when they were breaking it. He is therefore unimpressed by the possibility that the timetable for information could be so tight.

Speaking exclusively to The Register, he commented: "this reasonable request for police advice met with an incredulous, unaware and uninformed response. This is not satisfactory and in my opinion both the Home Office and the police should get together well before the law comes into force in order to give proper advice when specifically asked by those trying not to be the wrong side of the new law." ®

Update:

In a statement to the Register, the Ministry of Justice said that it is “currently in discussions with the Police about the necessary preparation for implementation of this legislation.”

It added: “We will provide further information about the offence for members of the public closer to the date of implementation, which is currently planned for January 2009. We will seek to give a significantly longer period of notice than two weeks.”

It remains to be seen whether sufficient information will be available more than two weeks before the Act commences.

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