Obscenity Prohibited

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The test for 'obscenity' is set out in the Obscene Publications Acts 1959 and 1964 in section 1 (1), and the offences are created by section 2, of the Obscene Publications Act 1959. Section 2 (1) of the 1959 Act makes it a offence to publish an 'obscene' article whether for gain or not; and, as amended by section 1(1) of the 1964 Act, makes it an offence to have an 'obscene' article for publication for gain (whether gain to the defendant or to another).

For the purposes of the Obscene Publications Act 1959 'an article shall be deemed to be obscene if its' effect or (where the article comprises two or more distinct items) the effect of any one of its' items is, if taken as a whole, is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it.

In the famous 'Lady Chatterly' case, R. v Penguin Books Ltd. (1961), the following definition of 'deprave and corrupt' was laid down: To 'deprave' means to make morally bad, to pervert, to debase or corrupt morally. To 'corrupt' means to render morally unsound or rotten, to destroy the moral purity or chastity, to pervert or ruin a good quality, to debase, to defile.

This is the definition that continues to be relied upon in current prosecutions. The words 'deprave' and 'corrupt' refer, inter alia, to the effect of obscene articles on the mind. It is not necessary that any physical (or overt) sexual activity should result.

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