Civil Liberties

British Authorities Drop 'Extreme Pornography' Charge When They Realize the Tiger Is Actually a Man in a Tiger Suit

The perils of the Extreme Pornography Act.


This may be the strangest porn-prosecution story I've ever seen. According to The Independent,

Put that tongue back in your mouth, Tony.

A bus driver wrongly accused of owning a film of a woman having sex with a tiger is trying to change the law on extreme pornography after a 14-month campaign to clear his name.

Andrew Holland, 51, suffered a heart attack, received hate mail and was targeted by vigilantes after being charged with possessing two videos that he was sent by friends as a joke.

After more than six months on bail, the charge of possession of an extreme pornographic image was dropped in December 2009 when prosecutors realised that the "animal" was a man dressed up in a tiger suit.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it only recognised that it was a man when the tiger was heard on the soundtrack saying "that's grrrrrrreat", like Tony the Tiger from Frosties' breakfast cereal adverts.

The other video, called The Pain Olympics, is described in The News Statesman as a "clip depicting simulated damage to a man's genitals." The Independent reports that it was made with "prosthetics, cocktail sausages and ketchup."

The U.K.'s law banning possession of "extreme pornography" was passed in 2008. According to The Independent, it

has resulted in more than 5,500 prosecutions, the majority for clips of bestiality. Ministers had predicted that there would be just 30 cases a year.

Under the law, a person can be prosecuted for possession of a pornographic image labelled "extreme" if it shows necrophilia or bestiality, threatens someone's life or could cause serious injury to anus, breasts or genitals. In addition, the law applies to "grossly offensive" or "disgusting" images—a highly subjective test.

Bestiality itself has been illegal in the United Kingdom for ages—and even if it hadn't been explicitly prohibited, the producers of bestiality videos could probably be prosecuted under the statutes governing animal cruelty. This law was aimed at people who merely possess such movies, even if they did not purchase the videos and thus cannot be said to be creating a financial incentive to produce more of them. Indeed, as Holland's prosecution shows, the law can be wielded against people who merely receive clips in unsolicited emails. It's hard to defend that, and it's even harder when the ban is enforced by officials who can't tell a real beast from a furry doing Tony the Tiger cosplay.