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Durham University

Research & business

Why our extreme porn laws need to change

(1 October 2019)

A law against possession of rape pornography, introduced in 2015, is very rarely used with few charges and prosecutions.

This is what our researchers have found after analysing data obtained through a Freedom of Information request.

Police focus

The research shows that during 2015-2017 the vast majority (85 per cent) of extreme pornography charges were for possessing bestiality porn with only one per cent of charges for rape pornography. 

It shows that porn involving animals is the focus of police action rather than rape porn and the authors are calling for a comprehensive review of laws regulating pornography.

Pornography charges

Bestiality pornography, involving a sex act with an animal, is the most common category to be recorded and charged, followed by pornography involving acts which threaten life and/or acts which are likely to result in injury.

However, rape porn and porn involving a human corpse are rarely recorded and very few offences result in a charge.

Review of laws

The study also found that almost all people charged with extreme porn offences are men (97 per cent) and that it involves men of all ages, suggesting it is not only young men who view extreme porn.

With the British Board of Film Classification about to take on new powers to block extreme pornography websites, and the Government consulting on its Online Harms White Paper, the researchers say the time is ripe to review the role and purpose of the extreme porn laws.

Key findings

  • There were 591 cases of extreme pornography
  • Most recorded offences related to bestiality porn (515) and only nine rape porn offences were recorded.
  • Overall, 71 per cent of recorded offences resulted in a charge.
  • 97 per cent of cases, the accused was male.
  • Men of all ages are being charged with extreme pornography offences – although most are aged 18-50.
  • 67 per cent of accused were white.
  • For cases where information on other offences was available, more than half involved another offence, of which most were other sexual offences.

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