The British government is proposing to ban the downloading and possession of violent and abusive pornography from the Internet, a minister said Tuesday.
Home Office Minister Paul Goggins said the government felt a duty to prevent cases such as the murder of Jan Longhurst, a 31-year-old teacher killed in 2003 by a friend who was obsessed with violent pornography found on the Internet.
However, he said there was no proof that certain kinds of images would arouse violence in everyone. "We know from that particular case, the horrendous case of Jane Longhurst, who was brutally murdered by Graham Coutts, that these images do have an impact, do feed the fantasies in certain individuals," Goggins said. "We believe it's our responsibility to prevent that from happening."
Other forms of pornographic material are subject to the Obscene Publications Act, but the Internet is not covered.
The government on Tuesday published a consultation paper on the proposed law, with a deadline of Dec. 2 for interested parties to comment.
Metropolitan Police Commander Dave Johnston welcomed the proposal, saying it is now difficult to deal with Web sites based abroad. "The creation of new offenses to deal with these matters would assist greatly in preventing the spread of such material," Johnston said.
Chris Evans of Internet Freedom, a pressure group, said users should be free to chose what they see.
"There is no evidence that watching violent images causes people to carry out violent acts," Evans said in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. television.
But Roger Darlington of the pressure group Internet Watch told the BBC that the Longhurst murder and other court cases proved that violent pornography "can encourage people to perform harm to other people."