back to article UK judges quietly declare text chat can be obscene

You could be committing a criminal offence next time you discuss your deepest fantasies with someone online. Alarmist? Only slightly. A ruling slipped out quietly by the Appeal Court earlier this year, and lurking in the background while the substantive case to which it applied came to court, makes it plain: the act of …

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  1. PassiveSmoking
    WTF?

    Surely this has to go against the European charter of human rights in some way. Isn't there protections for freedom of speech or of thought in there somewhere?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Forget european law, it goes against itself.

      In among the guidelines are, "bondage especially where gags are used" and films such as Pulp Fiction are legal to buy.

      It is not a case of what is against the law, it is now a case of who the CPS decide to prosecute with it.

      The original filing from parliament, as far as I understand it, didn't have a clue what it wanted to do. It only knew it wanted to protect society. It left the detail to the CPS, who have since resisted any attempts for a realistic review of their own guidelines in the face of how society has changed over the decades.

      The law a few years ago was no different. A load of wankers crying "protect the children!" got MPs to do something when, in reality, they didn't know what they were doing, and I never got a straight answer out of Maria Eagle when she was heading her department before the last election, as to the various oddities that didn't add up about the whole process.

      Net result, a load of people have been blindly making laws and guidance when, in reality, they don't actually have the remotest grip on what it is that they are trying to achieve.

      It beggers belief to this day, as to how the CPS and maniacs who have introduced such daft, ill considered legislation, with only the faintest thread of direction ... can still see through all the egg on their faces. And they STILL haven't got the guts to press the reset button and do the job right.

    2. Tom 38 Silver badge

      In the UK, there is no freedom of speech. You do have freedom of expression, but there is a long list of exclusions, including things like obscenity, indecency, threatening or abusive speech (and a vast array of others, including "imagining the death of the monarch".)

      1. ItsNotMe
        Coat

        Does this include conversations...

        ...with Sheep?

        Mine's the one with the soft wooly lining. Nearly Beer-Thirty. :-)

        1. b0llchit
          Coat

          Re: Does this include conversations...

          Well, not sheep as such, but conveying an image such as:

          Imagine that three judge panel sitting in a landscape on a bright sunny say. A cow comes along and all three judges have a fondling relation with that cow one after the other. Then the dominant bull comes along, really seeing red, and starts giving real thrusts of action to all three judges.

          Is this violent and obscene enough to bet me extradited to the UK?

          (when they do get an order, I can and will refer to the Arkell v. Pressdram case).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Happy

            Re: Re: Does this include conversations...

            That is utterly obscene.

            1. moiety

              Re: Does this include conversations...

              The judgement is obscene. Publishing is one-to-many as any fule no. One-to-one is a private conversation. Grooming is already against the law so this is either bending the rules for one particular individual or yet another land grab for what little remains of privacy.

              No sympathy whatsoever for paedophiles; but the implications of this ruling -after you add the inevitable mission-creep is truly horrific for everyone.

              Bad judge. Bad.

  2. The Axe

    See how the #porntrail is going I wouldn't be surprised if the law is extended beyond just child abuse to pretty much anything. And it will likely be used only in cases where someone wants to damage someone else and can't find any other legal route. Why? Well because just about everyone has seen some obscene material. It's only a minority who have not looked at any porn at all.

    1. NumptyScrub

      quote: "I wouldn't be surprised if the law is extended beyond just child abuse to pretty much anything."

      It already is. This is simply providing precedent that a one on one chat (text, IM) can be dealt with under the Obscene Publications Act. The Obscene Publications Act already covers anything a jury decides (on a case by case basis) to be depraving or corrupting.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Doesn't it also redefine what a "publication" is...

