Saturday 24 February 2018

Possession of 'rape' porn to be a crime in England and Wales

David Cameron will announce today that possession of violent pornography containing simulated rape scenes will be made a crime in England and Wales
David Cameron will announce today that possession of violent pornography containing simulated rape scenes will be made a crime in England and Wales

David Hughes

Possessing violent pornography containing simulated rape scenes will be made a crime in England and Wales, Britain's prime minister will announce today.

David Cameron will also set out plans for new laws so that videos streamed online in the UK are subject to the same restrictions as those sold in shops.

In an emotive speech he will warn that access to online pornography is "corroding childhood" as he demands tough action by internet giants to crack down on extreme content.

Experts from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop), which is set to become part of the National Crime Agency, will be given enhanced powers to examine secretive file-sharing networks, and a secure database of banned child porn images gathered by police across the country will be used to trace illegal content and the paedophiles viewing it.

The Prime Minister will acknowledge the issue of extreme and child pornography is "hard for our society to confront" and "difficult for politicians to talk about".

But, drawing on his feelings as a father, he will insist it needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

He will say: "I want to talk about the internet. The impact it is having on the innocence of our children. How online pornography is corroding childhood. And how, in the darkest corners of the internet, there are things going on that are a direct danger to our children, and that must be stamped out.

"I'm not making this speech because I want to moralise or scaremonger, but because I feel profoundly as a politician, and as a father, that the time for action has come. This is, quite simply, about how we protect our children and their innocence."

He will call for collective action on the agenda from Government, parents, internet and technology firms, schools and charities.

"I want Britain to be the best place to raise a family," he will say. "A place where your children are safe. Where there's a sense of right and wrong and boundaries between them. Where children are allowed to be children. All the actions we're taking come back to that."

In a move called for by women's groups, ministers will close a loophole which allows the possession of "rape" porn, bringing the position in England and Wales in line with that in Scotland.

Mr Cameron will say: "There are certain types of pornography that can only be described as 'extreme'. I am talking particularly about pornography that is violent, and that depicts simulated rape.

"These images normalise sexual violence against women - and they are quite simply poisonous to the young people who see them.

"The legal situation is that although it's been a crime to publish pornographic portrayals of rape for decades, existing legislation does not cover possession of this material - at least in England and Wales. Possession of such material is already an offence in Scotland but because of a loophole in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, it is not an offence South of the border.

"Well I can tell you today we are changing that. We are closing the loophole - making it a criminal offence to possess internet pornography that depicts rape."

He will add: "There are some examples of extreme pornography that are so bad that you can't even buy this material in a licensed sex shop. And today I can announce we will be legislating so that videos streamed online in the UK are subject to the same rules as those sold in shops.

"Put simply - what you can't get in a shop, you will no longer be able to get online."

Mr Cameron will praise the work Ceop has already done to disrupt the so-called "hidden internet" where people share illegal files away from mainstream websites.

"Once Ceop becomes a part of the National Crime Agency, that will further increase their ability to investigate behind pay walls, to shine a light on the hidden internet and to drive prosecutions of those who are found to use it.

"So let me be clear to any offender who might think otherwise: there is no such thing as a 'safe' place on the internet to access child abuse material."

Mr Cameron, who has faced criticism from Labour over cuts to Ceop's funding, will insist that the centre's experts and police will be given the powers needed to keep pace with technological changes on the internet.

He will also set out proposals to link the storage banks of illegal imagery held by police forces across the country to produce a single, secure database enabling officers from different areas to work together to "close the net on paedophiles".

The internet industry has agreed to use the database to proactively scan for, block and remove the images wherever they occur, he will add.

But he will give search engines including Google an October deadline to introduce further measures to block access to illegal content, claiming they have a "moral duty" to act.

Mr Cameron will call for them to block any results for a blacklist of "abhorrent" search terms compiled by Ceop and will caution against any claim that it is beyond their technology.

He will also call for warning pages which pop up if people try to access illegal content to spell out more explicitly the consequences of their actions.

"These splash pages are up on the internet from today, and this is a vital step forward. But we need to go further.

"These warning pages should also tell those who've landed on it that they face consequences, such as losing their job, their family, even access to their children if they continue and vitally, they should direct them to the charity campaign 'Stop It Now', which can help them change their behaviour anonymously and in complete confidence."

A Google spokesman said: "We have a zero tolerance attitude to child sexual abuse imagery. Whenever we discover it, we respond quickly to remove and report it.

"We recently donated $5m to help combat this problem and are committed to continuing the dialogue with the Government on these issues."

Mr Cameron's announcement was welcomed by women's groups and academics who had campaigned to close the "rape porn" loophole.

Fiona Elvines, of Rape Crisis South London, said: "The Government today has made a significant step forward in preventing rapists using rape pornography to legitimise and strategise their crimes and, more broadly, in challenging the eroticisation of violence against women and girls."

Professor Clare McGlynn, of Durham University, said: "The extreme porn law can be swiftly amended to send a clear message that rape should not be a form of sexual entertainment.

"Reform of the extreme porn law represents an important shift in priorities away from consensual activity to challenging the sexualisation of violence against women."

Holly Dustin, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: "We are delighted that David Cameron has responded to the call by experts and women's groups to ban pornographic images of rape that promote and eroticise violence against women.

"The coalition Government has pledged to prevent abuse of women and girls, so tackling a culture that glorifies abuse is critical for achieving this. The next step is working with experts to ensure careful drafting of the law and proper resourcing to ensure the law is enforced fully."

Mr Cameron will also announce that every UK household will have to choose whether they want to be able to receive online pornography or whether it should be blocked by internet providers.

Family-friendly filters which block pornography will be automatically selected for all new internet customers, though people will be able to choose whether to switch them off, the BBC said.

Internet providers will also contact millions of existing customers and ask them to decide whether to activate filters to stop children accessing unsuitable material.

Former Ceop chairman Jim Gamble, who resigned in protest over the merger with the National Crime Agency, sharply criticised the Government's approach, warning that it was not doing enough to deter paedophiles who shared abusive images of children online.

"This Government has stood still for two years with regard to Ceop," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"Ceop's budget has in real terms decreased. There are 50,000 predators we are told by Ceop downloading images from peer-to-peer, yet from Ceop intelligence only 192 were arrested last year. That's simply not good enough.

"We have got to get the balance right. The balance is attack the root cause, invest with with new money into child protection teams, victim support and policing on the ground. Let's create a real deterrent, not a pop-up that paedophiles will laugh at."

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editors Choice

Also in World News