Dirty Books

In which we consider the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act


The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act gets its Royal Assent today. And it might have banned extreme porn. It might have banned some quite ordinary books, too. Nobody knows. Lord Hunt, who pushed the bill through the Lords and defeated opposition amendments, stated in the form letter he sent out to correspondants that he didn’t know what pictures would or wouldn’t be banned by the bill he was promoting; that would be up to the courts. The government defeated an opposition amendment which would have explicitly said the bill would only cover material also covered by the Obscene Publications Act. However, at the same time, the Ministry of Justice says that it does only cover this material, in any case, even though the government refused to say this in the text of the bill. Campaigners are celebrating their “fight” to criminalise Things They Don’t Approve Of; but at the same time, The Register is reporting that the law hasn’t yet taken effect, and – when they wrote that, at least – nobody had decided when it would. So, in other words, nothing is certain and nobody knows what is happening. The government hastily inserted a clause to state that it does not cover photos of events you participated in,* but nobody knows exactly what counts as “participation”. There may be more debates on what the bill actually should and should not do, or a select committee. There may, indeed, be jam tomorrow – it would certainly fit in with the general tone.

Meanwhile, people are still hard at work campaigning to get the thing dropped, or, at least, to raise enough of a stink that its unworkability becomes obvious. It’s good to see, too, the effect all this has had on kinky people around the country, too. The public face of BDSM in the UK isn’t a very good-looking one; but with this legislation on the way, lots of sane and ordinary people** put their heads out, went to the press, and said: I’m your ordinary man or woman in the street. There’s nothing wrong with being kinky, or with liking the things I like, and I don’t do anything illegal, so why are you making it illegal to own photos of the things I do?

* assuming that everything is consensual and above-board, everyone else taking part was happy and smiling and so on, of course.

** part of the reason the public face of BDSM is so ugly is that the people who stand out aren’t the sane, ordinary people; they are the ones who shout loudly because they’re in it for the money and their ego. For more on how the UK BDSM “scene” is broken, I suggest reading Bitchy Jones, when you’re not at work of course.

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