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News Article


Prove it's not porn: artists told
Sunday, January 10, 2010


  • By: Linda Silmalis
  • From: The Sunday Telegraph
  • 9 January 2010, 9:00PM
  • Photo by Adam Ward: Controversial art photographer Bill Henson.

PAINTERS and photographers will no longer be able to rely on a defence of artistic merit under an overhaul of child pornography laws.

Nearly two years after police raided Melbourne artist Bill Henson's contentious exhibition, the State Government will legislate to force artists to account for their works.

A working party set up by the Government in the wake of the May, 2008, controversy over Henson's child exhibits has recommended the artistic-merit defence be struck out.

The Sunday Telegraph revealed that Attorney-General John Hatzistergos strongly supports the move, and the Government is expected to legislate when parliament resumes next month.

Henson triggered one of the most intense debates in the art world when he featured an image of a naked 12-year-old girl on the invitation to an exhibition of his work at Sydney's Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.

Police shut down the exhibition and seized 32 of Henson's pictures, but Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery, QC, declined to prosecute Henson.

Mr Hatzistergos will today release the recommendations by the NSW Child Pornography Working Party, set up after the Henson scandal.

The group, comprising Department of Public Prosecutions, police and Legal Aid representatives, was instructed to draw a clear line between pornography and art.

Its report, delivered to the Government on Friday, recommends art not be a consideration when reviewing images thought to be pornographic.

Mr Hatzistergos said the proposed laws would cover the production, distribution and possession of child pornography.

"The fact that it is art cannot be used as a defence. The report recommends that once such material has been found to be unlawfully pornographic, whether or not it is intended to be art is irrelevant," he said.

The working party, headed by District Court judge Peter Berman, also examined the use of photographs depicting nudity in a news context.

Mr Hatzistergos said the new laws would ensure the rights of photographers to publish pictures - such as the iconic Vietnam war photograph of a nine-year-old girl running naked on a street after being burned by napalm - would not be infringed.

The Government will seek feedback from victims' groups, the artistic community and media before putting the recommendations to Cabinet.

The report also recommends the introduction of laws making it easier for police to investigate child pornography and for juries and court staff to participate in trials for these offences. This suggestion follows concern within the legal fraternity of the impact that the viewing of child pornography evidence has on jury members, many of whom find the process distressing.

The working party has recommended the law be changed so jury members, prosecutors and court staff are able to view only a sample of images during the trial process.

http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/prove-its-not-porn-artists-told/story-e6frg12c-1225817803657

Categories:

  • Family and parenthood
  • Government and society
  • Marriage and sexuality

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