        Now you texting a friend is a "publication" and can be tied up in all kinds of new and exciting legal tape and opportunities for the police and their friends to abuse the law.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It was too good to last

    Here was me thinking our Judges were getting a good reputation for sensible judgements recently :(

  4. Crisp Silver badge
    Flame

    Depraving, corrupting, or obscene

    Yeah, That pretty much describes texting the missus.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    what about coca cola adverts

    i find myself depraved and corrupted by them. and they get published to basically a global audience. will coke ever have to go to jail? i doubt it. an thats before you get into the obscene way they are polluting the environment, exploiting people etc. and of course no one cares. how many coke union organisers have been murdered this month? oops was i meant to keep that quiet?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: what about coca cola adverts

      You remind of the old Bill Hicks skit, he goes on about pornography then draw parallels to ( at the time ) the twin teenagers chewing gum in the Wriggleys ad's ( "When I see them, it's not gum I'm thinking about!" ) and finally finishes up with, "Sooner or later they won't bother with the product anymore, you'll just have naked women, with a cutthroat razor held next to her shaved-pubic region and the slogan will simply say 'DRINK COKE!'.".

      These corps selling brain rotting sugar water and other laboratory developed tasty treats are already corrupting kids, by way of the product and advertising ( 9 year olds with eating disorders FFS?! ) . Use of full pornography in advertising is only a matter of time and because it makes millions of dollars for the fat-cats they won't get arrested for publishing obscene material as their highly paid team of lawyers will make sure they always have a get out clause.

      1. Aqua Marina

        Neutrogena Nipple

        Almost happenned. Channel 4 aired Neutrogena ads a long time ago with full naked body from behind, and full breasts on display from the front. Only a matter of time before the camera pans downwards!

      2. Tom 38 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: what about coca cola adverts

        If they did this, I'd stop leaving the room when the go compare ad comes on.

      3. hayseed
        Trollface

        Re: what about coca cola adverts

        > Wriggleys ad

        Freudian slip?

  6. Paul 5
    FAIL

    this could be serious - and it's not about pr0n

    Has the Court of Appeal thought this through?

    If "publication" now includes sending a private message to one other person, then emails, texts, and possibly phone calls (over the internet, or by plain old-fashioned telephone) are publication.

    This may mean many more things are covered by the law of libel (instead of mere slander). It may mean that copyrighted "content" is much more strictly controlled (not allowed to quote stuff over the phone / IM; not allowed to have background radio / CD playing while on the phone; not allowed to joke on the phone or by IM about blowing up Robin Hood airport).

    It's possible that common sense will intervene, but I'm not optimistic.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: this could be serious - and it's not about pr0n

      That's what I thought. So I read the act* and it has, for the purposes of that act only, an extremely broad definition of publish:

      "For the purposes of this Act a person publishes an article who—

      (a)distributes, circulates, sells, lets on hire, gives, or lends it, or who offers it for sale or for letting on hire; or

      (b)in the case of an article containing or embodying matter to be looked at or a record, shows, plays or projects it or, where the matter is data stored electronically, transmits that data."

      Given the law, the judges could hardly have decided differently but the decision has no effect on the meaning of publish for other offences. It's not great, but it could be worse.

      * http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Eliz2/7-8/66/section/1

      1. Dennis
        Thumb Down

        Re: this could be serious - and it's not about pr0n

        Just because a communication between two people counts as "published" (for the Obscene Publications Act) it doesn't automatically mean that the material was obscene. There is existing case law where the interpretation of "obscene" has depended on the actual or intended recipient of the material. There existing cases where the recipients were deemed to be of a sufficiently robust nature that the material would not deprave or corrupt them and thus it was not obscene.

        I suspect GS was given the wrong advice. He should have continued to plead not guilty and allowed a jury to decide whether the one recipient was going to be depraved or corrupted by the material. I imagine there was a preceding dialogue that would demonstrate that the recipient was a like minded individual and hence not corrupted by the material.

        Of course, it's possible that the material fitted within some definition of child pr0n. But if that was the case then some other legislation should have been used rather than the Obscene Publications Act.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yes it will

    Indeed, common sense *will* intervene. If it is a politicians kid that gets caught.

    1. Tom 35 Silver badge

      Re: Yes it will

      No that's not how it works.

      If it's someone with power/friends they will decide there is not much hope of a conviction, tell them dads waiting outside and off you go.

      If it's someone they don't like... bang, off to the cells you go.

      1. Make it so everyone is breaking the law* by breathing.

      2. Use selective enforcement to deal with people you don't like.

      *Make sure to use the law first on scum bags that no one will defend. Once the law is established you can use it on anyone you don't like as long as they are not "important".

