A jury in London has returned a unanimous not guilty verdict for a man charged under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 for distributing DVDs containing scenes of extreme gay sex acts.
Michael Peacock was cleared of six charges earlier this afternoon at Southwark Crown Court, in what has been described as “the most significant obscenity trial of the decade”.
The legal test under the Act is whether any images would “tend to deprave and corrupt” those who saw them.
The acts contained within the DVDs in the case had included fisting between men, urination, and incidents of sado-masochism.
Myles Jackson, a lawyer specialising in the obscenity laws whose firm was representing Peacock, had written: “Perhaps illogically, of these sexual acts, fisting and urination are completely legal to perform in real life; and thus it is only the representation of these acts on film which may be considered obscene and therefore attract criminal liability.”
If the jury had found Peacock guilty of possessing material which would “deprave and corrupt”, he could have faced up to five years’ imprisonment.
In an interview in 2010, Peacock, now 53, said he came out as gay in 2004 and had begun work as an escort one month later.
Dr Brooke Magnanti, the author of the Belle du Jour blog, is personally acquainted with Peacock.
She wrote on her blog today that the “thought that he corrupts or defiles anyone who doesn’t want said treatment is frankly ridiculous”.
Magnanti added there was a need to clarify issues of consent in the depiction of such acts: “This failure to distinguish consensual and nonconsensual sex acts is something that must be addressed.
“Not only because is an important point as regards sex and kink, but also because making this point crystal clear in guidance on law would help to shape discussion of issues around sex in a way that is more reasonable and less anachronistic.”
The Crown Prosecution Service guidelines list images of “sadomasochistic material which goes beyond trifling and transient infliction of injury”, “torture with instruments”, “activities involving perversion or degradation” and “fisting” as possibly being suitable for prosecution along with non-consensual acts.
The jury determined the acts in question did not “tend to corrupt or deprave those who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it”.