Committee on Obscenity and Film Censorship
The following chapters are extracted from the report, published in 1979, of a British Government Committee on Obscenity and Film Censorship, of which I was chairman. The committee was appointed in 1977 "to review the laws concerning obscenity, indecency and violence in publication, displays and entertainments in England and Wales, except in the field of broadcasting, and to review the arrangements for film censorship. . . ." The omission of broadcasting (which attracted some criticism) was due basically to the fact that the Annan Committee on Broadcasting had reported not long before, and had dealt with these subjects in that area.
The committee was felt to be necessary because of the uncertainty and confusion of the English law on obscenity and related matters. There are several different laws that can be invoked, and they are not always consistent. In addition, the central statute, the Obscene Publications Act 1959 as later amended, defines the basic offense in terms of material which has an effect "such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely . . . to read, see or hear. . . . it," and the interpretation of the deprave and corrupt formula (which in itself goes back to the nineteenth century) has given continuous trouble to the courts. In particular, this is because it imports the notion of a causal influence on character, but in fact it has often been