Britain outlaws porn users

A law is to be introduced in Britain criminalizing users of what has become known as extreme pornography. Some regard it as a controversial piece of legislation and yet another example of an over-intrusive government.

In 2003, Liz Longhurst’s daughter Jane was brutally murdered by an acquaintance. It was later discovered that the murderer was an obsessive viewer of ‘extreme pornography’. Five years on, Mrs. Longhurst believes such violent sexual images were instrumental in her daughter’s death.

“[Pornography] was central. In his particular case, he had this obsession with it. He’d had this fantasy from the age of 15 of strangling a woman with a ligature. Once the internet was there, then of course I feel the internet gave him permission. He realized that he’s not the only one, so I think he allowed himself to go with the flow,” the victim’s mother said.

Following Jane’s murder, Mrs. Longhurst campaigned tirelessly for the introduction of a law that criminalizes not just producers, but consumers of extreme pornography – defined by the courts as an act which threatens or appears to threaten a person’s life.

A link between violent images and violent crime hasn’t been scientifically established, and photographer Ben Westwood feels the stigma against this type of pornography is unjustified.

“Everyone has a sexuality, everybody fantasizes, pornography is the visual expression of people’s fantasy. You’re saying an image can tip someone over from being a normal, law-abiding citizen into a murderer? I don’t think so,” Westwood believes.

Those in favor of the legislation admit it’s not perfect, but they say something has to be better than nothing. Detractors say it is yet another example of a state intent on spying into people’s private lives.

“My worry is that this law is all about the government actually stepping into people’s bedrooms, looking at what happens between consenting adults. It opens up all sorts of questions about privacy and your right to a private life,” said Baroness Sue Miller, member of the House of Lords.

It is, however, little comfort for a mother who was forced to bury her own daughter.