- TransMedic adds an excellent medical perspective to the medical school discrimination fracas too – http://t.co/LgsMuTTo #
- For all three complementary perspectives on the medical school story – http://t.co/LgsMuTTo – http://t.co/E8s6A504 – http://t.co/nsaIMlyt #
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- Discrimination? You bet! What you might you expect from Warwick Medical School?: http://t.co/dZ2mVY5z #
- A horrific story of discrimination against a young med student in the UK. Is this the state medicine is in here!? http://t.co/nsaIMlyt #
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You could be forgiven for thinking that we live in a world where people succeed or fail on their own merit. You could be forgiven for thinking that anybody engaged in high level study in their chosen field or vocation would be treated equally. You could even be forgiven for thinking that in a collegiate and caring profession such as medicine – where the needs and welfare of those in your care must always be of utmost importance – that our future doctors would be treated with the utmost respect and consideration in such matters as equality, diversity, and even more importantly, their welfare as students. Afterall, the relationship between the teacher and the student, or the padre and his flock, is not entirely unlike that of the patient and the doctor in the most basic of respects. There’s a duty of care, a need for responsibility and trust on each party, a confidence to be shared, and a purpose to be discharged. The difference, however, is that never have these things been more crucial where the teacher is the doctor, and the student is the doctor to be.
I’m going to tell you now a story about somebody I am close to. We’ll call her B. I can no longer keep quiet about this, and I have to make it known.
B is a Medical Student, and she also happens to be trans. She’s had a hard time, but managed to get through her first degree and went on to gain acceptance onto a graduate medical course at her university. A few months into her first year, she discovered that during both the GEP medicine course she had embarked upon, as well as the 2 years immediately after it, there would be no opportunity for her to have and recover sufficiently from surgery apart from that summer. Ever determined, she wrote to her NHS Gender Identity Clinic in an attempt to facilitate this, but they had no care for this issue, nor for it’s consequences, instead preferring to hide behind policy in excess of the WPATH guidelines for treatment.
As a result, she realised that the only chance she had to have surgery during this summer break would be to have it privately, during the summer break, and so she went to the Senior Tutor of the Medical School for advice. The advice given was that if she had the surgery after her exams, then she’d miss the resit date scheduled just a couple of weeks after the exam, but if she had the surgery after the resit there would be insufficient recovery time prior to the start of the next year of the course, Even if she were to take a 3 week absense due to sickness at the beginning of term (the maximum that the Medical School would allow due to teaching time requirements imposed by the GMC). Moreover, this would mean that if she had to take just a single day off in the rest of her second year – whether due to flu or bubonic plague – she would fail to meet the minimum attendance requirement and be forced to retake the year.
She was desperate to not have to re-take the year, and she was desperate to avoid taking a year’s temporary withdrawal. It’s hard to blame her for that, as gender dysphoria had claimed enough years of her life, without claiming yet more, like many other transgendered individuals. In the irony of ironies, she’d actually managed to set the bar higher for her Medical School in terms of LGBT issues by putting them on the agenda at all as part of her course at all.
Her work was good all through the year – it even surprised her tutor to find that her name wasn’t on the pass list for the year’s final exam. Her notes were so good that they were celebrated by her fellow students and helped many people –including some of the weaker students– pass the exam. She’d made such a successful transition prior to starting medical school that nobody knew of her gender history save for a few members of staff (she’d applied under her previous name)… although that had been enough for them to force her into an additional Occupational Health interview about her transgender status at the local hospital upon being required by the Medical School to tick the “mental health issues” box. Naturally she protested –pointing out it was illegal to put any additional barriers to employment on the grounds of someone being transgender under the Equality Act 2010 but the Medical School refused to support her or correct this glaring error, illegally and callously forcing her outing to hospital staff in the process. Still, her cohort remained none the wiser to this irrelevant and confidential information, and she not only added to the med school’s reputation through her writing, but proceeded to give one of the most useful, popular and well attended extra-curricular lectures that a cohort at the school had ever seen.
