Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice; Labour)
My Lords, this has been a very interesting debate. I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said in her introductory remarks that she accepts some of the spirit behind the Government's legislative proposals, but clearly there is concern about the way in which they have been drafted. I very much understand the point made by my noble friend Lord McIntosh, to whom it is a great pleasure to respond. He spoke of being aware of legislation that seeks to intrude too much into the individual lives of people where, as he said, harm is not caused to others. I very much understand the concerns expressed by noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Henley, said that it is all right unless it frightens the horses. I do not know about the horses, but the material that I saw at Charing Cross police station certainly frightened me.
While I accept all the concerns expressed by noble Lords tonight, I would also put the other point of view, which is that there is large and genuine public concern about extreme pornographic material, particularly since the growth of the internet, which has allowed existing controls on publication distribution under the Obscene Publications Act to be circumvented. There is also concern about the adverse influence that that material might have on those watching it. It is not simply material that potentially causes arousal. The tests that have to be applied are, I suggest, high tests. There are three elements that have to be met for someone to be found guilty of the new offence. First, material has to be pornographic; then, it has to be concerned with extreme acts, which are described as threatening a person's life or as resulting or being likely to result in,
"serious injury to a person's anus, breast or genitals".
It also has to be,
"an act which involves sexual interference with a human corpse",
or an act concerning,
"a person performing an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal".
Those acts must be "explicit and realistic"; persons and animals depicted must be such that "a reasonable person" would think them real. The third element of the test is that it must be,
"offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character".
That is why many of the examples raised in our debates about works of art simply would not meet the tests described in the Bill.