Web of Porn: Adult pornography 'not a priority' - Met

The police are willing to turn a blind eye to adult pornography on the Net according to Angela Perkins, a magistrate and officer for the National Board of Catholic Women.

Because of "laddish culture" male-dominated establishments like the police are "hard nuts to crack", says Perkins who believes the government should lead a campaign to remove all porn from the Internet. "Pornography on the Internet is a serious erosion of values and a gross intrusion into family life," she says. "The government, in conjunction with the police need to look very seriously at the issue."

Perkins was not entirely sure whether it was ISPs or site owners that should be prosecuted or how best to police the situation: "With pornography in shops it must be above eye-level. I am not sure how you put it above eye-level on the Internet but the government should set up a body to monitor what is going on." The alternative would be "to lay down and give up on society," said Perkins.

The Head of the Metropolitan Police Clubs and Vice Unit, Martin Jauch, has a more laissez-faire attitude to adult porn on the Net. "Attitudes to pornography have shifted dramatically in recent years and police action on Internet porn reflects this. Adult pornography is not a government priority and therefore is not a force priority."

Only the Metropolitan, Greater Manchester and West Midlands forces have a unit dedicated to investigating porn and these are concerned mainly with child pornography. The Greater Manchester Obscene Publications Unit has no proactive policy on adult pornography on the Net and responds only to "direct complaints" from the public. "It is not a priority for us," says PC Paul Griffiths, "we only actively investigate child pornography."

While possession of child pornography is an offence, it is not illegal to own hard-core adult pornography. An offence is committed only when individuals distribute or publish adult porn.

In a test case last year Timothy Spring was prosecuted for distributing thousands of pornographic images. Although his sites were hosted in America, Spring provided a hypertext link via his home page which the judge ruled to be publishing -- Spring was given community service for his sins. Other prosecutions for the distribution of cyber porn are few and far between.

During the last twelve months in Greater Manchester there has been just one prosecution where the offender received a caution. No jail sentences have been passed in the UK for Internet-related adult porn offences.

While Jauch concedes the police maintains a liberal attitude to porn he argues that the position is not confined to the UK. He says this is partly because of the enormity of the World Wide Web and partly because the chances of getting workable legislation are "just about nil".

However, Jauche draws a strong line. "Some of these obscene Web sites graduate from adult porn to child porn," he says and it is this that most concerns the authorities.