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Take a letter...

    Presumably this would include me writing a racy letter to someone...?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Take a letter...

      If the person was 8 years old and you detailed how you were going to rape her, probably, yes.

      1. Graham Bartlett

        Re: Take a letter...

        If the person was 28 years old and you said you were going to put a gag on her or tie her up, then definitely yes. Seriously, that's all it takes.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Take a letter...

      Wait till another speed dater calls "rape" and see what happens, the last woman who cried it "because he didnt stay after sex" even though it was consentual.

      Women can now use text messaging to "lure" a rich mark or their "stalk prey into a corner.

      I can see a huge rise in pay-as-you-go throwaway sim cards

  9. Ged T
    WTF?

    I wonder what 'Online' means in the context of the ruling

    If I to make a phone call to some (willing) party to discuss a sexual fantasy, is that "online"?

    I mean, if the call is carried on the digital telephone network (C/SS7), is that "online"? "After all, a telephone call is carried *on* a wire*line*, you know, your honour.", said the prosecuting lawyer.

    Again, is it "online" if it happens that my telehony provider is using VoIP technology to 'transit' such a call between originator and recipient/caller and receiver? "After all, VoIP is an internet technology, your honour.", said the prosecuting lawyer.

    The lack of definition is just one wedge that can be used to cleave a wider 'applicability' and 'interpretation' to further the "they are all guilty, all the time" campaign that corrodes, further, the vestiges of freedom in this country.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Re: I wonder what 'Online' means in the context of the ruling

      Under s1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1998

      It is an offence to send an indecent, offensive or threatening letter or other form of electronic communication to another person.

      Under s43 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 and Section 92 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994

      A person who makes indecent, offensive or threatening calls to another via the telephone system network is guilty of an offence.

      Funny thing this Internet, you can sometimes find the answers you are looking for by searching using a few key words.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Steve Renouf
      Headmaster

      Re: I wonder what 'Online' means in the context of the ruling

      ERODES - not corrodes (corrosion is a chemical reaction).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I wonder what 'Online' means in the context of the ruling

        "ERODES - not corrodes (corrosion is a chemical reaction)."

        And erosion is a geological process. Haha!

  10. Maxson

    ...Yes 50 Shades of Grey *IS* legal?

    What a world.

    1. Jop
      Meh

      Does 50 shades of grey relate to how clear the law is no as to what you can say and where?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Send the cops to Amazon right away

    If "written fantasy material specifically about child rape and murder" is now legally obscene, when are they going to prosecute Amazon for selling de Sade's "The 120 Days of Sodom"?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Send the cops to Amazon right away

      Nah, cause it's too main stream. The tv movie "Last house on the corner" includes a rape scene that is fairly brutal. It aired after this law came into existence. I thought that law outlawed films with rape in them. But this was on main stream tv. I bet if the same scene was on a private video someone could get convicted with it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Send the cops to Amazon right away

        I thought that law outlawed films with rape in them

        Where on earth did you get that idea?

        Clockwork Orange?

        Death Wish something or other.

        Let's not mention Irreversible.

    2. John G Imrie

      Re: Send the cops to Amazon right away

      Add Battle Royal, the manga version, to the list. Which I bought from Waterstones.

  12. Semaj
    Thumb Down

    "This decision ... closes one door where people that would abuse children share and indulge in their fantasies online without the use of images, and prior to now have felt beyond the reach of the law in doing so."

    Excellent news - now not only are children such as Lisa Simpson protected but now they can also protect those who aren't even depicted! With any luck they'll be able to arrest those who even THINK of children soon (the pedos will have to prove they aren't thinking about kids). </sarcasm>

    Do they really think that making it as much of an crime to engage in FANTASY as carrying out the acts for real a good idea? Don't they see that those with such interests will then be more likely to just have kids of their own purely to abuse them?

    1. Crisp Silver badge

      This isn't just about pedos

      That ruling could easily cover any fantasies you might harbour about punching your boss in the face.

