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Extreme pr0n suspect has his internet access suspended

Heard not seen, at least not online

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A new threat for those suspected of ogling extreme porn arrives today in the shape of an internet ban pending trial. This is what lawyers might term "an interesting idea", and one that could come to cause grief far more widely if it catches on.

Phillip Heard, aged 57, of Coed Fedwen, Birchgrove, in Swansea, faces 19 charges of having images of a "grossly offensive, disgusting" or "obscene" character.

He is alleged to have possessed images which explicitly and realistically portrayed an act which "resulted, or was likely to result in serious injury" to a person's breasts and genitals, as well as images of a person "performing an act of intercourse" with a dog and a horse. Whether this was in the same episode or two subsequent episodes is not made clear.

Heard was committed to Swansea Crown Court where he will appear next month.

The two aspects of this case that may raise legal eyebrows are first of all a bail condition set last week - a requirement that Mr Heard does not access the internet or buy any item from which it is possible to use the internet – and second, the report by thisissouthwales.co.uk that these allegations "date back to August 28, and September 16, 2008".

The issue with the bail condition is that, under Human Rights Law, it could well be argued that this condition is itself a punishment, delivered in advance of court hearing and verdict. As such, it may constitute a breach of the Human Rights Act. If it is allowed to stand, it certainly flags up the serious risk for IT personnel in future that, from the moment they are charged with certain online offences, they may find their access to the net taken away.

The date of the allegations is also of interest. We have checked with local press and courts and are awaiting comment from the Police. However, if the offences were committed on the dates given, Mr Heard ought to walk free: the extreme porn law did not come into being until 26 January 2009 and is not, as far as we are aware, retrospective in its application. ®

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