Thursday 7 August 2008

Is The Law An Ass…?

I think we’d have to say ‘Yes’:
A university tutor who was asked by parents to take photographs of their semi-naked children ended up being convicted of possessing child pornography.

Dr Marcus Phillips, 38, who also works as a photographer, creates portraits of fairies combining digital technology and the original photographs of his models.

He was asked by the parents of the two girls, aged 10 and 12, to create a portrait of them which involved taking close-up photographs of various parts of their bodies, which were then superimposed on top of each other, to create the fairy images. The girls' parents were present at some of the photo shoots.
So, perfectly harmless, if a little tacky, but then, you can’t get arrested for bad taste (luckily). But then the busbodies decided to act:
However, when Phillips went to have the pictures developed at his local branch of Bonusprint, staff there became concerned about the images with showed the girls topless and alerted police, who arrested him.
Well, easy to clear up? Just an overreaction? Well, no. Because despite this being perfectly above board, it apparently still falls under the child protection legislation:
Because of the girls' ages, the photographs fell under the legal definition of indecent images of children.

Phillips, who has three children, pleaded guilty to four counts of making indecent images of children and one count of possessing indecent images of children.
No doubt only to avoid a lengthy trial, which no-one could blame him for, though it is indeed a pity that all the vocal campaigners for the ‘right’ to blaspheme and shock didn’t rally round to support him. It appears even the judge felt the law was a little overenthusiastic here:
He was sentenced to 150 hours community service by Judge Lawler QC, who said there was "never a sexual motive" for the photos.

Passing sentence he added: "You always acted perfectly properly and their parents were perfectly law-abiding, sensible people who cared for their children.

"What is clear is that you had no base motive, no sexual motive and there was not any question of deriving sexual gratification from what you were doing

Phillips, an administrator based in the University of Sheffield's Student Recruitment, Admissions and Marketing department, will not have to sign the sex offenders' register.
I don’t think you could ask for a clearer statement that the law is indeed an ass. Pity his Honour didn’t have the guts to throw out his guilty plea, set him free without a stain on his character, and tell the CPS they should never have brought the case to his court.

But then, who expects judges these days to do anything other than meekly follow the dictates of the government…?


Anonymous said...

What I find incredible is that the judge found that, at most, Dr Phillips was guilty of a technical offence. Then he goes on to sentence Dr P to 150 hours community service. I can just about understand the judge finding Dr P guilty, but, given the judge's quoted sentiments, why wasn't Dr P given an unconditional discharge?

I wonder if the Sentencing Guidelines Council is part of the reason. I can't be bothered to go through the 160+ pages of this ukase from autocracy central but I suspect that Dr P was hung out to dry because the judge was unable to exercise any common sense discretion.

Mac the Knife said...

Is 'Conditional Discharge' just for depressed benefit cheats now then? *sour look*

Anonymous said...

That's a distinct possibility, Umbongo, but I'd have thought if so, he'd have made some reference to it (unless he did, and it just isn't quoted).

Interesting that even the 'paedo shock horror' tabloids have turned this around and are berating the sentence.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the law is even more harsh: He *will* have to sign the Sex Offenders register for 5 years (I rang Sheffield Crown Court to check) and therefore will be subject to all its requirements - notification in 3 days of sentencing, notifying the police of any address he stays at for more than 7 nights - I hope he has told them about his holiday to France, as he may face arrest and prosecution on return.
Further to the SOR requirements, he will also be caught out by the Safeguarding Vunerable Adults legislation, and he will find himself being automatically barred from working with children (<18) or vunerable adults - as long as he doesn't work with kids as part of his job at the Uni, he may be able to keep it (unless the Uni decides that students are vunerable adults - which according to the legislation they are not).

Anonymous said...

j"Actually, the law is even more harsh: He *will* have to sign the Sex Offenders register for 5 years (I rang Sheffield Crown Court to check)..."


Hmm, I wonder if any of the tabloids will be correcting their reports, or will they just consider this 'old news' and move on?

John M Ward said...

Although I don't really understand the issue here (a personal deficiency, no-one else's fault) I did think that the images I was able to find were perhaps not entirely appropriate.

Young ladies of around that age range can be wonderfully graceful, and one should never be ashamed of them in any way, but I think that this "fairies" concept could have been handled better by the photographer.

I'm sure I could have made a better job of it -- though I have no intention of coming anywhere near this subject area myself!