      1. Semaj
        Big Brother

        Re: This isn't just about pedos

        Indeed - it's very very dangerous :/

  13. Jane Fae
    Happy

    Not just about "online"

    I note at least one poster assuming this is merely about the online world. No: that's not what this ruling means.

    A point made to me by the CPS, which for space reasons i could not include in the article was:

    "the point of the appeal against the terminating ruling was the Crown Court judge’s interpretation of “persons” not whether or not an online chat was subject to the Act, which is made clear in paragraph 21 of the judgment"

    It just so happens that the most likely place for one-to-one chat to be picked up nowadays is online...and the OPA is adapting to a new digital reality.

    Jane

  14. Khaptain Silver badge

    Frustration frustration frustration

    When the law-makers have difficulty defining the laws how the hell are we supposed to stand a chance in insuring that we live law-abidingly.

    Rules and regulations no longer appear to have any other purpose than ensuring that the populace can be held to account for almost anything that they do. This is turn ensures that the corrupt remain in power.

  15. PsychicMonkey
    Big Brother

    What about...

    If I write a novel, which I release online (or offline) which is about a detective trying to hunt down a rapist/killer, as part of the novel is describes what the perp has done to his victims. Most people would get aroused by it (which I believe is required?) but some might.

    Does this then mean I have produced obscene material?

    This is utterly ridiculous. Another "well meaning" law to be abused.

    Isn't it time we reboot the matrix?

    1. PsychicMonkey
      FAIL

      sorry typo.

      would not get aroused!

      fail, because my typing skills did.

    2. John G Imrie

      Re: What about...

      "She should have run faster"

      --Oswald Danes - Torchwod Miracle Day

    3. AdamWill

      Re: What about...

      It certainly can, yes. I think there have been 'extreme' novels of this sort which weren't published in the U.K. for fear of the OPA.

  16. Jim Lewis

    Not quite the scenario

    @ Michelle Knight

    'A load of wankers crying "protect the children!" '

    I'm pretty sure we're trying to protect the children FROM the wankers

  17. Purlieu

    Offline

    We're gradually being driven offline. You can hardly say boo in case some prude gets "offended". Like being offended gives them extra rights somehow. Then there's avoiding saying something about Robin Hood Airport etc. Any why is it these days that whatever happens, somebody has to go to jail?

  18. chrisf1
    Coat

    argumentum ad absurdum

    I followed the article's link to the 'charging practice' part of the Crown Prosecution Services website covering the Obscene Publications act.

    This contains blunt text that has highlighted a number of practices of which I was not previously aware of a perverted sexual nature. I therefore consider it depraved and obscene and it has by definition corrupted my innocence.

    I therefore would like to complain about the CPS website under the obscene publications act .

    It is also one of the most entertaining official documents I have ever read - for all the wrong reasons.

  19. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Ignoring the sex for a moment

    If text and IM chats are now publication - what about using them at work?

    Are IM discussion with HR, or legal now still allowed?

    Is a patent invalidated if we discuss it internally on Lynq in the same way as I would on the phone?

    If I get an SMS about a server down - has that been published? Do I need to make a market announcement to the shareholders since I have published material affecting the performance of the business.

    And I might just be being cynical but of course there is now no need for a warrant to intercept sms/IM because you have "published" it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      WTF?

      Re: Ignoring the sex for a moment

      What have you just done?

      Also, what if I go to www.google.com and start typing in something obscene? Since ajax is transmitting each letter as I type it, is this 'publication' too? Even if I never intended to press enter?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Ignoring the sex for a moment

        I work in medical stuff for a PLC.

        There are memos every day about what can and can't be said publicly without there being an official stock market announcement. There are vastly more complex rules about confidentiality of data. We even had to change email provider because the previous one had servers in the USA and the lawyers decided that if an email went through American wires then a whole new set of HIPAA rules would apply.

        Then there is a different set of rules about patents and who things can be discussed with at different filing stages of a filing. We even have a pet lawyer sit in on some meetings so that they can be claimed as privileged during discovery.

        If some judge has just determined that all point-point electronic communications are "public" then the whole medical/financial/defence industries are going to have to go back to quill pens.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    I am confused?

