Obscene Publications Act 1857 - Origins

Origins

The spur for the Act arose from a trial for the sale of pornography presided over by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Campbell, at the same time as a debate in the House of Lords over a bill aiming to restrict the sale of poisons. Campbell was taken by the analogy between the two situations, famously referring to the London pornography trade as "a sale of poison more deadly than prussic acid, strychnine or arsenic", and proposed a bill to restrict the sale of pornography, arguing that giving statutory powers of destruction would allow for a much more effective degree of prosecution. Lord Campbell, the Chief Justice of Queen's Bench, introduced the bill.

The bill was controversial at the time, receiving strong opposition from both Houses of Parliament, and was passed on the assurance by the Lord Chief Justice that it was "...intended to apply exclusively to works written for the single purpose of corrupting the morals of youth and of a nature calculated to shock the common feelings of decency in any well-regulated mind."

The House of Commons amended the bill to exclude Scotland, on the grounds that Scottish common law was sufficiently stringent.

Read more about this topic:  Obscene Publications Act 1857

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