Monday, 19 January 2009

More legislative idiocy

The Register reports that the government is seaking to close a loop-hole in current legislation so that cartoon images depicting children will become illegal.

On the second page of the article the author makes this point: "The second area for concern is the way in which this proposal further embeds in English Law the idea that possession of various materials should, in and of itself, be an offence". I think this is where I have a serious problem with this proposal and the equally ridiculous extreme porn laws.

An actual act of abuse or, in the case of extreme porn, something that someone does that actually inflicts real bodily harm are cases where something unlawful is actually happening and should rightly be criminalised. It's also not unreasonable to expect that pictures of the actual criminal acts are also themselves illegal (with loop-holes for reporting, evidence captured by an innocent 3rd party, etc).

When the images are either staged with all participants being consenting, and of an age/responsibility to consent (this is mainly the extreme porn law I'm thinking of here), or are totally artificial in nature I think it should be necassary to require more than just possession to make someone a criminal. You should have to show that they have inflicted harm or were using the images to, beyond a shadow of a doubt, commit abuse or some other illegal act.

The article mentions the case of an Australian man convicted of possessing smutty pictures of the Simpsons and points out that this sort of thing could happen over here with this legislation. You have to wonder at why these sorts of cases come to trial, I mean, seriously, this seems disproportionate. At worst he was guilty of dubious taste and wasting the IT resources of the works PC on which he downloaded (maybe forwarded) and stored the images. A simple slap on the wrist and an official warning from his company should have been enough to suffice.

The worrying prosecutions continue with the story concerning teenage girls in the US who sent nude pictures of themselves to male classmates using their mobile phones. They are all being prosecuted under child pornography laws which seems ridiculously insane given that there was obviously no abuse or criminal intent and that the ages of those concerned are very close (the article says the girls were 14 and 15 and the boys 16 and 17 - hardly a significant age gap) and what they did would appear to just be a childish prank.

Clearly common sense has been the first victim amid the hysteria and manic witch-hunt mentality behind the recent legislation.

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