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How extreme is your pr0n? Depends on your lawyer

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Analysis In matters of extreme porn, the message of recent cases seems to be that whether you get off increasingly depends on how familiar your legal team are with a law still in its courtroom infancy.

In Mold, Mr Andrew Robert Holland, of Coedpoeth, Wrexham, Clwyd, was originally charged on two counts of possessing extreme porn. The first charge, that he had images of "tiger porn" involving a woman and a tiger, were thrown out in January when police suddenly discovered the volume switch on their PC – and the prosecution withdrew the charge. The second case followed a more tortuous route, with Holland first advised to plead guilty by a local barrister.

Then, following advice from lawyers more expert in this new law, he "vacated his plea", and turned up in court a couple of weeks ago ready to defend himself. At this point, the CPS decided to offer no evidence and again the case was dismissed. We have asked Mold police if it is possible to see copies of the second clip, in order to advise readers on what is now considered non-pornographic. So far we have received no response.

Holland’s defence was always that the clip was not solicited, had been sent to him by friends as a joke, and was disgusting - but, as far as he was concerned, in no way sexual. We understand, from sources close to the case, that it may have involved some form of male genital mutilation.

According to experts, it appears likely that the clip may have been an extreme variant of that genre now typified by more mainstream movies such as Jackass: intended to shock and disturb – but not actually pornographic.

Unfortunately, that may not be how the courts see it. On Friday, August 13, Ashley Thomas Johnstone, 20, of Lansdowne Grove, Wigston, Leicestershire, was sentenced to 32 weeks' detention, suspended for two years, and ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work in respect of two charges: supplying cannabis, and possession of a clip described as extreme porn.

Victoria Rose, prosecuting, told Leicester Crown Court that the clip was of men mutilating themselves.

Mr Johnstone had received it by Bluetooth. In mitigation, Ronald Birkett told the court: "Someone sent it to him. He looked at the first 30 seconds and switched it off in shock and forgot to delete it."

Sound familiar?

This follows an almost carbon copy case from Sunderland in July, in which a man caught with a short video clip on his phone showing a man's genitals being mutilated was found guilty of possessing extreme porn. He had not solicited the clip: it had been sent to him as a joke.

But as far as the courts were concerned, even his defence had difficulty in understanding why he possessed the clip. According to Defence solicitor Geoff Pearson: "I can't imagine why you would want to watch this, unless you were the particular type of person that found some gratification in it.”

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