News and events

11th February 2017
Spiked have published their latest Free Speech University Rankings, the UK’s university rankings for free speech.  The FSUR divides universities on a traffic light model into those that have "banned and actively censored ideas on campus", those that have "chilled free speech through intervention", and those very few that have "a hands-off approach to free speech".  It makes for bleak reading.

7th February 2017
The latest CAC newsletter is going out in the post and is also available as a free PDF from the documents page.

5th January 2017
A Happy New Year to our supporters and friends!  A newsletter is being prepared right now and should be out by February.  CAC members have been busy, usually in ways not apparent in these days of social media instant commentary.  That said, a real-time social media presence is something that we’re looking at.

29th November 2016
Our friend Jerry Barnett at Sex & Censorship also comments about the Digital Economy Bill.

29th November 2016
A briefing about the Digital Economy Bill from the Open Rights Group.

25th October 2016
Peter Tatchell has an interesting article in today’s edition of The Times, ‘Bakers should have the right not to make a ‘gay cake’’ (p. 26).  This follows Christian bakers in Northern Ireland losing their appeal against an earlier ruling that their refusal to make a so-called gay cake – the intended cake had a message in favour of gay marriage - was discriminatory.

Peter writes that “The verdict is a setback for freedom of expression”.  Moreover, he cautions those now celebrating the verdict about the consequences.  Those with strong religious or political attitudes – including “liberal” ones – may find themselves obliged to in some sense publish material contrary to their beliefs.

7th September 2016
As a follow-up to the previous post, Jerry Barnett tells us that he’ll be debating in Birmingham and Exeter in the near future.  Details at Sex & Censorship.

7th September 2016
The CAC attended a fascinating talk at Waterstones in Greenwich given by Jerry Barnett, owner of the Sex & Censorship website and campaign group.  Jerry was speaking about his new book Porn Panic! (2016, Zero Books).  As the book says, it “charts the rise of a new anti-sex, pro-censorship movement.  Unlike the old morality movements, this one is focused on the left of politics.”  A longer report will feature in the next CAC newsletter.

15th April 2016
More CAC correspondence from 2015 is available in the archive section.

20th February 2016
The latest CAC newsletter is available as a PDF from the Documents page.

29th November 2015
CAC Chair Edward Goodman has his own blog dealing with history and politics.  Note that he writes in a personal capacity, but it’s well worth the read!

29th August 2015
More CAC correspondence from 2014 and 2015 is available online in the Documents archive.

2nd April 2015
We are sad to learn of the death earlier this year of Francis Bennion, one of the “founding fathers” of the CAC in its earlier incarnation as the Defence of Literature and the Arts Society.  This is a link to an obituary by Veronica Cowan published in March in Criminal Law and Justice Weekly.

23rd March 2015
A new batch of CAC documents from 2014 and 2015 is now available online.

4th February 2015
The February 2015 newsletter is available as a PDF from the Documents page.  Hardcopies are going out in the post to members and friends as usual.

11th January 2015
Away from the spectacular atrocities carried out in Paris, Raif Badawi has now received the first of his 1000 lashes – plus ten years in prison and a massive fine – for speaking his mind.  Or “insulting Islam” as the Saudi authorities have put it.

10th January 2015
Following the murders in Paris, France…  As we have noted before, the anti-censorship movement in the UK has historically focused on material of a sexual nature.  But the censorship and self-censorship of religious material is where the literal life-and-death battle lines now lie.  Your religious beliefs are offended by something?  Tough!  But at least Charlie Hebdo could be published in France.  Could it have been in the UK?  Spiked very much doubt it.

13th December 2014
At a recent meeting of the CAC Council, it was agreed that remaining members of the National Campaign for the Repeal of the Obscene Publications Acts (NCROPA) should, in accordance with the decision of Acting Director of NCROPA Edward Goodman, be invited to join the CAC.  They will be contacted in due course.  However, they are always welcome to contact us first!

13th December 2014
CAC applauds the anti-censorship campaigners who braved a chilly London to protest against new restrictions on consensual, adult erotic material.

27th October 2014
Surely one of the more distressing and bizarre stories to come out of the “extreme pornography” scare.  Andrew Holland had his career, health, family life, and reputation wrecked when he was arrested for possessing a video of a tiger having sex with a woman.