It was in this context that the Senior tutor extended the advice she gave with a statement to the effect that (paraprasing) “If I were you, I’d go to Thailand and have surgery there. You’re a strong student”… advice which came back to haunt her…
She went to Thailand and had the surgery. I was there, beside her hospital bed, and with her at the hotel for the whole time, and just a day after surgery, she received news that her name was not on the pass list for the final exam of that year. It was a devastating piece of news, for which the only source of mitigation was the morphine drip constantly numbing her mind and her feelings. Still, this sort of news does no good for one’s recovery from major surgery, especially having had it half way across the world – and privately – as opposed to on the NHS with the support of friends and family to avoid just this sort of situation – to avoid having to lose yet another year of her life as a result of being transgender.
I have never seen anybody fight as she did – as the morphine continued to numb her pain in both senses of the word pain, she researched what had happened and what she might be able to do about it. As it turned out, an exceptionally and unexpectedly high number of students failed the exam that time around, the atmosphere on results day having been described by the Medical School themselves as “positively funerial”. The medical school, however, investigated it’s own exam and found that there were no issues with it owing to there having been a wide spread of scores from 100% down to marks of abject failure. B had a higher overall mark than many who had passed, but never the less had not passed herself; her score, mathematically speaking, could only possibly have been a mark or two short of the required standard.
Resits were scheduled for just 2 weeks later. Had they been scheduled just another couple of weeks later – or had the Medical School followed the standard used by every other department in the University, and most other Universities for that matter, of having the exams immediately prior to the new term – leaving time between exams for students to revise more, whilst giving time for B to be back in the UK, she would undoubtedly have sat them – post surgery or not. Had the NHS GIC given a damn that their superfluous procedures were liable to have a severe detrimental and needless impact upon a patient in it’s ‘care’, she would have been in the UK. Unfortunately, she was in recovering half way across the world and on bed rest.
She explained the situation to the Pro Dean of Education of the Medical School. She requested that she be able to sit the exam as a viva voce examination. The answer was no. She requested that she be able to sit the exam upon her return. The answer was no. She requested that she be set an alternative paper using either one of their rather secret, and heavily guarded past papers, or one set using questions from their question bank, or some sort of hybrid. The answer was again no. Whatever solution she proposed in order to obtain the same chance as everybody else at the resit – a paper which had a far more acceptable pass rate, incidentally – the answer was no.
She complained, exploring every avenue and opening every door with the medical school – and all from her bed in Thailand following major surgery. I have never seen somebody with such intelligence, commitment and tenacity in fighting so hard even under these conditions… save, maybe, for a fox as it tries to fight it’s way out of the hole and past the hounds.
When that route was fully expended, which included a journey of an hour and a half each way to meet with the Pro Dean shortly following her return to the UK, she filed a formal academic complaint. During the panel meeting for that complaint, she was outed to a further member of the medical school staff without her consent (unless of course she’d previously been outed without her consent – a violation of the Gender Recognition act either way), but was forced not to complain on grounds of expediency since her term was due to start within a week of the panel meeting. She’s waited a great deal of time to get to the result of that complaint, and she now has it – the complaint has not been upheld. Couched in the usual polite and compassionate language you’d expect of a process intended to be a rear guard against legal action swinging the Universities way – as is the purpose of most complaints procedures – not only has it spectacularly failed a student, but has done so with so many levels of wrong in it’s decision it’s really hard to highlight them.
Amongst it’s reasons are:
- The ‘fact’ that nobody forced B to have surgery privately and thus spend all her savings on trying to avoid taking a year out and the consequent disadvantages of doing so – not to mention personal cost.
- That the she had a choice over when to have this “elective surgery” (yes, that is a direct quote); either before the resit or afterward. This ignores the fact that taking it after the resit would have effectively forced her to take a year out and would not have given her sufficient recovery time, and doing it before would have meant missing the resit. That, or be expected to wait 5-7 years. (WPATH guidelines explicitly state that it is not considered to be elective and is non-postponable)
- That the Med School offered a “reasonable” adjustment in the form of temporary withdrawl (a year out), which would have been available to anybody (as available to anybody, surely not an adjustment as such? And since this requires no change or deviation on behalf of the University or Medical School, how is this an adjustment? )
- That the advice of the Senior tutor was correct and in no way misleading despite the fact it played down the likelihood of failure, and the fact that – somewhat uniquely to Medicine – the fact that the resit forms a part of the full examination process. This is not to mention the fact that it’s known to staff that medical exams are, in the words of one of B’s tutors following the exam, ‘a lottery’… a lottery which on this occasion resulted in a high fail rate, including that of an excellent student.
