Offences out of kilter

The Herald reports:

The maximum penalty for possessing a book about growing marijuana will be higher than actually growing marijuana, the Law Society has told MPs considering a hard-hitting new bill.

A Parliamentary Committee is hearing submissions on a law change which would increase the penalties for possessing, importing, exporting or making .

It was targeted at child pornography on the internet but submitters told the select committee this morning that it would capture a broad range of images or publications.

Law Society law reform committee member Graeme Edgeler said that a book which instructs someone on how to grow marijuana was encouraging a crime and would be considered objectionable.

“If this increasing sentence goes forward, the maximum penalty for possessing that book will go up to 10 years’ imprisonment, whereas the maximum penalty for running a growing operation is eight years’ imprisonment.”

The maximum penalty for possessing images of bestiality would also be increased to 10 years in jail, compared to seven years’ imprisonment for committing bestiality.

Mr Edgeler said that if child exploitation was the target of the bill, Parliament could consider whether there should be separate child pornography sentences.

This is the sensible thing to do. I’m all for increasing penalties for possession and supply of child sexual abuse images. But the problem with this law change is that are increasing the maximum penalty for all objectionable publications to 10 years, and that is a far wider group of publications. The Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 defines an objectionable publication as:

  1. the exploitation of children, or young persons, or both, for sexual purposes
  2. the use of violence or coercion to compel any person to participate in, or submit to, sexual conduct
  3. sexual conduct with or upon the body of a dead person
  4. the use of urine or excrement in association with degrading or dehumanising conduct or sexual conduct
  5. bestiality
  6. acts of torture or the infliction of extreme violence or extreme cruelty

Now logically possessing a publication that depicts an illegal act should carry a maximum penalty no greater than actually undertaking the act. Raping someone is far worse than possessing a publication that shows someone being raped, for example. Both are horrible, but they are not the same thing.

So the bill before Parliament proposes a maximum 10 year penalty for possession of an objectionable publication. So what is the maximum sentence for the actual acts that are deemed objectionable to publish.

  1. child sexual abuse – 14 years
  2. rape – 20 years
  3. necrophilia – 2 years
  4. golden showers and coprophilia – not a criminal offence
  5. Bestiality – 7 years
  6. torture – 14 years

So you see the problem. This law would have the maximum penalty for possessing a photo of necrophilia as 10 years, but the actual act of necrophilia as only two years.

Most bizarrely, one category of objectionable publication is for something that isn’t even illegal – golden showers and coprophilia. Two adults can legally golden shower each other to their hearts content, but if they take a photo of themselves doing it, then up to 10 years jail!

The purpose of the law change is to increase penalties for possession of child sexual abuse images. I support that totally. The bill should be modified to increase penalties just for that sub-section of objectionable publications. Having a maximum 10 year penalty apply to all objectionable publications is way over the top.

For the avoidance of doubt, I find all of the above activities repugnant or repulsive. My concern is sensible laws.


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