Sunday, 12 August 2012

#Porntrial: Wanking Is Not A Crime

Charges of possessing extreme pornography are enough to destroy any man. When the Crown Prosecution Service added the allegation that the pornography included an image of child abuse, Simon Walsh's disgrace seemed complete. He was a barrister, a City of London alderman, a magistrate and one of Boris Johnson's appointees on the London Fire Authority. The mention of paedophile porn, and gay porn at that, sent these venerable institutions running.
I know it is hopeless to seek to dent Boris Johnson's self-portrait of a carefree British patriot in this moment of Olympic euphoria, but it's all an act. In the 1930s, a journalist confronted Brendan Bracken, Churchill's bumptious sidekick, and bellowed: "You're phoney! Everything about you is phoney! Even your hair that looks like a wig – isn't!" Bracken had a mop of red hair to match Johnson's mop of blond. If Johnson were a true, plain-speaking patriot, he would have stood by Britain's best principle that a citizen is innocent until proven guilty. But he is a phoney, and his officials fired Walsh without a second's thought. The best that can be said of London's mayor is that he did not behave as badly as Walsh's colleagues. His fellow magistrates bailed him on condition he stayed at a house where he had not lived for 18 months. Walsh had to sleep on its floor. His fellow barristers at London's 5 Essex Court Chambers forgot everything they had learned about the presumption of innocence, and asked the police to seize his pass so that he could not re-enter their offices.
The Crown Prosecution Service under the current director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, is earning a deservedly bad reputation for its vexatious litigation. Her Majesty's chief inspector estimates that almost one in 10 of its prosecutions is baseless Thousands of people plead guilty, nevertheless, just to get the CPS off their backs.
Thirty years ago, the homosexual element in the affair would have made Walsh cop a plea and slink away into obscurity. But Walsh is an openly gay man in the 21st century. "I've never hidden what I am," he told me. "I knew I had done nothing wrong and was not going to run away."

Cracking piece in The Observer by Nick Cohen - not usually someone we're a big fan of here at Fagburn Towers.
Simon Walsh was acussed of possessing images of fisting, basically - a legal act - under a loopy law brought in by New Labour.
He was defended by the great Myles Jackman, who also defended and won a similar - and similarly stupid - case in January about Michael Peacock who was charged with distributing gay S&M DVDs.
More from Myles Jackman on his blog.
I think the only gay media which covered the Peacock trial were QX and Disco Damaged (and moi).
This time round, after much nagging by Jackman and others (and moi) on Twitter (Jackman was allowed to tweet live in court and set up the hashtag #porntrial) most UK gay news sites covered it.
Including a good piece on Gay Star News - again not something I'm used to saying - by Jane Fae here. 
Jackman's colleague, Alex Dymock, wrote about the ludicrousness of the trial with great wit in Friday's Guardian.
Pretty sure the only other newspaper to have covered this was the Daily Mail, in their usual faux outraged prurient graphic style.

PS Note The Observer have chosen not to illustrate this with a photo of Simon Walsh, but of Twitter joker Paul Chambers, who's only mentioned in passing. For shame?

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