Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 3rd March 2008.

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Photo of Lord Faulkner of Worcester Lord Faulkner of Worcester Labour 4:45 pm, 3rd March 2008

Like the noble Baroness, I, too, have received a large number of letters and e-mails on this clause, some of which are frankly quite disturbing, some of which are quite amusing and some of which are very serious. My favourite came from someone whose e-mail address included "affordable-leather", which I thought was a reference to sofas and armchairs, but when I went to the website it turned out to be something very different indeed.

The most important point that has been made to me in those representations has come from Liberty, which summed up its argument as follows:

"The fact that many people find pornography morally offensive, damaging or worthless is not a good reason in itself to outlaw possession. Extreme caution should be exercised when new criminal laws are imposed with the intention of imposing a subjective opinion of what is morally acceptable".

I think that the Minister is conscious of that point, and the amendments that he has come forward with make this clause a great deal better than it was at the beginning of our debate.

Like the noble Baroness, I am concerned that we are intruding into people's privacy and that we are potentially making illegal activities that I suspect no one in this House would find interesting or in any way stimulating but which, for some people, represent an important part of their lives. For example, I have had an e-mail from Dr Tuppy Owens of the Outsiders Trust, who works with disabled people. He says:

"I work with disabled people, helping them find partners, through the Outsiders Trust. Disabled people have a hard enough time enjoying more conventional sexual lives, but fetishistic sex can be even more out of reach, both because of the prejudice they face in society generally, and because of often limited access to appropriate venues. Because of this, disabled people often need to rely on the internet and films for their satisfaction and mental and physical well-being. These proposals will therefore have a disproportionate impact on many people with a physical disability, by adding yet another barrier".

I hope that, when my noble friend comes to reply to the debate, he will answer that point.

Perhaps he could also answer one other point that has been put to me. As a new offence is being created, what will be the position of people who have already downloaded material on to their computers which up until now has not been illegal but henceforth will be? Will the possession of that material be regarded as a criminal offence and, if so, what advice does he have for people to get rid of it?