KINGSTON UPON THAMES, UK—The fifth day of the trial of former attorney and magistrate Simon Walsh has recessed, with examination of computer forensic expert Hugh Morgan by prosecutor Thomas Wilkins to continue tomorrow morning, and it's possible that closing summations and the judge's charge to the jury may be in the offing before day's end.
When AVN last reported on the trial, it had been recessed and was due to resume on Thursday, August 2, with defense attorney Myles Jackman, who's been live-tweeting the trial as @obscenitylawyer, continuing his cross-examination of of Detective Sgt. Callahan after Jackman and Wilkins agreed to a list of 66 stipulations including, for example, "The defendant is a man of good character."
According to Callahan, the police had seized from Walsh two laptop computers, one Blackberry, a camera, a camcorder and memory sticks at some point prior to Walsh's having been charged with violation of Section 63 of the 2008 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, which criminalizes possession of "extreme pornographic images," on September 19 of last year.
An "extreme pornographic image" is one 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."
According to Callahan, Walsh seemed to be aware of the law, since when interviewed by the police, Walsh assured them, "I know the limits and stick to them." However, when police examined Walsh's Hotmail account—Walsh's password was "scat"—they found one particular email that had attached to it nine photos and documents, including a story on erotic asphyxiation, and although Callahan testified that he had no knowledge whether Walsh had even opened that email or its attachments, much of the questioning has focused on a photo depicting a person, covered in shit, with his forearm almost completely inserted in another man's ass.
Indeed, it was that photo and another similar one that were the subject of most of the questioning of prosecution expert Dr. Vivek Datta, who testified as to the possible health consequences of anal fisting: Trauma to the sphincter, damage to muscles that might cause fecal leakage or possibly even a hole in the bowel itself, which he said could cause peritonitis or death.
"The word 'fisting' sounds violent," Wilkins stated. "Is it?"
"In my opinion, it is violent, traumatic and forceful activity," Datta answered.
However, on cross-examination by attorney Myles Jackman, Datta admitted that incidents of injury from anal fisting are low, and that Datta himself had never treated anyone for fisting injuries.
At that point, the prosecution rested its case, and Jackman called his first expert, Dr. Ian Jenkins, a colorectal surgeon. Under questioning, Jenkins noted that in a recent Gay Men's Survey, 12.8 percent of respondents admitted to having participated in anal fisting with only minor incidents of injury reported, all of which were "merely anecdotal." Extrapolating, Dr. Jenkins said he believed that 29,000 gay men in the London area may have engaged in anal fisting in the previous year, and while admitting that the practice did have the potential to cause serious injury, Jenkins stated, "On the balance of probabilities, I do not see an instance of anal fisting is likely to cause serious injury."
When trial resumed today, Walsh himself took the stand, admitting that he was "a very happily gay man," and stated that it was he himself who had taken the photos attached to the email at a New Year's Eve party.
Under Jackman's questioning, Walsh further admitted that he had taken the photo of a man getting probed by a "urethral sound"—the photo which the prosecution had charged was "violent pornography"—and Walsh described the care taken to prevent injury from the sound's use: Lubrication liberally applied. He also noted that, "A sounding kit can be purchased from most sex shops in London."
Regarding the fisting photo, Jackman brought out that Walsh had practiced fisting himself, which he said "takes several hours. First you insert a dildo, then a finger, then your hand." This too, he said, requires "plenty of lubrication... It's a pleasurable activity."
On cross-examination, Wilkins asked Walsh a series of questions about whether he felt that his sexual activities had compromised his work as an attorney, an alderman or as a magistrate.
"I didn't give up a right to a private sex life when I stood for election as a public official," Walsh replied.
Walsh also said that he had no memory of opening the email in question or any of its attachments.
"It's an eminent possibility but I don't recollect... I have no recollection of either the text or images," he stated. "I first saw the text in Southwark Crown Court."
The defense next called sociologist Dr. Clarissa Smith, whose work had included research on BDSM and fisting. Under questioning, she said that it was obvious that the photos attached to the email were not taken so as to be sexually stimulating, but as a "memento" created by the participants.
When Wilkins' turn came, he asked Smith, "Are you calling fisting safe sex?"
"It can be safe sex," came the reply. Smith also denied that the fisting photo was "degrading," and when Wilkins asked if her opinion would change if the photo were of a woman, Smith said it wouldn't make a difference. She further stated, in response to another question, that she didn't consider the photo "dehumanizing"—and wouldn't even if it were a photo of a woman.
Today's final witness was Hugh Morgan, a computer forensics expert who had examined Walsh's computers and Hotmail account, and testified that the police had so compromised the evidence through mishandling that it was impossible to tell whether Walsh himself had opened the images embedded in the email in question. However, when it came Wilkins' turn, he began to question Morgan about whether Walsh had engaged in any online chats, and when Morgan responded that he would have to check his data to be sure, the judge recessed the trial until Tuesday.
If convicted, Walsh could face up to three years in prison and be forced to register as a sex offender.