We can celebrate for the outcome in R v Peacock, argues Alex Antoniou, but obscenity law is not dead; at least, not yet
The Obscene Publications Act 1959 (OPA or the 1959 Act henceforth), passed over half a century ago, was quite recently wielded against Michael Peacock, a male escort professionally known as ‘sleazy Michael’, who had been accused of distributing obscene DVDs for gain. His determination to challenge this ‘arcane and archaic legislation’ was vindicated on 6 January 2012 when a unanimous jury in a landmark obscenity trial at Southwark Crown Court returned a not guilty verdict.
The defendant in R v Peacock was charged on indictment with six counts under the 1959 Act for distributing allegedly obscene DVDs. The recordings at issue had been advertised for sale on the Internet and Craigslist. Mr Peacock had been selling them from his flat in Brixton. Officers from SCD9, the Metropolitan Police unit investigating human exploitation and organised crime (the former Obscene Publications Squad of the Met), came across Mr Peacock’s services and operated an undercover test purchase in January 2009. Six DVDs were deemed obscene and Mr Peacock was prosecuted.