Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Robul Hoque: sentenced for a thought crime

Since when has possessing weird cartoons been a criminal offence?  Stuff that is common and normal in Japan now earns jail-time in Britain

Until this week, Amazon’s decision to put racism warnings on old episodes of Tom and Jerry looked like it would be the frontrunner for the most absurd cartoon-related overreaction of the year. Not anymore. That position has been stolen by the UK courts’ decision to give a nine-month suspended prison sentence to Robul Hoque, a 39-year-old man from Middlesbrough, for possession of Japanese-style manga images and anime cartoons. Several of these images depicted young girls exposing themselves and engaging in sexual acts.

During the trial, Hoque’s barrister, Richard Bennett, insisted that the material was available on legal pornographic websites and the presiding judge, Tony Biggs, emphasised that ‘no actual children or perpetrators [were] involved’. Even so, the judge believed that the possession of the ‘repulsive’ comics and cartoons were worthy of a prison sentence, because, he said, anything that may encourage child abuse should be ‘actively discouraged’.

This is the second time that Hoque has been prosecuted. In 2008, he was prosecuted for possessing Tomb Raider-style computer graphics depicting nude children. On that occasion, he was convicted of the made-up-sounding crime of producing ‘indecent pseudo-photographs’ – that is, the images were so realistic that they were almost indistinguishable from real photos. That’s right, he was convicted on the basis that the digital drawings he possessed were quite good, even though, yet again, no actual children were involved.

However, apart from Hoque’s two prosecutions for possession of erotic art depicting children, he has no convictions for child abuse, possession of actual child pornography, or convictions for anything else, for that matter. In other words, there is no reason to believe he is a threat to children.

This is what makes the case so chilling. Hoque was convicted of a thought crime, not a sex crime. That’s because a sex crime needs a victim. But not only was what Hoque did a victimless crime, it was also one that everyone else would have been oblivious to had the police not actively sought Hoque out.

Hoque’s conviction sets a shocking precedent. It empowers the state to police one’s fantasies, to voyage inside a person’s head and monitor its contents. It seems that what was once the stuff of sci-fi dystopias, is now normal in twenty-first century Britain. And that really is disturbing.



Anonymous said...

Presumably he can appeal against the decision of that Court, and I hope he does. One judge's (dubious) opinion doesn't have to be the final one in the justice system.

Anonymous said...

How many British politicians would be jailed for similar offences if their background was searched? And I believe that their transgressions would involve real children.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the only thing George Orwell got wrong was the year!

Forget the name, Luke said...

I guess you guys above would not mind if this guy hung around your daughters, eh?

Bird of Paradise said...

George Orwell and 1984 we were warned about this all and Big Bad Brother

Stan B said...

Luke, the point is, he WAS NOT CONVICTED of hanging around our daughters. He was convicted of possession of ART that disturbs people.

How long until drawings or depictions of other heinous acts becomes fodder for some rogue prosecutor? "Your copy of Lethal Weapon III depicts murder and mayhem, and that is very disturbing. You, therefore, are guilty and deserve jail-time."

The same legal theory would apply - depictions of fantasy, even art, are now subject to the whims of the state in the UK.