    How does "full-hand fisting" become better or worse, or obscene, or less or more obscene than "full fist handing"?

    Is that just a girl girl thing, a guy girl thing, a girl guy thing, a guy guy thing; and does it make a difference if it's vaginal, anal or penile?

    Obviously though the insertion aspect would make it full hand fisting or is that full fist handing?

    I suppose the issue rests on exactly what is being inserted into what, in order to define the point of insertion and reception.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I am confused?

      If you can get a fist up your hog's eye you should certainly publish that on the internet.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The question of online

    I find it interesting to note that the question that the appeals court ruled on was about the act itself, and the interpretation by His Honour Judge MacDonald where he said it was the same as two people in an empty room having the same conversation was not based on what the act says. In the judgement the relevant bit of the act is:

    (3)For the purposes of this Act a person publishes an article who—

    (a)distributes, circulates, sells, lets on hire, gives, or lends it, or who offers it for sale or for letting on hire; or.

    (b)in the case of an article containing or embodying matter to be looked at or a record, shows, plays or projects it or, where the matter is data stored electronically, transmits that data."

    All the appeals court did was rule that since this the data was stored electonically and transmitted it could be considered under the act. As far as I can tell the appeals court did not make any ruling on whether the material published was obscene. In fact, as far as I can tell, they even gave a way out when they referenced:

    The other provision of the 1959 Act we should mention is section 2(6) which provides:

    "In any proceedings against a person under this section the question whether an article is obscene shall be determined without regard to any publication by another person unless it could reasonably have been expected that the publication by the other person would follow from publication by the person charged."

    And it seems to my non-legal mind all the defense had to show was that there was no reasonable expectation that further publication could be expected. Of course it could be saying the exact opposite, in which case please be kind.

    It think it was worth commenting on the Girls Aloud case since only text was involved, while in this case there were images which as far as I can tell could have prosecuted seperately if the publication piece didn't stand up.

  22. Ned Fowden
    Big Brother

    laughable

    to think that anyone still believes that freedom of speech exists anywhere

    laughable to think that anyone is surprised that this wasn't inevitable

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missionary position, lights off and dont enjoy it

    Thats the british view of sex and be dammed if you'll be allowed to do anything else.

    On the one hand I understand why it was applied in this case, on the other, this IS going to be abused. As a member of the Alternative community I know they will eventually be comming for me, even though I've never done anything wrong or thought anything definable as wrong, I just think different. Outsid ethe bedroom I'm in a loving, stabl;e relationship, I run my own business, pay my taxes and keep on the right side of the law. But its increasingly the case of be different, stick your head up out the trenches and it'll get taken off but someone on a moral crusade.

    Its ok To be Gay now, and hell that took way to long to happen, but because you enjoy a bit of slap and tickle in the bedroom, you are now a potential criminal, child molester and all round deviant.

    I really really wanted to have some great, long, soapbox rant about it but to be honest I cant, I just feel saddened by it all. I hope our children will enjoy the boring, sterile, unexciting, lawer controlled world we are creating them. I just feel so sad and disparing about the world my children are going to be born into, granted they'll be safe, but I'd intended making sure of that myself anyway.

    1. Graham Bartlett
      Flame

      Re: Missionary position, lights off and dont enjoy it

      Too right. And lest people think this is a one-off,

      * Simon Walsh, who worked for Boris Johnson, was fired for having two pictures of naked men. One was young but definitely over 18; and the other was wearing a gasmask. The CPS are pressing charges for kiddy porn in the first case and extreme porn in the second case.

      * A woman using the pseudonym "Legally Bland" was sacked from her job as a social worker, because she attended BDSM parties and had some photos taken of herself. Never mind that the policemen she'd worked with turned up to speak for her at her hearing. She's currently fighting this (with the help of an organisation called BackLash) under unfair dismissal laws.

      There's a bitter irony in these people having their lives destroyed at the same time as "Fifty Shades of Grey" is topping the bestseller charts...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Missionary position, lights off and dont enjoy it

        In the Simon Walsh case, which is the one that has the #porntrial hash-tag on Twitter, a lot of people are asking how the police came to know about a 3 year-old Hotmail message with attachments. Apparently the CPS has now dropped the charge over the photo of the gas-mask wearer.