- That a resit paper would have required 60 man-hours to create, and if they did one for B, they would have to do it for everybody (ignoring the fact that situations like this don’t come up very often, and if they did, everybody could sit the same appropriately timed paper)
- That while other faculties write individual resit papers in exceptional circumstances reasonably routinely, the medical school shouldn’t have to for reasons that aren’t quite fully clear. The Medical School seem to be strangely exempt from this policy for reasons not stated.
- That B knew that she’d need surgery before starting the four year course and so, presumably, the situation is one of her own making. (This is in spite of the fact that she’d have been castigated by the NHS GIC for “not getting on with her life” had she delayed in starting it – being seen to be actively getting on with your life is a requirement of the RLE)
- … the list continues. Further details on the more technical aspects can be found over on the Trans Activist blog.
In one saving grace, however, the Academic Complaints and Standards Committee (standards? Hah ha ha) does concede that B “believed [she] required surgery as a matter of medical need”. How good of them to understand that she believed it was a need. If only they could have gone so far as to realise that unnecessarily denying her the chance to have it or else to take a year out is a cruel and tortuous thing to be doing to somebody with more courage, commitment and determination than most other people at the Medical School. The veritable Sophie’s Choice she was faced with should not be forced upon anyone by even the most medically ignorant of higher education institutions, never mind somewhere that can set such an atrocious example to future doctors.
And all this, from a medical school that is seen by the majority of its own students to be consistently failing (*cough* – sorry… “needing to do better”) in terms of equality issues and of LGBT issues in particular. This, against a student who managed to both raise the bar and the reputation for the medical school, who has now been rewarded with horrendous discrimination and apathy. This, from a medical school which has supposedly upped it’s game following a recent GMC review – a GMC that’s supposedly all over equality issues at the moment having recently discovered that discrimination and poor treatment is rife, especially where transgender issues are concerned. This, from a medical school that has a large LGBT society which cannot recall a single openly LGBT student who has not been required to retake a year at some point or other.
This is the state of medicine in this country. This is the state of equality within medicine. This is the state of power, privilege, and inequality within medical training. This is how hard it is for even passing trans people, let alone openly LGBT people, to get on in a medical career. This is the pain and the sacrifice. It MUST change.
I am obviously concerned about B at this point, but this stretches further than that. As mentioned over on the TransActivist blog, the issue concerns future students at the Medical school, be they transgender, disabled, in need of sudden medical treatment, or in any way liable to suffer discrimination. If you wish to contact the Medical School then please do, but please, no harassment, hate mail, threats, or needless and problematic abuse.
That said, it’s important that medical schools and universities have near perfect examples of everything, and this case is no different. Discrimination: Thy name is Warwick.
* The student concerned wishes to remain anonymous.
** Warwick Medical School were asked for comment, but have as yet declined to answer.
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Once, long ago a King of England decided due in large part to the ignorant age he lived in, that his wife was incapable of producing male heirs and rather than ending sexist primogeniture succession, and ending legal misogyny 500 years early, he decided he wanted a divorce. Due to his power being limited by being under the dominion of the Catholic Church, he had to ask permission from the CEO.
Now if you read some history books, you’ll learn that the Pope objected on moral grounds, that the idea of divorce was an anathema to him. However if you read the accurate history books, you realise that many popes had granted many divorces to many people when it suited them. The divorce of Henry Tudor to Catherine of Aragon, was denied on the grounds that at the time, the Catholic Church was politically allied with the Spanish throne, and Catherine was a member of that family.
So before the catholic church even thinks about trying to claim any moral authority on marriage, it should remember that the sanctity of marriage, was up for a political price, and always has been.
- In other news classic closet case @PeterLaBarbera doesn’t like being compared to the klan, because it cuts right to the bone plz retweet #
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- If you think National Socialist means that the Nazis were socialist, you really are too stupid to be listened to #SadButTrue #
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From the nearly universally accepted right of women to have access to effective hormonal birth control, to issues of law and justice the republican party now holds positions that would place their sainted Ronald Reagan in the shrinking and soon to be extinct liberal wing of the GOP.