 

“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.”

 

Truly insane.

2nd October 2014
The CAC applauds David Aaronovitch’s remarks in The Times (2nd October 2014, p. 25) regarding the recently forced closure of the Exhibit B performance featuring black actors.

 

Writes Mr Aaronovitch, “You have no right not to be offended.  No you, not me, not the rosiest granny with the fluffiest hair.  Because if you have a right not to be offended, then so does the person who is offended by you.  And there is always somebody who will be.”

15th August 2014
The August 2014 newsletter is available as a PDF from the Documents page.  Hardcopies are going out in the post to members and friends as usual.

23rd July 2014
The CAC’s submission to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill is on the UK Parliament’s website.

13th July 2014

We have updated the early history of the CAC on the homepage.  This is partly from information from Francis Bennion's website.  The redoubtable Mr Bennion, a former RAF pilot, barrister and author, is one of the Founding Fathers of the CAC, being involved with its earliest incarnations in the mid 1960s.

24th June 2014
The first “tranche” of the CAC’s document archive goes live!

24th June 2014
The CAC is sorry to learn of the death of Ben Whitaker, the former Labour MP for Hampstead and ex-chair of the Defence of Literature and the Arts Society, the CAC’s forerunner.  The Guardian carries an obituary detailing Ben’s very interesting life.

31st March 2014
The public version of the CAC’s written evidence submitted towards the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill 2014 is now available from the Documents page.

17th March 2014
The CAC is currently working on its submission to the Parliamentary Committee on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.

13th February 2014

CAC has added its name to a letter from the Consenting Adult Action Network concerning S16 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill that may criminalise “the possession of material that depicts consensual sex and bondage.”  As the CAAN letter goes on to say, “Millions of people fantasise about types of forced sex, as is demonstrated by the enormous number of readers and viewers of books and R18 equivalent films that cater for this market.”

18th January 2014
The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has published new Classification Guidelines that will come into force on the 24th February 2014.  The CAC is examining them.

11th January 2014
The CAC of course extends its condolences to the family and friends of Paul Goggins MP, who died a few days ago.  Nevertheless, we must also note that, spurred on by his strong religious views, he was a major architect of the previous Labour government’s “extreme pornography” legislation.  This banned mere possession of images of, for example, a sadomasochistic nature even when all of the participants were consenting adults.

3rd January 2014
In recent decades, the anti-censorship cause has focused on material of a (consensual adult) sexual nature.  And there’s still work to be done here as the CAC’s most recent newsletter highlights.

But here is humorist Michael Palin being interviewed recently by The Times: “‘Religion is more difficult to talk about.  I don’t think we could do Life of Brian any more,’ he says.  A parody of Islam would be even harder.  ‘We all saw what happened to Salman Rushdie and none of us want to get into all that.  It’s a pity but that’s the way it is.  There are people out there without a sense of humour and they’re heavily armed.’”  The Times, December 28 2013, pp. 44-45.

And this highlights the problem.  Self-censorship is perhaps harder to tackle than overt and active censorship of the traditional kind.  And this seems particularly true in the case of Islam where physical fear is bound up with multiculturalism and “post-imperial guilt” amongst certain sections of opinion-formers who in other circumstances would be the foremost champions of freedom of expression.

29th November 2013
We haven’t made much noise recently, but behind the scenes…  The new December 2013 CAC Newsletter is available from the Documents & downloads page as a PDF download.  Hardcopies have gone out to members and other friends and opinion formers.

5th October 2013
The CAC is a cross-party organisation.  Nevertheless, outside of the censorship issue, many of our members are active in party politics.  Our late and much-missed council member Basil Stein was a staunch supporter of the Labour party.  Our notice has been drawn to a longer obituary that appeared on page 4 of the December 2012 newsletter of Enfield Southgate Constituency Labour Party.  An interesting life!

12th September 2013
Our friends at the Libertarian Alliance have published their response to the proposed regulation of the media.  Needles to say, they’re against it!

11th August 2013
The CAC’s response to current proposals for press regulation will be submitted this week to Maria Miller MP, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.  The same response can be found as a position paper on the Documents section of this website.

14th May 2013

The CAC is compiling a response to the post-Leveson proposals on press regulation.

