Accused of Distributing Gay Porn, Michael Peacock’s acquittal is a victory for sexual freedom

from the BBC: Michael Peacock, 53, was charged with six counts under the Obscene Publications Act after an undercover police officer bought DVDs from him.

The films, which he had advertised for sale online, featured hardcore gay sex acts.

Mr Peacock’s lawyer claimed the unanimous verdict might make police reluctant to prosecute in future.

Mr Peacock, of Finsbury Park, north London, whom his lawyer described as a well-known member of the gay community, was charged after police sent an undercover officer to his house in January 2009 to buy the DVDs.
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The whole idea of something being depraved or corrupt is out-dated”

Nigel Richardson, a lawyer with defence solicitors Hodge Jones and Allen, told the BBC: “Police were looking very closely at this case.”

The jury had to decide if the DVDs would deprave and corrupt any person likely to read, see or hear it.

Mr Richardson said that the jury decided the people likely to see the films were “gay men specifically asking for this type of material.”

He added: “The whole idea of something being depraved or corrupt is out-dated.”

The jury of men and women watched “large amounts [of the films over] several hours” during the trial, which began on Tuesday.

“Although they were quite shocked initially, they started to look quite bored very quickly,” Mr Richardson said.

The acts depicted in the films are not in themselves illegal.

Mr Richardson’s colleague Myles Jackman tweeted after the case that officers from SCD9, the Metropolitan Police unit dealing with human exploitation and organised crime, will “sit down with” the Crown Prosecution Service and the British Board of Film Classification “to review guidelines on obscenity”.

Mr Jackman, writing at the start of the case, had said it was the “most significant in a decade”.

“This could be the final nail in the coffin for the Obscene Publications Act in the digital age because the jury’s verdict shows that normal people view consensual adult pornography as a part of everyday life and are no longer shocked, depraved or corrupted by it,” he said.

Mediawatch-UK, which campaigns against obscene material in the media, said the Obscene Publications Act needed to be tightened up.

Its director Vivienne Pattison says the case “illustrates the problem” with the act.

“There is not a list which says what is obscene and what is not. It makes it incredibly difficult to get a conviction on that,” she said.

“As a society we are moving to a place where porn is considered as kind of fun between consenting adults, but porn is damaging.”

from www.guardian.co.uk – Today is a great day for English sexual liberties. In the case of R v Peacock, in which defendant Michael Peacock [pictured] was charged with six counts of obscene publication – gay-porn DVDS which featured acts all legal to perform but not legal to depict – the jury found him unanimously not guilty on all counts.

Why is that so important? For one, Peacock is the only person to have pleaded not guilty to a charge under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 (OPA 1959) and won . He is the first person to have challenged the notion of obscenity in law, a law that was last updated in 1964, and has stood since. A law that is expressly designed to tell us what is “deprave and corrupt” – defined by Justice Byrne in 1960 as “to render morally unsound or rotten, to destroy the moral purity or chastity; to pervert or ruin a good quality.”

Hence the OPA 1959 is nothing to do with prosecuting the potential or actual sexual or violent harm caused to others by the material in question, nor about preventing children or vulnerable adults being subjected to inappropriately explicit material. It simply and absolutely passes moral judgment. Thank god the jury had sense to see that in 2012, telling others what is depraved – and prosecuting them for “debasing” your mind if they publish material featuring it and you are privy to it, is as absurd as it is anachronistic.

When the jury were first shown the material, they were, in some cases, visibly alarmed. A day spent viewing back-to-back evidence tapes of full-hand gay fisting, urination, staged kidnapping and rape, whipping, and smacking of saline-injected scrotums would probably tire most of us, whatever our sexual predilections (believe me – I used to work for a sex magazine, and when you’ve been editing hardcore porn all day, all you want is a cup of tea in front of Frozen Planet). But even if the jury did think the acts were wrong, they correctly understood what prosecuting for obscenity required them to do, and that was to decide whether knowledgeable customers with particular sexual peccadilloes, who had then sought out, ordered and paid for DVDs featuring a specific niche of porn would be corrupted by it.

Of course, like every good English discussion about sex, there was plenty of tittering, normally when the well-spoken, middle-aged male and uprightly English recorder asked for clarification on kinky sex terms. Hence, a butt-plug was defined as “an ear plug, but for the butt”, and an “experienced bottom” as one who likes to receive certain sexual acts. I do wonder how many BDSM novices will adopt “toaster” as their safe word on their first travail into sexual kinkdom. But for those incredulous that there could still exist in a law a discrepancy between what you are allowed to do and what you are allowed to publish yourself doing, the laughter was necessarily cathartic.

Throughout the trial, the court had carefully warned the jury against sentencing out of any impulse of homophobic disgust. So it was disturbing to hear the prosecution lawyer invoke towards the end of his address the following example of the likely audience for the “obscene” material: “a man, in his 40s, married, with a wife who doesn’t know of his secret sexual tastes”, especially considering the defendant’s testimony that his customers were mostly gay men.

How ironic that the defence had begun his closing by trying to distance this case from the R v Penguin Books (1961) trial (commonly known as the Chatterley trial), which the recorder had already referenced to as precedent. That trial, in which the infamous test of the book’s obscenity was whether you would let your wife or servants read it, exposed everything that was wrong about the way those who held power and privileged pronounced on the sexual tastes and liberties of the population. Here was that same example of the white middle-class, privileged patriarch, no longer guarding against the sullying of his goods and chattel, wife and servants, but fearing for his own depravity.

Thankfully, the jury did not fall for it as a tenable argument. For gay rights campaigners and for everyone of us that believes in social and sexual liberty, it’s a day to make a five-digit victory sign.

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