Ground-breaking trial redefines obscenity law.

7th January 2012

For immediate release.

Ground-breaking trial redefines obscenity law. 
The International Union of Sex Workers is delighted by the unanimous verdicts of “not guilty” on all counts in the trial of Michael Peacock that concluded at Southwark Crown Court on Friday 6th January.

Michael’s courage and determination in pursuing this case was the first challenge to the Obscene Publications Act 1959 for many years. Understandably, most people charged with offences under this Act plead guilty as an innocent plea followed by a court case that returns a guilty verdict will result in a harsher sentence. This has the effect of leaving police and CPS opinion of what is “obscene” untested.

The DVDs that were the subject of this prosecution were sold through Michael’s website, sleazymichael.com, and on Craigslist. They contained scenes of male fisting, urination and BDSM. Michael was charged with six counts of publishing obscene articles likely to “deprave and corrupt”. The jury saw a substantial amount of the content which the police and CPS deemed illegal and required less than two hours deliberation to return unanimous not guilty verdicts on all counts.  Therefore material showing the activities depicted is no longer defined as obscene in law.

It’s time to decriminalise sex between consenting adults. 
Lady Chatterley trial of 1960 (R v Penguin Books) is still quoted as precedent in obscenity trials; the jury’s response in R v Peacock shows public opinion has clearly moved on considerably.

Catherine Stephens, activist with the International Union of Sex Workers, says, “In a week that has also seen the collapse of the Sheila Farmer trial for brothel keeping, it is time to decriminalise the sexual activities of consenting adults, whether or not they are in front of a camera. These two trials were an appalling waste of public resources: the law as it stands does nothing to enhance the safety either of the general public or those who work in the adult industry and often actively increases the dangers we face.”

Michael Peacock says, “Responsible treatment of pornography would allow adults who want to access sexually explicit materials freedom to do so and protect those who are underage or do not wish to view such content. The current legal framework fails to do either of these things. I give my thanks to my legal team at Hodge Jones Allen, the judge who heard my case and the twelve people who served on the jury whose maturity and commonsense has changed the law.”

Hazel Eracleous, Chair of Backlash comments, “Backlash is delighted that a jury decided it is no longer appropriate to prosecute people based on consensual adult sexual activity. We support the rights of adults to participate in all consensual sexual activities and to watch, read and create any fictional interpretation of such in any media. We will continue to raise awareness of the unseen consequences of these draconian laws, provide legal advice and defend those same consenting adults caught up in the Extreme Pornography and Obscene Publication laws.”

Myles Jackman, solicitor at Hodge Jones Allen with a specialist interest in obscenity cases states, “This case shows the Obscene Publications Act is no longer effective in the age of the internet.”

Jerry Barnett, Chairman of the Adult Industry Trade Association (AITA), says, “We congratulate Michael Peacock on his victory. The idea that depictions of consenting adult sexual activity can be deemed obscene is a throwback to an earlier age. The adult industry continues to develop and adopt technologies that prevent children from accessing sexual content. We see no need for adults to be protected from it – a free society should protect the rights of adults to participate in any consenting sexual act they choose.”

For further information contact:

Catherine Stephens
activist, International Union of Sex Workers
catherine@iusw.org
07772 638748
The IUSW is an organisation of people in adult services and entertainment and allies that campaigns for evidence-based policy and practice that protects the human rights and safety of those involved in the adult industry and includes meaningful consultation of those most affected.

Hazel Eracleous, Chair of Backlash
contact@backlash-uk.org.uk
Backlash is an umbrella organisation providing legal, academic and campaigning resources defending freedom of sexual expression. We support the rights of adults to participate in all consensual sexual activities and to watch, read and create any fictional interpretation of such in any media.

Jerry Barnett, Chairman of the Adult Industry Trade Association (AITA)
jerry@aita.co.uk
07921 339 776
The Adult Industry Trade Association (AITA) was created to support businesses, services and individuals in the adult industry within the UK. AITA aims to bring together anyone working within the adult sector, whatever their speciality.

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3 Responses to “Ground-breaking trial redefines obscenity law.”

  1. [...] in the same week Michael Peacock was being prosecuted for the distribution of obscene DVDs under the  Obscene Publications Act [...]

  2. [...] Stephens, activist with the International Union of Sex Workers, commented: ‘In a week that has also seen the collapse of the Sheila Farmer trial for brothel keeping, it is [...]