23rd March 2013
There is a good editorial in today’s edition of The Times (‘The Right to Offend’, page 2 of the print version) about the long-running saga of “religion-themed” adverts on the sides of London buses.  The High Court has found in favour of Mayor Boris Johnson’s decision to ban a Christian-sponsored sign saying “Not gay!  Ex-gay, post-gay and proud.  Get over it!”  However, the Court also found that the Mayor should have banned an earlier Stonewall advert that read, “Some people are gay.  Get over it!”  The Times – and the CAC – respectfully disagree with the High Court.

The editorial concludes, “It is precisely the ability to publish the most annoying, offensive and fringe opinion that should be protected.  The casual way in which poor behaviour and silly views can become illegal is deeply worrying.  A liberal, free society ensures that agreement among the good and the great does not become a conspiracy of silence and respectability.  The right to be an irritant is crucial.  This week, in many ways, Britain became less liberal and less free.”

The last comment was prompted by the cobbled-together decision to introduce some form of state regulation of the press.  The CAC will say more about this.

5th February 2013

A report in the Daily Telegraph on an academic study in the USA suggests that heterosexual men who watch pornography are more likely to support gay marriage. Say the report’s authors, "If people think individuals should be able to decide for themselves whether to have same-sex sex, they will also think that individuals should be able to decide for themselves whether to get married to a partner of the same-sex."

26th October 2012

Would anyone trying to contact the CAC by post please note the new contact address of PO Box 570, Redhill, RH1 2WZ.

26th October 2012

The CAC is sorry to announce the death of long-time Council member Basil Stein. We hope to publish a suitable obituary in the next issue of the CAC newsletter and/or on this website.

24th September 2012

Dr Sean Gabb has written a long and affectionate obituary of David Webb on the Libertarian Enterprise website.

20th September 2012

From the archive: CAC Council members resting after their labours following a meeting in September 2011! Left to right: Edward Goodman, Mary Hayward, Basil Stein and Mark Taha. Photo by Dr Nigel Gervas Meek.

14th August 2012

More on the Simon Walsh case, this time an article by Alison Roberts in the London Evening Standard.

10th August 2012
Dr Sean Gabb, director of the Libertarian Alliance and good friend to the CAC, has issued a press release on behalf of the LA about the Simon Walsh “extreme pornography” case.  Whilst welcoming the acquittal, Dr Gabb suggests that the “battlefront” has probably moved on from material of a (consensual adult) sexual nature to areas where “liberal” opponents of censorship might find themselves in more difficulty.

10th August 2012

The CAC applauds the acquittal yesterday of barrister and London Mayoral aid Simon Walsh who had faced charges of possessing “extreme pornography”. The Independent reports in some detail on the case.

17th July 2012

CAC Council members Edward Goodman and Mark Taha after the funeral of NCROPA Director, David Webb.  Photo by CAC council member Dr Nigel Gervas Meek.

16th July 2012

The funeral of David Webb, Director of NCROPA, will take place at Mortlake Crematorium on Tuesday, 17th July at 11.00.

10th July 2012

The CAC is pleased to annouce the launch of its revamped website.  It's still under development, so humour us whilst we migrate documents and contact email addresses etc. from the old website.

 

30th June 2012

The CAC is sorry to announce the death of David Webb.  David was a well-known and much-loved actor on stage, screen and television, and Director of the National Campaign for the Repeal of the Obscene Publications Acts (NCROPA).  It is partly thanks to David's tireless, and often thankless, campaigning over the years that we enjoy a present semi-relaxation of the laws against sexual expression. In the 1990s he campaigned against the Customs and Excise when he challenged their use of the Customs Consolidation Act 1876 to seize a mass of pornographic videos that he had imported from Holland and declared on arrival here as "for personal use!" Though his challenge failed on a technicality in the Court of Appeal, the 1876 Act is nowadays used far less aggressively than in the 1980s and 1990s.  Otherwise, David was a frequent speaker throughout the United Kingdom on issues of sexual liberation, and he stood for Parliament on more than one occasion.  He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier this year. Though his doctors believed he had another year of life, his health began to fail a few weeks ago, and he died peacefully and in his sleep at Trinity Hospice in Clapham.  He was 82. He was unmarried and without children.  All who were privileged to know him will agree that David was a good and generous friend, with a fine sense of humour and an endless fund of anecdotes about his main career as an actor.


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