Page last updated at 14:09 GMT, Monday, 29 June 2009 15:09 UK

Man cleared over Girls Aloud blog

Girls Aloud at the 2009 Brit Awards
Girls Aloud won the Brit Award for best single at this year's ceremony

A former civil servant who wrote an internet article imagining the kidnap and murder of the pop group Girls Aloud has been cleared of obscenity.

Darryn Walker, 35, from South Tyneside, was charged after his blog appeared on a fantasy pornography site.

He appeared at Newcastle Crown Court on Monday but was cleared when the prosecution offered no evidence.

His defence argued that the piece was not easily accessible and could only be found in a specific internet search.

Judge Esmond Faulks formally returned a not guilty verdict to the charge of publishing an obscene article.

Mr Walker's 12-page blog - Girls (Scream) Aloud - was brought to the attention of police by the Internet Watch Foundation, an organisation for the public and IT professionals which polices potentially obscene material.

It was never his intention to frighten or intimidate the members of Girls Aloud
Tim Owen QC

He was arrested in February 2008 at his home in Mowbray Road, South Shields, by officers from the Obscene Publications Unit.

David Perry QC, prosecuting, said that the decision to prosecute under the Obscene Publications Act was made in July 2008.

"A crucial aspect of the reasoning that led to the instigation of these proceedings was that the article in question, which was posted on the internet, was accessible to people who were particularly vulnerable - young people who were interested in a particular pop music group.

"It was this that distinguished this case from other material available on the internet.

"The CPS concluded, with the benefit of counsel's advice, there was a realistic prospect of conviction."

However, a report for the defence by an information technology expert said the article could only be discovered by internet users seeking such specific material.

'Threat to freedom'

A report from a consultant psychiatrist also said it was "baseless" to suggest that reading such material could turn other people into sexual predators.

Tim Owen QC, defending Mr Walker, said: "It was never his intention to frighten or intimidate the members of Girls Aloud.

"He had written what he had described as an adult celebrity parody and was only meant to be for an audience of like-minded people.

"As soon as he was aware of the upset and fuss that had been created, he took steps himself to take the article off the website."

He added: "This type of writing is widely available on the internet in an unregulated and uncensored form.

"In terms of its alleged obscenity, it is frankly no better or worse than other articles."

The court heard that Mr Walker had lost his job since his arrest.

Jo Glanville, editor of the freedom of expression group Index on Censorship, said the prosecution should not have been brought in the first place.

"Since the landmark obscenity cases of the '60s and '70s, writers have been protected from such prosecutions and have remained free to explore the extremes of human behaviour," she said.

"This case posed a serious threat to that freedom.

"In future, obscenity cases should be referred directly to the Director of Public Prosecutions before any prosecution is triggered."



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