        What is also known is that apparently Simon Walsh was previously involved with prosecutions against police officers while in the job he was sacked from. Now, what possible reason could the police have for trying to put one over on him?

        1. Martin 47

          Re: Missionary position, lights off and dont enjoy it

          More here about the Simon Walsh case http://heresydungeon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/the-trial-of-simon-walsh-at-kingston.html

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    UK law makers are complete w nkers! Well done for totally showing the UK up. Why are these 'people' allowed to even breathe?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh won't someone etc...

    Kent Police reject this. They told us: "The only crusade Kent Police is on is to protect children from abuse including sexual exploitation. This decision ... closes one door where people that would abuse children share and indulge in their fantasies online without the use of images, and prior to now have felt beyond the reach of the law in doing so."

    Ah, seems the police are no strangers to the "Oh won't someone think of the children!" gambit. Unbelievably though, they seem to have made it work.

    You know what, damn this country. I'm sick and tired of people telling other people how to think, act, behave or speak. What gives anyone the right to decide what two consenting adults can or cannot do, or even can or cannot talk about? A lordship? Yeah, because they are not historically known for bizarre sexual preferences [Lord Laidlaw anyone?].

    It's 3pm and I am definitely leaving for the pub.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Oh won't someone etc...

      > What gives anyone the right to decide

      I guess it's the gun control laws.

      1. richard 7

        Re: Oh won't someone etc...

        Yeah cause they worked so well didnt they

  26. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Flame

    And so we have another law

    where no one needs to complain, for someone to get banged up.

    I for one, am heartily sick, of seeing the criminal justice system being used to dictate some arbitrary morality upon society. I really have no interest in what people watch, or do amongst consenting adults, as long as no one else gets hurt. Endof.

    Remember the extreme porn law ? Just taking a screencap of certain films, despite being BBFC approved will get you banged up. And you're forbidden to mention the clip came from a BBFC approved film in court.

  27. LordHighFixer
    Coat

    I am still wondering why

    The Olympic committee has not been prosecuted for that pictograph depicting Lisa Simpson, a known minor, giving oral pleasure to a yet to be identified other. Clearly it is published and pornographic. And what are those other figures near by? Is she being forced to perform this action?

    Mine is the one with a well worn copy of Lolita in the pocket.

    1. Graham Bartlett

      Re: I am still wondering why

      "Yet to be identified other"? It's Bart.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I am still wondering why

      1. It's Homer

      2. Yes, as is obvious by homer's arm holding her head

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But how...

    How were these chat logs discovered, and GS taken to court? Who is monitoring this stuff...?

  29. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    That audience of one...

    "There could be no sensible reason for the legislature having excluded otherwise obscene material from the scope of the legislation, merely because it was likely to be read by, and therefore liable to deprave and corrupt, only one person..."

    Perhaps there couldn't, but it surely offers a simple defence. Since the audience is one person and the jury has to decide whether the material is likely to deprave or corrupt, can't they just ask the audience? The recipient just stands up in court and swears under oath that they weren't bothered by it. The jury pretty much *has* to decide that the material "wasn't likely to" deprave because they have sworn testimony that it "didn't".

  30. Trevor 7
    FAIL

    Did the UK judges go to US public schools?

    The inability to determine the difference between singular "person" and plural "persons" is something I expect out the US public school system.

    Sounds like the first judge understood the concept.

    Is this some sort of chav - effect: the more of them there are the stupider they become

  31. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Mark .

      Re: Now Reality

      If he did harm to your child, then he should be prosecuted for that.

      If it's simply that he thought about it and wrote that down - well, perhaps we can argue about whether we should lock people up for thinking about doing Bad Things, but you really are wandering down the road of thought crime and pre-crime.

      And the OPA is absolutely the wrong law - it is not about protecting children, or an intention to do harm against specific people. It's about criminalising anything deemed to "deprave or corrupt". The CPS considers a range of consensual S&M acts between adults to fall under this. This precedent means people could be locked up even for a kinky private chat, based on what a jury thinks, even though they should have never seen it.

