KINGSTON UPON THAMES, UK—It took less than 90 minutes for a unanimous British jury to acquit attorney Simon Walsh, a magistrate and former aide to London Mayor Boris Johnson, of the six violations of the 2008 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act with which he had been charged, all related to a single email police found on Walsh's Hotmail server, though on neither his home nor office computers.
As AVN previously reported, at issue was Walsh's alleged violation of Section 63 of the Act, which prohibits "extreme pornographic images," described as an image which "is grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character" and "it portrays, in an explicit and realistic way, any of the following— (a) an act which threatens a person’s life, (b) an act which results, or is likely to result, in serious injury to a person’s anus, breasts or genitals."
The images in question depicted a man, covered in shit, with his forearm inserted into another man's ass—the sexual practice known as "fisting"—and other images showing a penis with a medical instrument known as a "urethral sound" inserted into the tip.
While it's unclear how police decided to target Walsh in the first place, one of Walsh's fellow magistrates, Edward Lord, a London Common Councilman, has asked the British Home Secretary to look into the matter.
In any case, after having heard both attorneys' summations—Thomas Wilkins for the prosecution, Myles Jackman for the defense—yesterday, this morning began with Judge Nicholas Price charging the jury on the law of the case and, in a practice uncommon in the U.S., providing a general summary of the evidence presented.
"I don't pretend for a moment that these parts of the legislation are easily understandable," the judge told the jury regarding Section 63.
Judge Price also noted that the defendant was "of positive good character," and instructed, "You must take that knowledge into account; it supports his credibility."
"It is emphatically not your duty to send out a message to anyone about modern society," he warned.
The jury came back with its "not guilty" verdicts at about 2 a.m. Pacific time, and there can be little doubt that the jury did send a message: That private consensual sex acts between adults, despite their distastefulness to some, remain part of the liberties British citizens can expect to enjoy without police harassment.
"An unsolicited picture was found unopened on Simon's email server," Jackman summarized for the press. "Consequently he had his private life scrutinized in Court and the media. He was fired by Boris Johnson. He risked going to prison. Fortunately the jury were able to apply their common sense and reject an intrusive and unfounded prosecution of material depicting private and consensual sexual acts between adults."
Jackman then read a statement that his client had prepared.
"Today I was unanimously acquitted by a jury at Kingston Crown Court of five charges of being in possession of extreme pornography despite the images depicting acts which are legal to perform, and an extremely damaging allegation of being in possession of child porn in respect of a single image sent to me unrequested via email over three years ago which the jury had no difficulty deciding was in fact a picture of an adult," Walsh said through his attorney.
"I would like to take this opportunity to encourage our legislators and regulators not to prosecute individuals in possession of images depicting private and consensual adult sexual acts," the statement continued. "Nonetheless, these allegations have damaged my career and personal standing. As I said in my evidence, I do not believe that when I stood for public office I gave up my right to a private sexual life. I reiterate that point now. I hope to return to public life as soon as possible."