They love to bat around the term RINO or Republican in Name Only, to describe the liberal wing as those not orthodox enough to be allowed the label of republican any more. However if you look at the republican party of Reagan, Nixon and Eisenhower, its this new breed of so called republicans who are misappropriating the brand. They are the detractors, the corrupters and the fakers.
Its the Arlen Specters, the Susan Collins and the Lisa Murkowskis who still espouse the somewhat sane centre right policies who are the real and true republicans.
There may be some fanatics at the republican base, but the fast majority of the US Red and Blue alike is sane, and its a world where topics like Birth Control have been closed and put in the archive for posterity, but now like Eric Cartman renacting the civil war, the new breed wants go to back and fight wars long since over.
Ask yourself, no matter how you feel about Reagan, would he be welcome in a party with Paul Ryan as the figurehead?
We’ve come up with a small campaign idea in the hopes of ensuring that the recent actions and attitudes of the Crown Prosecution Service are not forgotten.
Following the trial of Mr. Simon Walsh and his aquittal by a jury of his peers, it seems clear that something is deeply wrong with both the law, and the way it’s being prosecuted. Not only that, but the attitude displayed by the Crown Prosecution Service has seemed somewhat homophobic at best over the course of both the Porn Trial and the Obscenity Trial earlier this year. We want to send them a message.
One of our graphics people has come up with the image you see on this page, and we’re rather proud of their work to say the least. Even so, we weren’t really sure how to make the best use of it, and so we’re leaving it to you, readers and visitors to this site, to decide.
The text on the bottom seems suitably apt, but being easy to change perhaps you might come up with something better? Would this be the sort of t-shirt you might wear in protest at the actions of the CPS? Perhaps you could make it your mousemat or stick it as a magnet to your fridge door. There are all sorts of possibilities and we simply can’t decide what’s for the best.
It’s for this reason that we’re making the original source PSD for adobe photoshop available to download under a creative commons 3.0 license – download it, change it, derive from it, and work with it freely doing whatever you like with it. What the CPS has done to our community twice now, and what it has done to an innocent man even more so, is unacceptable and must not be forgotten or allowed to pass.
If you just want the image as displayed here, however, then please feel free to download that and do what you like with it too. just right click and save it to your computer. We’re making it available in a few different sizes for you to choose from;
Full resolution – 3588×2982
Or, if you’re so inclined, we’ve set up a cafepress store with a $1 (US) markup on all items, and so for every item sold, we will donate $1 to the Backlash campaign, which has been instrumental in fighting against sexual iliberty under the law. This pledge/campaign is not in any way associated with or in co-operation with Backlash – they simply strongly deserve the support and were involved with the recent #porntrial. Here’s the link - http://www.cafepress.com/nomorelost1 … it may be as little as $1, or nothing at all if we’re unlucky, but every dollar made WILL be donated… and we’re willing to prove it… we stake our continued existence on it.
- Apparently,Affordable Care Act will prevent discrimination against trans people in health plans http://t.co/dwFCWB0n #BelieveItWhenItHappens #
- Jury knuckles under to deliver a CPS far reaching pain in the ass: http://t.co/GiyQ2olR #
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However, this has been a pyrrhic victory for justice itself. In a case widely believed to have been prosecuted maliciously which hordes of people the world over feel should never have been brought to court, the Criminal Prosecution Service and it’s individual prosecution team in this case have behaved in a way that many feel has been reprehensible. Consequently, trust in the CPS, trust in the law, and trust in the UK’s lawmakers has been dealt a massive, damaging blow.
In addition to this, though Mr. Walsh has been acquitted of all charges, he too has suffered immense damage to his career, social life, reputation and public standing that can never be undone, as well as a needless deep and painful intrusion into his private sexual affairs that is guaranteed in itself to leave it’s mark, both psychological and social.
