UK ‘bad’ pics ban may stretch beyond possessing to looking

UK ‘bad’ pics ban may stretch beyond possessing to looking

The government could be planning to up the ante when it comes to material it doesn’t approve of – it may become illegal to even look at images, not merely possess them.

Some odd, ambiguous remarks by Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions, raise this gruesome possibility. Evidence for it emerged from an elliptical exchange between Starmer and Jenny Willott, Lib Dem MP for Cardiff Central during the committee stage of the Coroners and Justice Bill.

Miss Willott has clearly done her homework. She noted that whilst the Internet Watch Foundation focuses on images that can be downloaded – the traditional web route – images accessed through other means, such as streaming, are not within its remit. She asked Mr Starmer: “If someone is watching streaming images online, there would be no actual copy on their computer, so they would not technically be in possession.”

He replied: “It would be for the courts to interpret the meaning of possession. We would proceed on the basis that there should be no such loophole.”

Mr Starmer’s reply can be interpreted in two ways: streaming is not a loophole, either because the government is not interested in going after it; or because they intend – or hope – that in time the courts will extend the definition of “possession” to the simple act of watching something unfold on a screen.

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