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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 August 2006, 14:33 GMT 15:33 UK
Support for porn ban but doubts remain
Jane Longhurst
Murder victim Jane Longhurst's family campaigned for new laws
The government's proposal to ban the possession of violent and extreme pornographic material has been widely welcomed.

But will it be enforceable?

Under new laws announced on Wednesday by Home Office minister Vernon Coaker MP, anyone caught with images "featuring violence that is, or appears to be, life-threatening or is likely to result in serious and disabling injury", could be jailed for up to three years.

Groups representing adults who engage in more extreme but consensual sexual activities say the legislation represents a grey area.

Derek Cohen, secretary of The Spanner Trust, which defends the rights of sadomasochists of all sexual orientations, said the proposed legislation was more of a "knee-jerk reaction".

The scandal is it's taken so long to come to this decision
Lib Dem Sandra Gidley MP

"The difficulty is that you have people who are in consensual activities and people engaged in more violent activities," he said.

"The difficulty in legislation is can you draw a line?"

Mr Cohen said that unlike child pornography or bestial pornography, which was easily recognisable as illegal, sadomasochists will find it difficult to know what side of the law their pictures fell.

He added: "Violence is not consensual but injuries can be received in all forms of activities. People will not know whether their pictures are illegal or not.

"It's a very difficult area, I think the burden of proof has to be very high. If this goes through I hope it receives a lot more scrutiny."

Mainstream unaffected

The government move follows a wide consultation process after a campaign led by Reading mother Liz Longhurst.

Her daughter Jane was strangled during what music teacher Graham Coutts claimed was consensual sex.

He was said in court to have been addicted to violent porn.

The new law will ensure possession of violent and extreme pornography is illegal both on- and offline.

The government says the new law will not target those who accidentally come into contact with obscene pornography, nor would it target the mainstream entertainment industry.

Jim Gamble, chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre, said legislation was needed to keep in step with technological advances.

Graham Coutts
Graham Coutts was obsessed with violent internet porn

"Today starts to answer that need in respect of how the internet can be used to supplement this area of criminality.

"It builds on the fundamentals of the Obscene Publications Act 1959 and helps take our fight against violent and extreme pornography to where it needs to be - in tune with technology and in-line with how the modern criminal mind works," he said.

Others, such as Liberal Democrat MP and campaign supporter Sandra Gidley, say the government should have acted sooner.

"It's absolutely the right decision. The scandal is it's taken so long to come to this decision.

"You cannot look at this sort of material and not be affected."

Labour's Brighton Pavilion MP David Lepper added: "I'm delighted that our campaign has been so successful and that the government has agreed to plug these loopholes in the law."

But Shaun Gabb, director of the anti-censorship organisation the Libertarian Alliance opposes the legislation on the grounds that people should be able to look at whatever they wish.

"If you are criminalising possession then you are giving police inquisitorial powers to come into your house and see what you've got, now we didn't have this in the past," he said.




SEE ALSO
Mother wins ban on violent porn
30 Aug 06 |  Berkshire

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