The bill has been debated in the House of Common's Committee Stage and members from all of the major political parties raised objections to sections 64-67. As a result, the Government has promised to look again at this part of the bill. This is a huge achievement and everyone involved in the lobbying effort should be congratulated. However, that doesn't mean that the Government will definitely re-draft the proposals, and even if they do, they may not include the amendments we want.
BACKLASH is a coalition of organisations, including the Spanner Trust, which are firmly opposed to criminalising the possession of pictures of non-abusive activities engaged in by consenting adults. The Backlash website has a summary of objections to the proposals at www.backlash-uk.org.uk/oppose.html
HIGH COURT CHALLENGE
It can be hard to believe sometimes, but it is still illegal to engage in any consensual activities for sexual pleasure in England, Wales or Northern Ireland which result in an injury which is more than "transient or trifling". (Scotland has a separate legal system where consent is generally a defence but not in all circumstances.)
The phrase "transient or trifling" has not been defined by the courts, but if your consensual activities result in bruises, cuts, welts, burns, grazes, scabs, bloodshot eyes or any other injury for sexual pleasure then you may well have broken the law.
Your private consensual kinky activities can lead to you losing your job, having videos and magazines seized by HM Revenue and Customs, your home computer taken by the police, losing custody of your children and of course, arrest and threat of prosecution. And that's still happening to SM players, even in 2007.
The Spanner Trust plans to bring a UK High Court application under the Human Rights Act 1998 to allow consent as a defence where injury occurs during activities for sexual pleasure. For our challenge to succeed we need two things: claimants (people willing to put their name to the application saying that they are at risk of prosecution) and money to help pay for the costs of the case. We are working with a Senior Queen's Counsel who has advised us that if we manage to bring the case to the High Court we stand a good chance of success.
However, we need to be prepared to pay the costs of the case, which could be a long and expensive process.
WITH THANKS ...
We are extremely grateful to everyone who has supported the Spanner Trust this year, including:
There's a longer list of clubs and businesses that have helped us over the last five years at www.spannertrust.org/supporters.asp
IF YOU NEED HELP
If anyone in the UK is in trouble because of their BDSM activities they can contact the Trust for legal advice by emailing info (at) spannertrust.org
(Please note that because the people working for the Trust are unpaid volunteers it may be some days before a reply is given.)
There is a "Bust Card" on the Spanner Trust website which provides useful information if you are questioned or arrested by the Police, at www.spannertrust.org/documents/bustcard.asp
In an emergency you can phone David Clark or John Lovatt, who are both solicitors with experience in BDSM cases. Their telephone numbers are listed on the Spanner Trust website.
If arrested or questioned by the Police you are always entitled to obtain legal advice from a Duty Solicitor who is available 24 hours a day. All legal advice given by a solicitor in a Police Station is free.
Finally, if you know anyone who might find the contents of this newsletter useful please forward it to them. Anyone can join the mailing list by sending an email to subscribe (at) spannertrust.org
We hope that you don't need our help in 2008 - and we wish everyone very Happy Holidays and a Peaceful New Year!
Best wishes, Derek Cohen
Spanner Trust Chairman