HC Deb 16 June 1997 vol 296 c51W
Rev. Martin Smyth

To ask the Attorney-General what guidance is issued to Crown Prosecutors considering prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act 1959. [3395]

The Attorney-General

The decision whether to prosecute under the 1959 Act is taken in accordance with evidential and public interest criteria set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors which is issued under section 10 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. Those criteria govern all categories of case.

In deciding whether the evidence is sufficient to justify proceedings in a particular case, consideration will be given to the statutory definition of obscenity and the manner in which is has been applied by the courts in cases involving comparable material. Where proceeding may be appropriate a representative sample of the material is submitted to Central Casework at Crown Prosecution Service Headquarters where it is assessed by experienced staff to ensure a consistent approach. The Director of Public Prosecutions does not publish the detailed operational guidance given in relation to particular categories of offence.

In determining whether a prosecution would be in the public interest, the principal factors include:

  • the degree and type of obscenity together with the form in which it is presented;
  • the type and scale of any commercial venture;
  • whether publication was made to a child or the possibility that such publication would be likely to take place.

The above is not however an exhaustive list of relevant factors.

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