Section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 is a law in the United Kingdom criminalising possession of what it refers to as "extreme pornographic images". The law was enacted from 26 January 2009. It refers to pornography (defined as an image "of such a nature that it must reasonably be assumed to have been produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal") which is "grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character" and portrays "in an explicit and realistic way" any of the following:
- An act threatening a person's life
- An act which results (or is likely to result) in serious injury to a person's anus, breasts or genitals
- An act which involves (or appears to involve) sexual interference with a human corpse
- A person performing (or appearing to perform) an act of intercourse (or oral sex) with an animal (whether dead or alive)
and a reasonable person looking at the image would think that any such person (or animal) was real.
The term covers staged acts, and applies whether or not the participants consent. Classified works are exempt, but an extract from a classified work (if the image was extracted for the purpose of sexual arousal) would not be exempt. Whether an image is "pornographic" or not is up to the magistrate (or jury) to determine by looking at the image; it is not a question of the intentions of those who produced the image. If an image is held in a person's possession as part of a series of images, the question of whether it is pornographic is also determined by the context in which it appears. Therefore an image might be legal in some contexts but not others. Serious injury is not defined by the act, but is up to the magistrate or jury. Guidance on the bill gives examples of acts which would be covered: depictions of hanging, suffocation, or sexual assault involving a threat with a weapon; the insertion of sharp objects into (or the mutilation of) breasts or genitals.
The definition of "obscene" is not the same as that used in the Obscene Publications Acts, which requires that an image "deprave and corrupt" those likely to view it; instead, this is the ordinary dictionary definition of "obscene". "Grossly offensive" and "disgusting" are given as examples of "obscene".
There is a defence if the defendant can prove that he "directly participated" in the act and the other participants also consented, but only if the acts are those which can be legally consented to in the UK. This defence is not available to the photographer or other "onlookers" who were present, but did not directly participate.
Where the first two clauses above apply, the maximum sentence is three years; otherwise, the maximum is two years. Adults sentenced to at least two years will be placed on the Violent and Sex Offender Register.
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