CPS ‘does not endorse’ barrister’s sexual health clinic question at ‘#porntrial’

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The Crown Prosecution Service has said it “does not endorse” a question by a barrister which presupposed that sexual health clinics were for people who had “riskier” sex lives.

The question was asked by a CPS barrister at a Kingston Crown Court trial this week in which Simon Walsh was found not guilty of five counts of possessing “extreme” pornography and one count of possessing an indecent image.

The barrister asked an expert witness: “People who attend sexual health clinics engage in more risky practices, do they not?”

The CPS told PinkNews.co.uk this morning they “do not endorse” the question, and it “should not have been asked”.

Sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust said this week they had written to the CPS asking for clarification on the barrister’s comments when the trial ended.

Lisa Power, the charity’s Policy Director told PinkNews.co.uk today: “We’re very pleased that the Crown Prosecution Service has made it clear they support people having sexual health checks and don’t support their barrister’s statement in court.

“The way that trials are conducted often means that barrister exaggerate or misstate things in order to make their case. We’re glad the CPS has responded so quickly to correct their mistake after we and others pointed it out.”

A the trial, the witness in question, Dr Clarissa Smith told the barrister in response: “No, people who attend sexual health clinics take their sexual health seriously.”

Simon Walsh, a gay barrister himself and a former mayoral aide, was standing trial under section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 at Kingston Crown Court.

The 2008 law makes it an offence to possess “an extreme pornographic image”, which is “grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character” and depicts an action that is either life-threatening, or likely to result in “serious injury” to a person’s anus, breasts or genitalia.

Mr Walsh’s email account contained images of fisting and of the insertion of urethral sounds into the penis which he had taken at a party, in order to email them to the other participants.

Much of the trial was devoted to attempting to prove the activities in question could cause ‘serious injury’.

Alex Dymock, a researcher for Backlash, an umbrella campaign providing academic campaigning and legal resources in the defence of freedom of sexual expression, was present during the trial and noted the judge’s interpretation of the law.

She wrote in the Guardian: “The judge in this case ruled that he considered ‘serious injury’ to relate to ‘physically, mentally or morally harmful’. As Walsh, a barrister himself, remarked over the weekend: ‘How on Earth can one’s genitals be morally harmed?'”

The case was widely followed on Twitter as solicitor Myles Jackman was granted permission to live-tweet it from the courtroom using the hashtag #porntrial and gained notoriety for the controversial application of a law which itself has divided opinion. The jury unanimously found Mr Walsh not guilty on all counts.