In a statement read on behalf of Mr. Walsh by solicitor Myles Jackman, Mr Walsh said;
Today I was unanimously acquitted by a jury at Kingston Crown Court of five charges of being in possession of extreme pornography despite the images depicting acts which are legal to perform, and an extremely damaging allegation of being in possession of child porn in respect of a single image sent to me unrequested via email over three years ago which the jury had no difficulty deciding was in fact a picture of an adult.
I would like to commend the jury for their common sense verdict, my legal team for their robust efforts and all the support I have received from the general public.
I would like to take this opportunity to encourage our legislators and regulators not to prosecute individuals in possession of images depicting private and consensual adult sexual acts.
Nonetheless, these allegations have damaged my career and personal standing. As I said in my evidence I do not believe that when I stood for public office I gave up my right to a private sexual life. I reiterate that point now.
I hope to return to public life as soon as possible. I have no further comment to make at this time.
In failing to win a conviction in this trial, the possibility of a dangerous precedent has been averted. British internet users can now breathe a sigh of relief, safe in the knowledge that they need not fear certain prosecution simply for being sent an unsolicited and allegedly illegal file attachment via email at any time and from any source… though a precedent for doing so has now been set never the less.
Even so, gay people, queers, those that take their sexual health seriously, and people who practice BDSM or other forms of alternative sexuality in their private sexual lives regardless of their orientation will be that little bit more anxious following this trial. The prosecution in this case has slurred them all, worked to the effect of increasing social stigma, tarring them all with the same brush of “sexual deviant”, with an accompanying undercurrent of disdain and disgust.
Given the shocking and appalling attitudes and behaviour of the police and CPS on display in this case, it is unsurprising that many are calling for the head the Director of Public Prosecutions, Kier Starmer QC; a former human rights defence lawyer;
As of the moment of writing, that one call for Mr. Starmer’s resignation alone has been retweeted a whopping 149 times in the space of just 56 minutes. This is perhaps unsurprising in consideration of the fact that twitter users have been quick to note the connection between both this prosecution and the ‘Obscenity Trial‘ earlier this year, as well as the recent prosecution dubbed the ‘Twitter Joke Trial‘. Meanwhile, no conviction was reached in the trial regarding the death of Ian Tomlinson, widely regarded to have occurred at the hands of the Metropolitan Police at a time where corruption in the Met is widely insinuated with significant amounts of supporting evidence.
That this ‘Porn Trial’ against a man who previously was employed in the prosecution of police officers accused of misconduct, and in this context, makes it unsurprising that many believe this prosecution to have been malicious;
Yet another humiliation for the CPS after another malicious prosecution. Maybe this time they’ll learn
The summation of the CPS’s case most certainly didn’t help in this respect, given that they requested that the jury believe assertions for which there was no evidence – such as the assertion that as they didn’t find any incriminating evidence on Mr. Walsh’s computers, he must therefore have ditched a computer somewhere prior to the investigation. It’s a patently ridiculous thing to suggest in a court of law, and it’s a wonder that the prosecutor was not found in contempt of court for it.
With such bold and absurd assertions, there is now a very real worry that laws such as Section 63 of the CJIA regarding violent pornography, which were already widely regarded as bad laws n the first place, will continue to be prosecuted far in excess of the original intentions of the legislation; a practice for which this trial has in itself been evidence. As a result of the loss of confidence that this situation creates, and in horrified incredulity at the conduct of the CPS, there are calls for wholesale changes to the system;
In the floods of comment on this trial, there has not been a single solitary comment of mitigation or support in favour of the CPS, and rightly so. They themselves can now expect a flood of freedom of information requests seeking to know how much this whole farce has cost the taxpayer that’s been forced to fund it.
The unifying thread to all reactions in this trial, never the less, is that absolutely nobody is in any way comfortable with seeing the CPS get away with this behaviour…. and I agree with them. It can NOT be allowed to continue, as it’s not only reprehensible and socially corrosive behaviour that destroys the lives of innocent people and stigmatises vast swathes of the general public while placing democracy at risk, but it makes an absolute mockery of law, order, and justice in the UK while allowing those responsible for it to sit on their laurels and rake in the cash.
