Is the Girls (Scream) Aloud case really a test case? Does it affect any laws?
The horror/porn/rape story of involving Girls Aloud has generated thousands of articles, and huge media interest as it was to be biggest test of the obscene publications act since the Lady Chatterley case.
The rules of the game where simple:
Darryn Walker was arrested for writing and publishing a story that, by any “normal” moral standard is awful, he would be tried in court in relation to definition of obscenity. The outcome of the game was one of two options:
1) If Mr. Walker was found guilty then this would be a landmark decision on what cannot be published on the internet, this would be a “triumph for moral decency”.
2) If Mr. Walker was found not guilty, then it would a “triumph for freedom of speech”. This would effectively mean that the Obscene publications act was dead.
People on both sides of the divide were vocal in the fact that they were, without doubt, right.
In a country where Nuts and Zoo make soft porn common place, the idea that Lady Chatterley’s lover was banned, for so long, seems astounding. But even in these times where, according to a BBC survey, the most popular career choice for young female British teens is “Glamour Model”, the Girls (Scream) Aloud story is truly offensive, by most standards.
But does that mean it should be banned?
If it had just been written in a book the case, and the ramifications, would have been more clearly defined.But it was published on the internet the case was far more complex. To make matters more interesting, the servers the story was originally published in where outside of the UK.
Was the UK going to legislate about data outside of the UK? Parliament can do that, but would they?
The Obscene Publications Act is currently aimed at UK material, would the courts want to effectively change legislation? Because of these questions the case had massive consequences. The UK Government could have used their ability to censor material on the internet with technology, rather than making a case out of it. The government use technology to filter the internet regulary and with controversial subjects. Or they could have made a deal for the data to be removed.
Despite other options being available, the decision was made to press charges.
The result of this huge trial? Not Guilty.
So a triumph for freedom of speech? Well not quite.
On the day of the judgment, 29th June 2009, Mr Walker was found not guilty, but this was because the Crown Prosecution Service, effectively walked away from the case when they offered no evidence.
This was largely because the prosecution had stated that the material could be found with the simple searches, and possibly by those who are genuinely looking for information on Girls Aloud. However the defense provided evidence that showed the story could only be found with specific searches. With this the CPS withdrew, and the judge submitted a formal verdict of not guilty.
But as no judgment was given about the case, the facts were not discussed or debated. As a result this is not really a test case, though it’s probably a show of the CPS resolve, or lack of it, to prosecute in these circumstances.