      Perhaps we should have laws on intent to commit a crime against children (similar to intent to commit other crimes). But the OPA is not it.

      1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    2. AdamWill

      Re: Now Reality

      I'm sure everyone can sympathize with your position. However, there is a well-known saying in the legal profession - 'hard cases make bad law'. Your case could be designed for this saying to be applied to it. Assuming your characterization is accurate, GS certainly did something bad. However, it is not always a good idea to write or stretch legislation to cover single examples of bad conduct which no-one could find a specific law against, without considering the potential ill effects of that legislation in _other_ cases. It's all well and good stretching the Obscene Publications Act to breaking point to punish a creep...until you find it being abused to persecute people in much different circumstances. This case doesn't just punish your creep, TC; the law doesn't work that way. It sets a precedent in future that a law which was intended to apply to mass publications can be used to police private conversations. Surely you can see why people are worried about this?

    3. Jane Fae

      Re: Now Reality

      According to Maidstone Crown Court, reporting restrictions have been lifted.

      Given what we have discussed in the past, though, i'd say that the files you have access to may be covered by more than reporting restrictions.

      Please be careful....

      jane xx

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        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Now Reality

          @Totally Confused:

          > Why do I have copies of the chat logs which were actually SQL not IRC.

          Of all the fora to enter an ill-informed discussion over technology, I suspect this is not the right one (indeed, it makes one wonder how you ended up on this site in the first place?).

          SQL is not used by humans for communicating between one and another: it is used by computers for communicating between an application and a database. In this case, the application protocol being used by the participants was IRC; the fact that a record of the conversation was committed to a database using SQL does not mean that any participant even knew that SQL existed.

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    5. Daggersedge

      Re: Now Reality

      I wondered where you would turn up after you left uk.legal. Tired of people picking your posts to bits there?

      In case you haven't got it, I doubt what you say is true. Even if it were true, it would not excuse this ruling. It's clear that the ordinary man has no rights in the UK. People like you are only making the situation worse.

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  32. AdamWill

    Offences against children?

    "This is a landmark case [and] a good opportunity from a law enforcement point of view. It opens up the possibility of more people being prosecuted for offences against children."

    Surely you missed a word out there. It should obviously read "It opens up the possibility of more people being prosecuted for offences against imaginary children."

  33. Andus McCoatover
    Windows

    Take to the ridiculous extreme. I send a text message "Fuc*k you, sunshine", and I'm banged up....

    Surely there must be some sense of common sense and proportion in Britain?

    Oh, wait....

  34. Allan 1

    So basically, my texts and skype conversations to my girlfriend, currently in the US, are now illegal as they containt "flirtations and descriptive content" that would make some people cringe.

    How long before they just make sex itself illegal except for procreation, and even then it will require a licence and full montoring unfrt RIPA by council officials to make sure its not being actually, enjoyed?

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      1. Mark .

        But then the chat in this case was between two consenting adults too.

        They might have described an imaginary fantasy non-consensual adult - but what if the commenter and his girlfriend were into doing a rape fantasy? Or maybe an underage school-scene play?

        And the Obscene Publications Act is not limited to depictions portrayed as "non-consensual".

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  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not the place

    Guys this isnt the place, please remeber the way our legal system works, not happy with the results? then take private action. These forums are not the place to be carrying on your case.

    The fact of the matter is, win or loose this case has further poisoned our right to be consenting adults because the wrong law has been applied to the wrong sitauation.

    If, TC, you think that this is the ONLY time this will be applied then whilst I'm truly sorry for what you have been through, you are being neive.This will now at the very least become one of those 'other offenses' used to bolster a case and broadside people who shouldnt have to worry about it. 'Oh dear Mr xxx, we cant prove that you were texting when you hit that padestrian, but oh, lookee here, you texted your wife you were going to tie her up and spank her when you got home an hour/day/week ago.....' Thats the way the real world works.

    Our sucessive Govts love bad and overly broad laws, because our legal system works on precident this makes for a bad situation, hence the examples cited in earlier pages. Put on the sex offenders list because of a cartoon of Lisa Simpson? Really? And thats ok is it? A law should be clearly defined so there are few loopholes as possible for people to use. A law should NOT be a generic 'let some other entity decide what they feel like', not least because every defenedant you haul up is going to argue the case and pull the ruling apart.

