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You can’t invent cases as strange as this: a book that is not only legal, but can be borrowed from various Australian libraries* can, in digital form, land the owner with a child porn conviction.

According to News's Hobart Mercury, David Traynor, an alderman in the Clarence council in Tasmania, was convicted for possessing child exploitation material when police found a copy of the 150-year-old book The Pearl stored on his council laptop (among a large number of pornographic but legal images).

The book is not only legal in Australia, but can be ordered from a host of bookshops and is even published as an ebook.

Even more mortifying for the alderman, the material was only reported to police after his laptop was stolen, then recovered, and finally (for reasons not explained in the story) handed over to a forensics expert who duly found deleted pornography.

While it's established that anybody who stores porn on a work computer is acting foolishly, the Tasmanian courts – or law-makers – may have found a new peak of prudishness to determine that material that’s legal on paper is more menacing on a computer. Erotica fans would, it seems, do well to avoid buying it on Kindle or even, as Amazon offers, reading the first chapter online for free.

The alderman has been convicted and sentenced with a two-year good behaviour bond, and placed on Tasmania's sex offenders' register. He is launching an appeal. ®

Bootnote

*My thanks to the Twitterer @NetwonMark who identified the library catalogue entry. ®

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