Documents to download

Whilst the Obscene Publications Act 1959 has subsequently been amended, it still makes it a punishable offence to distribute, circulate, sell, hire, lend or give away obscene material. It defines obscene material as that which is likely to “deprave and corrupt” the intended audience when taken as a whole. This includes not only sexually explicit material, but also that relating to violence and drug taking. It has been argued that material which simply shocks or disgusts, however, will not tend to fall under this definition. As a result, prosecutors have tended not to take action against the written word, but rather focus almost entirely on sexually explicit pictorial material, including: photographs; magazines; films; or websites. Although the Act applies to material broadcast on televisions, stricter tests relating to harms and offence are available under the Communications Act 2003 and the Ofcom broadcasting code. 

The Act also includes sections relating to search and seizure and available defences. It creates a power where, in accordance with a warrant, police can seize obscene materials. The Act also offers the defence of ‘public good’. This means that a court would not convict a person if they can justify the publication of the material as being for the public good. For example, that it has scientific, literary or artistic merit. In relation to any film or soundtrack, the individual must justify the material on the grounds that it is in the interests of drama, opera, ballet or any other art, literature or learning. Consequently, prosecutions tend to focus on material which can have little claim to artistic or other merit, where an individual has produced material explicitly to excite the viewer.


Documents to download

Related posts

  • The sentencing of offenders whose crimes lead to the death of an emergency service worker can vary depending upon the conviction received. The Harper’s Law campaign has called for life sentences to be imposed in instances where an emergency service worker is killed as a direct result of a crime. This article discusses life sentences, minimum terms, and recent calls for change to sentencing in England and Wales. This is due to be the subject of an oral question in the House of Lords on 1 October 2020.

  • The UK’s arts and entertainment sector has been one of the areas worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The decline in revenues and the number of workers furloughed over the past few months is second only to the accommodation and food sector. This article examines the impact of the pandemic on the UK’s cultural industry and the Government’s recently announced support package worth £1.57 billion aimed at helping the sector recover.