Sticky tape doesn´t make a pseudo-photograph: Goodland v DPP

A defendant in the Bristol Magistrates Court was convicted under the Protection of Children Act 1978 of making an indecent “pseudo-photograph” of a child.

A pseudo-photograph is “an image, whether made by computer-graphics or otherwise howsoever, which appears to be a photograph.”

Normally the legal concept of the pseudo-photograph is applied to computer manipulations where a photograph of a child’s face is superimposed onto a pornographic photograph of an adult.  The defendant’s item was cruder than this.  He had sellotaped two pieces of paper together, both photographs.  The main photograph was of a girl aged around 10 in a gymnastic outfit standing with her arms upstretched facing the camera.  The second photograph (a small piece cut from a larger photograph) showed the naked body of a young woman.  A corner of the second photograph was stuck to the main photograph by sellotape so that, as if on a hinge, it could either be turned away from the clothed girl or superimposed over the lower section of the girl’s outfit.

The Divisional Court upheld the defendant’s appeal.  A combination such as this of two photographs (neither of which, on its own, was illegal) was not a pseudo-photograph for the simple reason that it did not “appear to be a photograph”.  (If the item were to be photocopied the result might be a pseudo-photograph, even though it would plainly appear not to be a genuine photograph.)

The DPP was urged to be more careful in consenting to prosecutions in “pitiful” cases of this nature where a convicted person may only receive a small fine, but will be required to register with the police for five years under the Sexual Offenders Act 1997.

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