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Public consultation on Obscene Publications Prosecution Guidance

Outcome of this consultation
Opening date:
Closing date:

The CPS conducted a public consultation on a proposed revision of its Legal Guidance on Obscene Publications. This is the outcome of that consultation.


The revised Legal Guidance can be found here:

The purpose of the consultation was to provide interested persons with an opportunity to provide comments and to ensure the final version of the policies were informed by as wide a range of views as possible.

The summary of responses to the consultation can be accessed here: Summary of Responses to the Consultation on the CPS Obscene Publications Prosecution Guidance

Consultation closed

This prosecution guidance seeks to assist prosecutors when considering allegations involving the Obscene Publications Act 1959.

Consultation content

The CPS conducted a public consultation on a proposed revision of its Legal Guidance on Obscene Publications.

This guidance assists prosecutors making charging decisions in cases which fall under the Obscene Publications Act 1959.

The Obscene Publications Act makes it a crime to publish material which might ‘deprave or corrupt’ those who are likely to see, read, or hear it.

‘Publishing’ can include distributing, selling, lending or giving the material in question, or offering to sell or lend it.

Prosecutors might also consider other offences when dealing with “obscene publications”, for example outraging public decency, possession of an extreme pornographic image, disclosing private sexual images without consent, and offences against the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and Electronic Communications Act 2003.

The guidance has been revised to provide more clarity about what an “obscene publication” might be, and places an increased focus on those who may view this material which may determine whether a criminal offence has been committed.

The consultation was published on the CPS website and asked five questions:

Question 1
Do consultees agree or disagree with the guidance that the showing or realistic depiction of sexual activity/pornography which constitutes acts or conduct contrary to the criminal law is (subject to the statutory defences) likely to be obscene?

Question 2
Do consultees agree or disagree with the guidance that prosecutors must exercise real caution when dealing with the moral nature of acts not criminalised by law, and that the showing or realistic depiction of sexual activity/pornography which does not constitute acts or conduct contrary to the criminal law is unlikely to be obscene?

Question 3
Do consultees agree or disagree with the guidance that prosecutors, when assessing obscenity, should consider:

  1. Whether the activity is consensual;
  2. b. Whether or not serious harm is caused;
  3. c. Whether or not it is inextricably linked with other criminality; and 
  4. d. Whether the likely audience is not under 18 or otherwise vulnerable.

Question 4
Do consultees agree or disagree with the guidance that the showing or realistic depiction of other acts or conduct which are contrary to the criminal law is also capable of being obscene?

Question 5
Do consultees have any further suggestions for guidance to prosecutors in assessing “obscenity” when considering allegations falling under the Obscene Publications Act 1959?

How to Respond

It would be helpful if you could give your feedback using our online form (see below) for ease of analysis.

You can also download a response form, complete it, and return it to by midnight on 17 October 2018. Please use the same form if you wish to submit a hard copy of your response to the postal address below.

If you are replying by email, we would be grateful if you would not attach any other documents to the consultation response form document. There are limits on the size of documents that we are able to accept and any completed response form document which has an attachment runs the risk of not being delivered. If you wish to send an attachment to us, or raise any queries that you have on the consultation, these can be submitted separately to the same e-mail address shown above.  

We would prefer electronic submissions if possible but, if you would rather submit your feedback in hard copy it can be returned, by the same date, to:

Obscene Publications Consultation
DLA Team
Crown Prosecution Service
102 Petty France
London SW1H 9EA

Please include your name, organisation (if applicable), postal address, telephone number and email address in any response.

Dogfennau yn Gymraeg

Ymgynghoriad cyhoeddus ar Ganllawiau Erlyn Cyhoeddiadau Anllad - yn y Gymraeg

Templed ar gyfer ymgynghori ar y canllawiau polisi ar erlyn troseddau sy'n cynnwys cyhoeddiadau anllad. E-bostiwch gyda'ch ymateb.

Responses: Confidentiality and disclaimer

The information you send us may be passed to colleagues within the CPS, the Government or related agencies. Furthermore, information provided in response to this consultation, including personal information, may be published or disclosed in accordance with the access to information legislation including the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).

If you want the information that you provide to be treated as confidential, please be aware that, under FOIA, there is a statutory Code of Practice with which public authorities must comply and which deals, amongst other things, with obligations of confidence. In view of this it would be helpful if you could briefly explain to us why you regard the information you have provided as confidential.

If we receive a request for disclosure of the information we will take full account of your explanation, but we cannot give an assurance that confidentiality can be maintained in all circumstances. An automatic confidentiality disclaimer generated by your IT system will not be regarded as binding on the CPS.

Please ensure your response is marked clearly if you wish your response and name to be kept confidential. Confidential responses will be included in any statistical summary of numbers of comments received and views expressed. The CPS will process your personal data in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018 - in the majority of circumstances this will mean that your personal data will not be disclosed to third parties.

CPS Consultations

We want to hear your views about our prosecution policy. You can help us to be better informed, fairer and more representative by participating in our consultations. We welcome your feedback.

Alternative formats

If you require a copy of the consultation papers in any other format, for example, large print or Braille, please contact the e-mail or postal addresses above.

How to respond to consultations

  • Visit the consultation page
  • Read the consultation documents
  • Respond to the consultation using the online form, by email or by post
  • Make sure you submit your response by the closing date

Government Consultation Principles

The Consultation Principles 2016 are available from the Cabinet Office website (opens in new window).

View all consultations

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