Had the prosecution been a corporation (perhaps providing a debt collection service), and the defendant been a client, there would have been the Equality Act to answer to. However, the prosecution in this case is the state, and the defendant a member of the public. The CPS has been free to stigmatise, demonise, discriminate and ruin the life of this man with no solid grounds to even consider doing so… and all in the name of the public interest; a public upon whom they have inflicted and threatened to inflict significant harm through their actions.
It HAS to stop. It simply has to… and I invite you to comment on this, share it, or talk about it anywhere if you agree. Write to your MP’s. Make freedom of information requests… complain directly to the CPS… anything rather than nothing. This cannot be allowed to pass without consequence.
- State authorities obsessed with ‘fisting’ seek to shaft us all: http://t.co/k3CIyGM0 #
- Tory Party postulates dropping marriage equality support to appeal to their homophobic base for the next election http://t.co/Fq1kiu5k #
- Facing arrest for existing, queer ugandans refuse to be silent and hold their first pride http://t.co/wv0oWJZZ #
- Obama signs law blocking the Westboro Baptist Church from protesting at military funerals http://t.co/ELLlrbvq #
- Prosecution prejudice sums up case in porn trial: http://t.co/Un7SAkQp #
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The witnesses have been examined and cross examined, and the summative arguments have been made by both the prosecution and the defence, as addressed to the jury. The stage is now set for His Honor the Judge to sum up the arguments of both sides in this case tomorrow, and for the jury to be sent to deliberate in an attempt to reach a unanimous verdict.
It’s improper to try to predict what the verdict of a jury will be, and there’s always a little danger of getting it wrong. Likewise, it’s improper to cast firm and direct aspersions on the innocence or guilt of a defendant, no-matter how clear you feel it to be. Never the less, the prosecution – the Crown Prosecution Service – in this case has done itself few favours with the wider public in some of the comments it has made through the course of the trial and in summing up, and it would not be unfair to look at those comments and arguments: It’s always in the merits of the public interest to consider the conduct of the Crown Prosecution Service. Never the less, if you happen to be a member of the jury or otherwise involved in the case, please look away now.
The first issue is that this case was brought by the CPS before a court of law at all. Notwithstanding the quality, quantity, and facts of the evidence, the prosecution of this trial is widely viewed by onlookers as a travesty, a disgrace, and an embarrassment to both the CPS and to the British legal system – the supposed grandfather of them all. Having failed to win a conviction in January over pornography featuring fisting and BDSM, they decided to have another crack of the whip in a different case and under a different law, but never the less apparently approaching the issue from similar angles in many respects. Needless to say, the CPS does not generally belong as a voyeuristic and punishing Mistress in the private sex lives of the British people.
The second issue is that, once again, it is anal fisting (and not, interestingly enough, vaginal), along with urethral sounding that has been looked at as a means to prosecution by the CPS, and once again, the defendant is a gay man. All in all, there are 5 counts of images involving sounding and fisting which are alleged by the prosecution to constitute “extreme pornography”, and a 6th count involving the possession of an indecent image of a young man asserted by the CPS to be possibly that of a child, which was found by police as an attachment to an email received by the defendant’s email account in 2008.
The third issue is that the acts depicted in the images upon which the majority of the trial has focused are consensual and perfectly legal.
The fourth issue is that there is no evidence save for the word of the defendant as to which of any of these attachments he was even aware of, let alone to show that any of them had ever been viewed. There is only assertion and speculation on the part of the prosecution.
This forms what to many people would be considered a disturbing pattern regarding a prosecution that should be attempting to prove guilt under a presumption of innocence. Never the less, in summing up, the prosecution claimed to the jury that:
He was sole user of this account. Forgetfulness is no defence. Burden is on him to prove he did not open it.
… this, without a hint of any irony whatsoever, from a prosecutor who quoted Oscar Wilde at a crown court trial of a gay man regarding his alleged deviant and criminal sexual preferences:
Oscar Wilde said risk was like feasting with panthers.
… though, as one twitter user pointed out, Oscar Wilde also said that ”To be entirely free, and at the same time, entirely dominated by law, is the eternal paradox of human life that we realise at every moment”.
