Yesterday, the UK’s ‘Ministry of Justice’ (do they also have Ministries of Truth, Peace, Love and Plenty?) announced plans to implement new legislation, criminalizing possession of cartoons, drawings and sketches of child erotica.
This announcement follows a ‘public consultation’ last June. The full Report, published yesterday, is available in .pdf format from: http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/non-photographic-depictions.htm).
A majority of respondents to the consultation “saw the lack of research and evidence, as acknowledged in the original consultation paper, of a causative correlation between viewing non-photographic visual depictions of child sex abuse and the commission of offences as a reason not to legislate in this area. It was argued that ‘while there may be behaviours of which most of us disapprove, these should not be criminalised unless they directly cause harm to others in society’ and that ‘an unsupported ‘concern’ cannot be sufficient to justify restricting the liberty of citizens.”
“Many of the respondents thought that the proposals were tantamount to ‘thought crime,’ victimless activities or ‘Orwellian behaviour’ on behalf of the Government and were concerned about the possibility of viewers of these images being criminalised without harming children or ever intending to do so. Many individual respondents reiterated the principle that freedom of expression should not be limited to information or ideas favoured by the Government, or the majority, but rather the test of free expression was whether the Government criminalised a form of free expression that does no harm, on the grounds that the expression is abhorrent.”
Nevertheless, ultimately, the UK Government felt that:
“there exists a class of material that should not be tolerated, even in the absence of conclusive evidence that it caused offending behaviour.”
Is there any more evidence of an authoritarian regime?
It is notable that the most powerful brokers in this discussion were – yes, you guessed it – those who had the greatest vested interests (financial and otherwise) in pushing new legislation through: “the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Public Prosecution Service NI (PPSNI), Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), Police Federation of England & Wales, the Internet Service Providers Association, numerous child welfare organisations, local police forces, religious groups and the British Association of Social Workers.”
There is nothing more to be said in this matter. I suspect that the UK Government will not get these proposals enacted into legislation until at least 2009 – which gives us a year to prepare our friends in the UK. At the very least, we need to step up our computer security campaign. We must get one simple message across as broadly as possible: Encrypt, Encrypt, Encrypt.
Whatever (remaining) ‘obligation’ UK citizens felt towards their government has been well and truly forfeited.