HJA client Michael Peacock acquitted by unanimous jury verdict
6th January 2012
The trial of Michael Peacock for six counts of distributing obscene DVDs under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 concluded today with an acquittal.
The jury, which had watched large parts of the ‘hard core’ male-on-male DVDs took under 2 hours to find Mr Peacock not guilty.
Mr Peacock had been advertising the DVDs online and selling them from his flat in Brixton. Officers from SCD9 (the former Obscene Publications Squad of the Met) saw the adverts and operated an undercover test purchase. Six DVD’s featuring various sex acts including ‘fisting’ and BDSM were deemed by police to be obscene and Mr Peacock was prosecuted.
Myles Jackman, a solicitor at Hodge Jones & Allen, with a specialist interest in obscenity law, commented: “The jury’s verdict is a significant victory for common sense suggesting that the OPA has been rendered irrelevant in the digital age. Normal jurors did not consider representations of consensual adult sexuality would deprave and corrupt the viewer.”
Senior Criminal Partner, Nigel Richardson, acting for Mr Peacock, stated that “from the outset Michael has displayed an enormous amount of courage in contesting these charges. The jury’s verdict vindicates his decision to challenge this arcane and archaic legislation. The result is also a testament to [HJA crime partner] Sandra Paul’s persuasive advocacy.”
The trial continues today of Michael Peacock, who has been charged under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 for distributing DVDs featuring various sex acts including fisting, so-called "water sports", and BDSM.
Peacock's defence is being conducted by law firm Hodge Jones & Allen whose lawyer Myles Jackman has blogged about the case here.
In essence, the prosecution have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the DVDs distributed by Peacock are such that their effect would be "to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied" in the DVDs. Whether the DVDs would tend to deprave and corrupt any such person is a question of fact for the jury, who presumably have had to watch the DVDs as part of their compulsory jury service and not be depraved or corrupted in the process.
Obscenity is a curious criminal offence, and many would say that it now has no place in a modern liberal society, especially when all that is being portrayed in any "obscene material" are the consensual (if unusual) sexual acts between adults. That said, the Crown Prosecution Service has decided it is in the public interest to prosecute Peacock over these products, and the judge and jury are (rightly) obliged to apply the law to the facts which are determined by trial. Accordingly Peacock may well be convicted and, if so, faces up to five years imprisonment.
Whatever the outcome, R v Peacock may well turn out to be an important test case on the boundaries of obscenity law. As Jackman says: ...
Professional dominatrices (dominant women who submissive men hire for consensual sadomasochism) are not a recent addition to the workforce; before her death in 1836, a London-based dominatrix named Theresa Berkley operated an early 19th century equivalent of what would be called a BDSM (bondage, domination, sadism and masochism) dungeon today. Submissive men went to Berkley’s establishment to be chained up, whipped, birched and caned, and she enjoyed a loyal clientele. But in Berkley’s day, professional domination was very underground; for that matter, it was very underground as recently as the 1970s and 1980s. But with BDSM having become increasingly visible (at least a more softcore version of BDSM), professional domination has become increasingly plentiful. And in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s, more and more women have (according to well-known professional dominatrices like Mistress Nina Payne in New York City and Mistress Bella Vendetta in Massachusetts) been looking to professional domination as a possible source of income. ...
Susan Wright, president/founder of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (a BDSM rights organization), said that the majority of women who get into professional domination do so on a part-time or freelance basis—and she has found that many college students and single mothers like professional domination because of the flexible hours.
“A lot of women who go into pro-domination are looking for something to help bridge the gap,” Wright observed. “There are some women who go into pro-domination services and really feel a calling for it; it’s something they intend to make their long-term career. But I think the percentage of women who feel that way is smaller than the percentage of women who are looking for something to help bridge the gap. I think there is a larger percentage of women who are looking at it as something to do part-time or something to do until their career gets started. You find a lot of students doing it, and women in the arts are drawn to pro-domination services because they can do that part-time and still have time to devote to their art. It’s something they can do to make money without having to work a 40-hour week, and it’s also good for single mothers for that reason; they can spend more time with the kids.”