The CPS in this case apparently learned nothing from their faux pas (to consider it generously) yesterday when they asserted that users of sexual health clinics are necessarily those engaged in riskier sexual practices, painting both the responsible health conscious users of those services and gay people as sexual deviants in a single stroke. Indeed, they continued the assault today asserting that an alleged image of child porn found as an email attachment in the defendant’s inbox, for which there is no evidence of requesting or opening, is perfectly inkeeping with the sexuality of a gay man that likes fisting:
We say that this image is in accordance with his sexual interests.
Speaking of the consideration that perhaps people should be free to have whatever sex they wanted, the CPS claimed that there are limits to freedom, and that you can’t just shout “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, contextualised by one twitter user by the name of Gemma Hallum: “Not sure that shouting “fire!” in a crowded theatre is analagous to photographing hands up a crowded bumhole.
They asserted, to the jury, that the content of the images would be considered degrading and dehumanising were the people in them women, in spite of the fact that the people in them weren’t women, and there were no women involved in any of the counts, or indeed, the accusation as a whole; nor is the consideration anything at all to do with the charge under section 63 of the CJA.
They conflated the charges with illegal drug use:
The law seems to protect individuals, perhaps for themselves. Like drugs. Some may say it’s illiberal, It is the law.
In the pursuit of a conviction, the CPS even went so far as to disparage the character and credibility of one of the expert witnesses, herself a woman, for declining to agree with the assertion that the images in question were pornographic in nature (the defendant describes them as souvenirs/mementos), pretty much all but accusing her of being a selfish and lying traitor to her gender in the process:
Walsh would not concede they were pornographic. He said they were souvenirs. Dr Clarissa Smith refused to accept they were pornographic. It’s a plain as a pikestaff that these images are pornographic. Dr Smith would not concede images were degrading if it pictured a woman. This is clearly wrong. Dr Smith’s evidence was disingenuous, self-serving and dishonest
Finally, but not least, the CPS even managed to get a point of law wrong in the summation of the argument, implying that a jury must convict someone of breaking a law even if they disagree with that law. This is incorrect, as it ignores the noble and honorable tradition of “Jury Nullification“.
The conduct and attitude of the CPS in this has been a joke. Quite apart from stigmatising the users of sexual health services (and particularly queer users) – a stigma that those same services have been working hard to fight – not only do they propose intrusion into the private sex lives of anybody they so desire to intrude upon, but managed to demonstrate victorian attitudes to sex and sexuality in the process.
They have offended vast swathes of the public, they have proposed precedent that can only be described as truly frightening in it’s consequences for democracy and civil liberties, they have disgraced themselves, and they have disgraced the entire profession within which they operate – a profession in which public trust is absolutely critical.
Regardless of the outcome of the trial, one thing is certain – it would be in the merits of the public interests were the judge to see fit to condemn the practices and attitudes of the CPS on display in this trial. This was discriminatory (at best! At worst, they treat everybody like this!), homophobic, insulting, dishonourable and indecent. There is no place for these attitudes and this kind of behaviour either in our legal system, or within British society as a whole. It’s an utter disgrace.
They went for it just 8 months ago, and they’re at it again now. The British police and the Crown Prosecution Service just can’t say no to anal fisting. Now, we wouldn’t normally offer a graphic description, but as this is apparently a significant issue worthy of a great deal of state time and resources, you might like to know (if you don’t already) that fisting is the practice of inserting a hand into the anus or vagina of another… or, in the words of one DS Callaghan when asked to describe an image used as evidence: ”appears to be arm inserted into anus“. There is, however, a darker and more serious aspect to this case.
Back in early January 2012, the Crown Prosecution Service brought charges, felt by many to be spurious, against Michael Peacock under the Obscene Publications Act, on grounds that he distributed pornography featuring gay fisting, urolagnia and BDSM which would tend to “deprave and corrupt the reader, viewer or listener”. This first porn trial was dubbed the “Obscenity trial of the decade“, and he was subsequently cleared of this charge by a jury of his peers. Presumably, either he was innocent of the charge or the jury became depraved and corrupted as a result of being forced to view the evidence.
