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UK: Former mayoral aide cleared of possessing 'extreme' porn

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UK: Former mayoral aide cleared of possessing 'extreme' porn

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – In a unanimous verdict, a gay former aide to London Mayor Boris Johnson has been acquitted of possessing "extreme pornography" after a week-long trial, The Guardian reports.

Barrister Simon Walsh was fired from his position on the London Fire Authority after he was arrested in April last year and charged under the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act (CJIA) of 2008 with five counts of possessing "extreme pornography": two images showing anal fisting and three showing urethral sounding (the use of probes that are inserted into the urethra for sexual pleasure).

A sixth photo accompanying a story about "Jason," described as being in his 20s but deemed to be an indecent image of an underage boy, was sent by email to Walsh, who was charged with possessing it. The prosecution said the person in the image was 14, "the legal age of representation in pornography being 18," Walsh's lawyer, Myles Jackman, writes in a post-trial piece entitled "Extreme porn trial: consensual sex and the state." Jackman says three defence experts viewed the image and said in written reports that the person was in his 20s. But the jury didn't hear that evidence "as a matter of legal procedure," Jackman noted. 

Section 63 of CJIA stipulates in part that images are "extreme" if they are "grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character" and portray "in an explicit and realistic way, an act which results, or is likely to result, in serious injury to a person's anus, breasts or genitals." 

Walsh, who served as a magistrate and alderman in the City of London, pleaded not guilty to the six charges.

Police did not find the images on Walsh's work or home computers but rather on a Hotmail account he set up to receive and send sexual content, according to The Guardian. He told police he was interested in BDSM, and that he had practised fisting, but disputed the claim that the images were extreme pornography, the report said.

In his testimony, Walsh denied hurting anyone. "I know the limits and I respect them," he testified in Kingston Crown Court. 

The prosecution asked the jury to consider why a magistrate would jeoparidze his position over activities like fisting and sounding. Walsh said he didn't give up the right to a private life in running for political office. 

Defense counsel Matthew Buckland, says the case raises questions about private personal encounters and "how we view them in an inclusive democracy," The Guardian report notes.

"Unlike the Obscene Publication Act, which covers distribution, the CJIA shifts the burden on to individuals in possession of pornography," Jackman observes in his piece.

He notes that acts like fisting are legal to perform, noting that fisting is discussed in the bestselling British book Fifty Shades of Grey. But representing such acts is criminalized under the CJIA if they are likely to result in serious injury to a person's anus, breasts or genitals, Jackman says.

Often, Jackman adds, police also misclassify images they find. He refers to a case in which a client, initially charged with possessing some 1,250 "extreme" images, was acquitted of all charges by a jury. Jackman notes that of those images, more than 900 were of clothed people who were not engaging in sexual activity.

"So, would you even know what material might be illegal?" Jackman asks. 

"As well as criminalizing acts that are legal to perform, the CJIA would seemingly outlaw images which have been exhibited in art galleries," he adds. "In 2008, the Barbican Gallery's Seduced exhibition included photographic images of male-on-male anal fisting and male urethral insertion from artist Robert Mapplethorpe's X Portfolio. The gallery cleared them with the City of London police before the exhibtion opened," Jackman recalls. 

 

 

 

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