State authorities obsessed with fisting seek to shaft us all

For the police and Crown Prosecution Service, this simple hand gesture is like a red flag to a bull this year

For the police and Crown Prosecution Service, this simple hand gesture is like a red flag to a bull this year

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.