Apparently unsatisfied with this result, the police and Crown Prosecution Service have once more brought fisting into the public eye (and intense scrutiny). Apparently unconcerned that they may stretch things too far, the charge this time, against one Simon Walsh, is brought under section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, relating to “Extreme Pornography”. The charge under this law asserts that Mr. Walsh was in possession of images of a sexually explicit nature, involving activity that is “likely to result in serious injury to a person’s anus”. This, of course, has nothing to do with the fact that prior to this accusation, “Simon was a successful professional and politician in the City who, amongst other things, prosecuted police officers accused of disciplinary offences.”
This trial has brought up some intriguing issues and questions, the most obvious of course being with regard to why the police and CPS seem to have this bizarre obsession with queer sexual practices and fisting in particular. More interesting, however, is that the CPS asserted with apparent confidence, in the form of a question, that “people who attend sexual health clinics engage in more risky practices” in an apparent assertion that those who attend sexual health clinics do so for a reason other than because they take their sexual health seriously. Though in itself an irresponsible assertion to make, it’s perhaps given context by a question asked shortly after by the CPS;
CPS: This survey went to LGBT charities; does that not skew the kinds of people who would respond?
There’s a less than subtle insinuation buried in this line of questioning and reasoning. It’s not a positive insinuation, to say the least about it. If anybody held any kind of belief that the legal authorities of the UK held enlightened views on queer sexuality and common-if-kinky perfectly legal sexual practices, that belief can now be dispelled through this somewhat less than shining example of tolerance and sex positivity.
It does, nevertheless, get worse. This case is not all about the absurdly surreal courtroom comments where a Judge asks for both he and the jury to be informed as to the relationship between anal fisting and ketamine. This case is about you, me, and anybody else in the UK. The charge in this trial comes about through the existence of attachments in an online email account owned by Simon Walsh, which the police have ransacked for evidence having not found anything of note on any computer. In the process of ransacking the email account for evidence they could use for a conviction against Mr. Walsh, the police have destroyed any evidence of whether or not Mr. Walsh actually ever opened or viewed these attached images, at least one of which was sent to his inbox as long as 3 years ago, and it isn’t proven that he requested them either!
In hoping to win a conviction at this trial, the CPS is hoping, perhaps indirectly, to see a second precedent set quite apart from the criminalisation of the possession of photographs taken of specific and perfectly legal sexual acts between two or more consenting adults. In order to win this conviction, the court would also have to assert that simply having an email account to which such an image is sent, requested or otherwise, constitutes the illegal possession of that image.
This has some rather serious repercussions. For example, what if somebody were to seek revenge upon you for some reason, or perhaps simply as a practical joke, and sent you such an image? Perhaps you may not even be aware it was in your inbox with the sheer volume of spam that exists on the internet in this day and age – after all, opening unknown email attachments is in itself immediately dangerous in the age of worms, viruses and trojan horses. What if somebody were to send such a thing and tip off the police about it’s existence? It’s easy enough to accurately spoof an email header if you know what you’re doing, and there’s no way to trace such an email.
Just as bad, however, is the fact that tomorrow it could be anything – who knows what legal changes will come our way over the course of time. What if it one day becomes illegal to ‘possess’ a copy of a trojan horse or computer virus? What if some other perfectly legal act becomes illegal to possess as a keepsake or record in photographic form?
This is not a precedent that’s healthy to be setting in anything other than a police state, and to set such a precedent in this “green and pleasant isle” would certainly be at least an unfortunate thing, and quite possibly a dangerous thing.
It’s arguably farcical that this latest “porn trial” ever came to court in consideration of the quality of this evidence, and even more farcical that the police and Crown Prosecution Service are once again going after the prosecution and criminalisation of the same thing through a different avenue having been unsuccessful the first time around. Never the less, it does constitute a serious threat to freedom and civil liberties. It’s a hidden threat, but it’s there nevertheless, and its a threat that we should all be aware of. If we’re not careful, they’ll move on from their dogged pursuit of fisting and, whether gay, bi, pansexual or straight, they’ll be shafting us all in posterity.
You can keep up to date with proceedings at the hashtag #porntrial, or by following @lexingtondymock or @ObscenityLawyer who are livetweeting from the trial with the judges permission. @ObscenityLawyer is making history as the first legal solicitor to be granted permission to livetweet court proceedings. Please be advised that neither person is able to answer queries regarding the case, as to do so they would be found to be in contempt of court.
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