Wright added that women who get into professional domination also like the fact that they won’t be having vaginal intercourse with clients (unlike prostitution) and won’t be asked to take their clothes off (unlike stripping). Being a pro-domme typically involves restraining and torturing naked men, but the dominatrix, unlike the submissive, keeps her clothes on during sessions.
In the past, many people in the adult entertainment industry (which includes everything from Internet porn to BDSM-related activities to stripping to phone sex) claimed that adult entertainment was recession-proof or at least recession-resistant. But BDSM, like other areas of erotic entertainment, has been feeling the economic pinch—and Wright said that the economic downturn has been making professional domination both more competitive and more crowded. “I think it’s a double-edged sword,” Wright explained. “When the economy is tough and people are looking around for part-time jobs or alternate careers, I think you will have more women becoming pro-dommes and seeing it as a way to make a lot of money very fast—particularly if they’re trying to go to school. But the other side of that is that in a bad economy, there is less spending money—which means there is less demand for pro-domination services.” ...
SALT LAKE CITY -- Reality TV stars Kody Brown and his four wives say they just want one thing: to be left alone.
As authorities investigate them for bigamy, the TLC "Sister Wives" family is asking a federal judge to overturn part of Utah's bigamy law because it bans them from living together and criminalizes sexual relationships between unmarried consenting adults.
"What they are asking for is the right to structure their own lives, their own family, according to their faith and their beliefs," said Jonathan Turley, their attorney, adding that the lawsuit is about privacy – not polygamy.
The case in federal court in Utah, however, could open up the possibility that a way of life for tens of thousands of self-described Mormon fundamentalists could be decriminalized.
While all states outlaw bigamy, some like Utah have laws that both prohibit having more than one marriage license at a time and also ban adults from living together and having a sexual relationship.
The latter provision could include same-sex couples, unmarried heterosexual couples and those, like the Browns, who do not have licenses but have created within their homes a marriage-like relationship.
Turley, a noted constitutional expert, argued that, under previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings, such as one that struck down Texas' sodomy law, private intimate relationships between consenting adults are constitutionally protected.
The lawsuit doesn't aim to challenge Utah's right to refuse to recognize plural marriage, nor are the Browns seeking multiple marriage licenses, Turley said. ...
B.C. Supreme Court has upheld Canada's polygamy laws, but says minors who end up in polygamous marriages should be exempt from prosecution.
In a 335-page decision released on Wednesday, Chief Justice Robert Bauman ruled in favour of the section of the Criminal Code outlawing polygamous unions.
In his ruling, Bauman said while the law does infringe on religious freedom, it is justified given the harm polygamy causes to children, women and society.
“I have concluded that this case is essentially about harm,” Bauman wrote in the decision that was handed down Wednesday morning in Vancouver.
“More specifically, Parliament’s reasoned apprehension of harm arising out of the practice of polygamy. This includes harm to women, to children, to society and to the institution of monogamous marriage.”
But he suggested the law shouldn’t be used to criminalize minors who find themselves married into polygamous unions.
The decision follows 42 days of legal arguments from a wide variety of groups interested in the constitutionality of Section 293 of the Criminal Code.
B.C. welcomes decision
The ruling was welcomed by B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond in Victoria, who called the decision a "landmark" ruling that sends a clear message upholding the laws. ...
A couple renting the big house behind the bright white fence seemed like excellent tenants, their landlord says. They paid their rent on time. They kept the grass neatly trimmed.
Neighbors watched the pair light tiki torches along the driveway in the evenings. The torches led floods of cars beyond the picket fence onto the property at the end of a dead-end street.
"We are a party family," the property's owner, Sheriff Iguaran, recalled his tenants explaining when they rented the house about a year ago.
