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Monday, 22 May, 2000, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
Green light for porn films

Hard core pornographic videos are to be sold in licensed sex shops after the British Board of Film Classification said it would not appeal against a High Court bid to block their distribution.

Last week a High Court judge dismissed the BBFC's challenge against the decision of its own Video Appeals Committee to permit the distribution of the videos.

The "extremely explicit" videos would now be passed R18, allowing their distribution through licensed sex shops only.

It also became clear that other similar films will now be considered for R18 release.

I am staggered the BBFC is not appealing

Greg Hurlstone, Prime Time Promotions

The ruling caused widespread dismay among critics concerned over the effects the films could have if seen by children.

Mr Justice Hooper, sitting in London, had declared that the appeals committee was entitled to conclude that the risk of the videos causing harm to children or young persons "is, on present evidence, insignificant".

That was a finding "a reasonable decision-maker" could reach, the judge had said.

On Monday the BBFC issued a short statement saying its legal battle was over and the case would not be going to the Court of Appeal.

The statement added: "The board will also be reconsidering the guidelines for R18 material in the light of this judgement".

Sue Clark from the BBFC said the decision was made after "careful consideration" and after taking legal advice.

'Staggered and delighted'

The board's decision not to fight on marks a significant victory for pornographic video distributors Sheptonhurst Ltd and Prime Time Promotions (Shifnal) Ltd.

The director of Prime Time Promotions, Greg Hurlstone, told BBC News Online he was surprised the board had decided not to appeal.

"Frankly I am staggered the BBFC is not appealing, given their previous history in this matter."

But he said the decision was good news for consumers: "We are delighted that after a three year struggle we're finally able to release material that the public wishes to purchase.

"We now look forward to the BBFC publishing their new guidelines for restricted 18 videos at the earliest possible convenience."

Following last week's ruling, Home Secretary Jack Straw announced he would consider taking steps to protect young people from pornographic videos, including the possibility of introducing fresh legislation.

As a result of the High Court ruling, it is believed by legal experts that all hard core porn videos will now have to be classified for sale in sex shops for home use.

The exception would be criminally obscene videos or where it can be proved that their sale and use "will cause devastating harm to more than a minority of children and young people".

This is in line with the court's construction of the 1984 Video Recordings Act and will be the basis of the censors' guidelines, unless Mr Straw does intervene with new legislation and imposes tougher restrictions.

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