Obscene Publications Act 1964

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The Obscene Publications Act (OPA) 1964 is a short piece of English legislation providing minor additional provisions in addition to the Obscene Publications Act 1959, which is the primary statute in this area.

Legislation is law which has been promulgated by a legislature or other governing body or the process of making it. Before an item of legislation becomes law it may be known as a bill, and may be broadly referred to as "legislation", while it remains under consideration to distinguish it from other business. Legislation can have many purposes: to regulate, to authorize, to outlaw, to provide (funds), to sanction, to grant, to declare or to restrict. It may be contrasted with a non-legislative act which is adopted by an executive or administrative body under the authority of a legislative act or for implementing a legislative act.

Obscene Publications Act 1959

The Obscene Publications Act 1959 is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom Parliament that significantly reformed the law related to obscenity in England and Wales. Prior to the passage of the Act, the law on publishing obscene materials was governed by the common law case of R v Hicklin, which had no exceptions for artistic merit or the public good. During the 1950s, the Society of Authors formed a committee to recommend reform of the existing law, submitting a draft bill to the Home Office in February 1955. After several failed attempts to push a bill through Parliament, a committee finally succeeded in creating a viable bill, which was introduced to Parliament by Roy Jenkins and given the Royal Assent on 29 July 1959, coming into force on 29 August 1959 as the Obscene Publications Act 1959. With the committee consisting of both censors and reformers, the actual reform of the law was limited, with several extensions to police powers included in the final version.

The OPA 1964 was specifically designed to strengthen the law around obscenity, particularly regarding the production of obscene articles for sale and the materials used in the production of obscene articles. [1] [ clarification needed ]

An obscenity is any utterance or act that strongly offends the prevalent morality of the time. It is derived from the Latin obscaena (offstage) a cognate of the Ancient Greek root skene, because some potentially offensive content, such as murder or sex, was depicted offstage in classical drama. The word can be used to indicate a strong moral repugnance, in expressions such as "obscene profits" or "the obscenity of war". As a legal term, it usually refers to graphic depictions of people engaged in sexual and excretory activity.

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Obscene Publications Acts

Since 1857, a series of obscenity laws known as the Obscene Publications Acts have governed what can be published in England and Wales. The classic definition of criminal obscenity is if it "tends to deprave and corrupt," stated in 1868 by Lord Justice Cockburn, in Regina v. Hicklin, now known as the Hicklin test.

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Obscene Publications Act 1857

The Obscene Publications Act 1857, also known as Lord Campbell's Act or Campbell's Act, was a major piece of legislation in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland dealing with obscenity. For the first time, it made the sale of obscene material a statutory offence, giving the courts power to seize and destroy offending material. The Act superseded a 1787 Royal Proclamation by George III titled Proclamation for the Discouragement of Vice. The proclamation commanded the prosecution of those guilty of "excessive drinking, blasphemy, profane swearing and cursing, lewdness, profanation of the Lord's Day, and other dissolute, immoral, or disorderly practices". Prior to this Act, the "exposure for sale" of "obscene books and prints" had been made illegal by the Vagrancy Act 1824. but the publication of obscene material was a common law misdemeanour The effective prosecution of authors and publishers was difficult even in cases where the material was clearly intended as pornography.

Opa may refer to:

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R v. Fellows; R v. Arnold [1997] 1 Cr App R 244; [1997] 2 All E.R. 548, is a prominent English case on the statutory interpretation of section 1 of the Protection of Children Act 1978, and the Obscene Publications Act 1959, the definitions have since been amended by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. The Court of Appeal held that data on a computer that represents the original photograph is a copy of a photograph under the 1978 Act, therefore, downloading an indecent photograph from the internet constitutes making a copy or reproduction of an indecent photograph.

<i>R v Peacock</i>

R v Peacock was an English Crown Court case that was a test of the Obscene Publications Act 1959. In December 2009, the defendant, a male escort named Michael Peacock, had been charged by the Metropolitan Police for selling hardcore gay pornography that the police believed had the ability to "deprave or corrupt" the viewer, which was illegal under the Obscene Publications Act. He was subsequently acquitted through a trial by jury in January 2012.

The Indecent Publications Tribunal was a government censorship organisation that operated in New Zealand from 1964 until 1993. It was established under the Indecent Publications Act 1963 and consisted of five members, with one a High Court barrister or solicitor, and four other members with two having qualifications in the field of literature or education. John Lochiel Robson, a senior public servant, was instrumental in having provisions for the Tribunal to be established under the Act.

<i>R v Penguin Books Ltd</i>

R v Penguin Books Ltd was the public prosecution in the UK at the Old Bailey of Penguin Books under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 for the publication of D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover. The trial took place over six days in No 1 court between 20 October and 2 November 1960 with Mervyn Griffith-Jones prosecuting, Gerald Gardiner counsel for the defence and Mr Justice Byrne presiding. The trial was a test case of the defence of public good provision under section 4 of the Act which was defined as a work "in the interests of science, literature, art or learning, or of other objects of general concern".

<i>R v Walker</i>

R v Walker was an English Crown Court case that was a test of the Obscene Publications Act 1959. It was the first such prosecution involving written material in nearly two decades and set a precedent for using the act to prosecute web fiction. In October 2008, the defendant, English Civil Servant Darryn Walker was charged with publishing an obscene story on the Internet contrary to Section 2(1) of the Act. Media controversy was generated because the story in question was a real person fiction text horror story describing the imagined murder of the members of British pop group Girls Aloud. The case was abruptly abandoned on its first day and the defendant was cleared of all charges.


  1. UK Parliament. Obscene Publications Act 1964 as amended (see also enacted form ), from legislation.gov.uk .