A barrister has been acquitted of possessing extreme pornography in a landmark case over the boundaries of what can be described as "extreme".
The jury was unanimous and took less than 90 minutes to clear Simon Walsh, 50, a former aide to London mayor Boris Johnson, and who served as a magistrate and alderman in the City of London, after a week-long trial.
The case is believed to be the first to address whether images of anal fisting, a sexual practice which is legal, and urethral sounding are extreme pornography, as defined under the controversial section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. Earlier this year Michael Peacock was acquitted of charges under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 of distributing obscene DVDs, which featured fisting and bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism (BDSM).
Walsh was charged with possession of six email attachment images, which were not found by police on either his work or home computers, but on a Hotmail server account he set up to receive and send sexual messages.
Oxford-educated Walsh was sacked from his position on the London Fire Authority on his arrest in April last year. He was a man of impeccable character who had made an outstanding contribution to society, the court heard, and had previously chaired the City of London Corporation police authority and licensing authority. He had been unable to work as a barrister since his arrest on the charges, which carry a sentence of up to three years in prison.
His lawyer, Matthew Buckland, told Kingston crown court that the case raised issues of private personal encounters and "how we view them in an inclusive democracy".
Walsh faced five charges under the 2008 act, which stipulates images are extreme if they are "grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character" and if they "portray, in an explicit and realistic way" any act "which results in, or is likely to result, in serious injury to a person's anus, breasts or genitals". ...
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