    Thought crimes are not covered by our laws and they should not be (although I can think of cases where just existing should). Trying to legislate the danger and badness out of our world will simply not work and lead us into a state where our kids are still stuck to TV screens and Consoles because they cant/dare'nt do anything else. A world where a quick glance will land any man (or woman) in hot water because the opposite sex 'looked 18 yeronner but I didnt ask before I looked'

    The issue here is that most of us are of a pretty broad mind, however the generation before us generally wernt and these people are the ones that make the law and try to inflict their morals on everyone else, because they can and they dont possibly beleive they can be wrong.

    Mrs TC, I'm sorry that you've been through this, I really am, but whats been done in your name is not just or correct. I am a parent, soon to be for a second time, and I know how I'd react in your shoes and I know I'd not be impressed. I would like to think that I wouldnt allow my case to be used to further the relentless hunt for boogie men and terrorists either. These people do exist but they are a great way to get any law the govt want passed, I mean who would fight against a law to catch these people. Before that it was the Communists, and then the Nazis..... There always has to be a boogie man.

    Anon so I dont have to sack myself for voicing my opinions

  36. TDP

    If this is communication between one private individual and another, and the wording of the judgement refers to publishing, surely it cannot be applied as to publish is to make available by definition to more than one person, you cannot publish to one person only ?

    Publish:

    1. To prepare and issue (printed material) for public distribution or sale.

    2. To bring to the public attention; announce.

    Public:

    Adjective: Of or concerning the people as a whole.

    Noun: Ordinary people in general; the community.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here's the unintended definition:

    By this ruling, everything Stephen Hawking says is published, because he can only speak using an electronic medium. Likewise, if you speak to someone who you know uses a hearing aid then you are publishing because you are using their electronic device to send them a message.

  38. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
    Flame

    The definition of Publication...

    ...is making something available to THE PUBLIC.

    I think that the Law Lords need a quick course with the dictionary....

  39. not_equal_to_null
    Thumb Down

    This is completely and utterly bonkers. That is all.

  40. BleedinObvious
    WTF?

    Leveson Inquiry is all a bit pointless then

    If all the texts count as publication, there's no such thing as phone hacking (text snooping) any more, and all those who had their phones hacked should be jolly well happy with this judge.

    OTOH, the press should start doing more phone hacking and exposing now - probably the only thing keeping t.h.e.m. straight, when the laws are so ripe for abuse^M^M^M^M^M^M^M^M^M.

  41. johnwerneken
    Megaphone

    Ignoring reality

    In reality speech is regulated sometimes. First, there is the 'shouting fire in a crowded theater' situation: there may be instances where a comment could lead directly to real physical harm. Perhaps bans on disclosing national secrets are another example of this. Second, there is the 'fighting words' argument, which I find to be plausible if much weaker than the 'fire' case. The rationale is that some speech is highly likely to produce inter-personal violence. I am not persuaded it should therefore be censored, but I am persuaded that it should be avoided. Third, there is speech whose sole purpose and real result would be to further a criminal conspiracy - it is part of the crime of conspiring to commit a(nother) crime.

    And then we have this, the idea that speech per se, not entailed consequences, is harmful. I don't believe it; the ugly-as-well-as-obscene might offend but I don't see how it could cause one to become depraved (whatever that is). In some ways children deserve more protection than adults from society simply because they lack means of defense. BUT isn't that protection mostly the responsibility of parents and other adults in the community, and not of the State?

    Images of child pornography are a bit different, sort of being the fruits of the abuse of children. Perhaps there ought to be a distinction between photographic evidence that someone has abused real children, and cartoon images of approximately the same thing...

    Certainly COMMENTING on such acts to a limited and willing audience is NOT endangering society, it is just offending those of us that would prefer not to be reminded that we clearly have some fellow citizens who are in favor of deplorable abuse and perhaps given to committing such abuse as well. Disgusting maybe but not criminal, at least not in my opinion.

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