This is legal dynamite - and in one single judgment catapults the UK to the back of the queue on a range of international indices on freedom of speech.The change to the law - or clarification as judges might describe it - came about in February when the Appeal Court ruled on a prosecution appeal in respect of an individual identified only as "GS".The OPA, broadly, does not criminalise any specific words or depictions.In the light of this ruling, GS, who had previously been defending against all counts, changed his plea to guilty.Back at Maidstone Crown Court in July 2012, before Judge Philip St John-Stevens, the court accepted his plea, dropped the indecent image charge – and sentence will be delivered on 7 September.The case has been wending its way through the legal system since April 2010, when GS was charged with nine counts of publishing an obscene article contrary to section 2(1) of the Obscene Publications Act 1959, and one count of possessing an indecent image.What was particularly innovative was that the material in question was a series of text logs of online chats between GS and one other individual.
Their judgment was published in full, earlier this week, by blogger Obscenity Lawyer, a solicitor and one of the UK's leading legal experts providing advice to defendants on matters of obscenity and extreme porn.
The judgment states (par 21): There could be no sensible reason for the legislature having excluded otherwise obscene material from the scope of the legislation, merely because it was likely to be read by, and therefore liable to deprave and corrupt, only one person...
You could be committing a criminal offence next time you discuss your deepest fantasies with someone online. That means it is therefore perfectly possible for the content of online chat, should a jury decide that it is capable of "depraving or corrupting", to be judged "obscene" - and as such for one or both participants in that conversation to be guilty of a criminal offence that carries a sentence of up to five years in prison, and a stint on the sex offenders' register.
A ruling slipped out quietly by the Appeal Court earlier this year, and lurking in the background while the substantive case to which it applied came to court, makes it plain: the act of publishing as defined within the Obscene Publications Act can take place with an audience of just one individual.
It cannot be stressed just how ground-breaking this verdict is.The Obscene Publications Act celebrates its 53rd birthday this year.