Clause 70

Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 5:45 pm ar 22 Tachwedd 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Maximum penalty for publication etc. of obscene articles

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen Llafur, Leyton and Wanstead

I am sorry to delay proceedings, but I have come across an e-mail from a constituent on this issue. The clause will increase the maximum sentence for the publication of obscene articles from three years to five years. He writes:

“The Obscene Publications Act is rarely used but, when it is, defendants are invariably given a disproportionate sentence. I  have evidence from several cases to support this claim. For example, in the well-known case of Stephane Perrin, he was sentenced to 30 months when found guilty of publishing a single obscene image. This change would have increased his sentence to nearly 5 years, a sentence reserved for crimes such as manslaughter, violent assault and drug dealing.

Current sentencing guidelines date back to the 1970s and there are no plans to review them.”

He then gives an example that predates video and the internet. The point is that the sentencing guideline is increasing the sentences without looking at comparisons across the board to see what would be appropriate in such cases.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle The Exchequer Secretary, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The point here relates to the hierarchy of offences. The clause will increase the penalty for offences on indictment, under section 2 of the Obscene Publications Act 1959, from three years to five years. It is related to clauses 64 and 67, which make illegal the possession of a limited range of extreme pornographic material illegal. The maximum custodial sentence in that case is three years’ imprisonment. The Government are determined to act against publishers and distributors of such material where we can. That is a more serious offence than possession, so there needs to be a consistency in sentencing. I hope that that explanation satisfies my hon. Friend.

Clause 70 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Assistant Whip (HM Treasury)

I thank the officials of the Committee for their hard work and patience.

Further consideration adjourned.—[Mr. Khan.]

Adjourned accordingly at three minutes to Six o’clock till Tuesday 27 November at half-past Ten o’clock.