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Brits Ban Possession of Violent Pornography
By: Michael Hayes (Courtesy of
Posted: 8/30/2006

London — Following a 30-month campaign by Liz Longhurst, the mother of a slain schoolteacher, the British government has announced plans to make possession of violent pornography punishable by up to three years in prison.

The new law criminalizes possession of pornographic material that features “violence that was, or appeared to be, life-threatening or likely to result in serious and disabling injury. According to Home Office minister Vernon Coaker, the rise of the Internet has made such material more widely available.

"The vast majority of people find these forms of violent and extreme pornography deeply abhorrent," Coaker said. "Such material has no place in our society but the advent of the Internet has meant that this material is more easily available and means existing controls are being by-passed — we must move to tackle this."

Current law already forbids the publication and distribution of violent sexual content under the Obscene Publications Act.

Liz Longhurst, the mother of a woman killed by a man who had collected vast amounts of pornography depicting violent acts such as strangulation, began a campaign to close what she saw as a loophole in the law.

Over a 30-month period, Longhurst gathered 50,000 signatures for her cause and won the support of a number of key politicians.

Longhurst, whose daughter, Jane, was strangled in 2003, believes sexually violent images are to blame for her daughter’s murder. Police say her assailant, Graham Coutts, was propelled by an obsession with necrophilia and asphyxial sex when he strangled the 31-year-old special needs teacher with a pair of tights. At the trial he admitted to having a seven-year addiction to online violent pornography. He was sentenced to life in prison for the murder.

“My daughter, Sue, and myself are very pleased that after 30 months of intensive campaigning we have persuaded the government to take action against these horrific Internet sites, which can have such a corrupting influence and glorify extreme sexual violence,” Longhurst said.

Members of Parliament Martin Salter and David Lepper, who had launched a nationwide petition calling for images depicting rape, torture and necrophilia to be treated under the law the same way as child pornography, welcomed the government’s decision.

“It is great news that the government has not only listened, but has responded to calls to outlaw access to sickening Internet images, which can so easily send vulnerable people over the edge,” Salter said.

While many lawmakers welcomed the change in the law, a spokesman for a BDSM group called criminalization of possession troubling.

“The theory that people should be punished for viewing an image that simply involves the idea of sexuality with violence shows the proposal being made is to introduce a form of thought crime,” the spokesman said.

Director of the Libertarian Alliance Shaun Gabb said that extending the ban on possession of such content gives the police “inquisitorial powers to come in your house and see what you’ve got.”

The change in the law applies to England and Wales. Plans are underway to extend the law to Northern Ireland. The Scottish Executive is expected to announce its plans separately.


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