Feeds

Kent police bring obscenity charge over online chat

Court hearing next week

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Kent Police have charged an individual with nine offences under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 (OPA) in a case that could potentially see online chat in the UK subjected to a much stricter regulation regime.

A Kent Police spokeswoman confirmed to The Register it had brought the charges against the individual, and that these charges relate to online chat.

The individual is also charged with two offences of making indecent images of children and four of possessing indecent images of children. They have been bailed pending their next court appearance at Dartford magistrates on 6 May.

The implications of this case, if it proceeds, could be legal dynamite. At present, under the Obscene Publications Act (pdf), a publication is obscene if its overall effect is to "tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely ... to read, see or hear" it. For the purposes of the law, publication appears to involve distribution, circulation, selling or giving an article to a third party.

The idea that a conversation – albeit one embodied in text chat – can be considered to be "published" would be fairly radical. The Kent case could ultimately be more significant than last year’s controversial prosecution in respect of Girls (Scream) Aloud.

It may be no coincidence that this case has surfaced in the Kent area.

During consultations on the extreme porn law (pdf), a number of police forces argued that the provisions proposed by government be made more strict. One police force in particular stood out, arguing that the new law should apply not simply to images, but to written material as well.

A Detective Sergeant wrote at the time (p.297): "There remains a legislative gap in terms of written fantasy material specifically about child rape and murder, which is now commonplace. The legislation should include the possession of written or printed material of this nature as it is equally as disturbing as the images and equally contributes to an offender’s motivation and fantasy behaviour."

The force in question was none other than Kent. ®

Bootnote

We have asked both Kent Police and the CPS for further comment on these charges, but they have declined to add anything to the above.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
In the next four weeks, 100 people will decide the future of the web
While America tucks into Thanksgiving turkey, the world will be taking over the net
Microsoft EU warns: If you have ties to the US, Feds can get your data
European corps can't afford to get complacent while American Big Biz battles Uncle Sam
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.