"As long as there is no crime activity, I don't have any problem," responded Iguaran, who owns and lives in the house next door.
It wasn't until last week, he said, that he learned his renters at 11326 Brightridge Drive in Seffner hosted what authorities have called an illegal swingers club.
Iguaran said he received a letter from county code enforcement about the alleged business and notified his tenants of the infraction by certified mail.
Authorities stepped in Saturday, arresting tenants Steven Bowers, 56, and Cynthia Bowers, 55, both of St. Petersburg.
They say the Bowers' social activities at the rental house had boomed into an unlicensed sex club business, where swingers partied and singles paid to mingle. Alcohol flowed with a bring-your-own-bottle policy.
Also arrested were Ricky Zabala, 55, and his wife. Pamela Zabala, 54, of Orlando, who authorities say helped operate the swingers club.
All four face charges of operating a sexually oriented business without a license and operating a bottle club without proper zoning and licensing. All four were released from jail Saturday. ...
Proving that you can't keep a good swinger down, the Crucible—a "pansexual alternate lifestyles club" that lost its lease at 1815 Half Street on Buzzard Point in April—has found a new home. The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs just issued a building permit for a small warehouse garage flanked by parking lots at 16 M Street NE, a block from the new Harris Teeter and around the corner from existing nightclubs Fur and Ibiza.
I'm not sure at this point what kind of opposition the BDSM fixture might run into. But I do know that they've probably got a good zoning lawyer. Recently, the club says on its homepage, they incorporated as a 501(c)7 non-profit. According to an email from Zoning Administrator Matt LeGrant justifying the award of a permit, non-profit status means it can't be classified as a "sexually oriented business establishment," and is instead a "private club." SOBEs, as they're affectionately called, can't open within within 600 feet of a church, school, library, playground, or the area under the jurisdiction of the Commission of Fine Arts. Plus, they have to get permission from the Board of Zoning Adjustment to operate in a commercial zone, giving neighbors a toehold to stop them (which is why Stadium Club fought the SOBE label tooth and nail). Private clubs, on the other hand, are allowed as a matter of right.
From my perspective, the only thing wrong with private clubs is that they're blank and impermeable to the street during the day—like dance halls, or even Georgetown's City Tavern—and so are not well-suited to aspiring pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods like NoMa. But that block isn't terribly walkable yet, so it wouldn't do any harm in the near term. And when someone buys the parcel for redevelopment, the club will just be displaced again anyway; such is the lot of sex clubs (as most of the old ones down by the ballpark learned years ago).
Still, I suspect that at least some residents will fret that the block is developing a reputation as a "red light district," which the Stadium Club's neighbors tried to claim as well. Thanks to their advance legal legwork, though, the Crucible might be in the clear.
The Crucible comes before Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6C on Thursday.
Hillsborough County sheriff's detectives say they shut down a swingers club in a Seffner rental house Friday and arrested four people.
Complaints from neighbors about the home at 11326 Brightridge Drive kicked off a six-week investigation by sheriff's detectives and agents from the state Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco.
Neighbors said cars would turn up their dead-end street on weekend evenings and head directly for the very end, pulling into the 150-foot driveway lit with tiki torches behind the white picket fence and gate.
The unassuming two-story white house has red trim and sits well off a street lined with single-story ranch homes.
Inside, detectives found three bedrooms lined wall to wall with beds.
The living room was equipped with a dancing pole, a spanking table and large-screen televisions playing pornographic movies.
Steven Bowers, 56, and his wife, Cynthia Bowers, 55, both of St. Petersburg were the owners and operators of the swingers club, deputies said.
They were leasing the home. Ricky Zabala, 55, and his wife, Pamela Zabala, 54, of Orlando assisted with the club when the Bowers were away, according to investigators.
All four have been charged with operating a sexually oriented business without a license, a county ordinance violation, and operating a bottle club without proper zoning and licensing, a second-degree misdemeanor. Each charge carries up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. All four were released from jail Saturday. ...