Simon_WalshA gay barrister, and former aide to London mayor Boris Johnson, has been found not guilty of possessing extreme pornography in what has been seen as a landmark case over the what can be described as “extreme”.

Simon Walsh, aged 50, a former magistrate and alderman in the city of London, was arrested in April 2011 after the police found six email attachments that had been sent to him. The attachments were not found on either his home or work computers, but on a Hotmail server account that he had previously set up. Walsh freely admitted to the court he had used the account to meet and keep in contact with sexual partners. He admitted having an interest in BDSM sexual practices, but added, “I do not believe that when I stood for public office I gave up my right to a private sexual life.”

Following his arrest, Walsh was sacked from his position on the London Fire Authority and was unable to continue work as a barrister, despite – as heard by the court – previously being a man of “impeccable character”.

The case drew widespread attention because the images that concerned the police were of consensual sexual acts between adults. These included anal fisting.

Walsh faced five charges under section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act of 2008, which stipulates images are extreme if they are “grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character” and if they “portray, in an explicit and realistic way” any act “which results in, or is likely to result, in serious injury to a person’s anus, breasts or genitals”.

However, after a week of evidence, a jury at Kingston Crown Court took just 90 minutes to unanimously find Walsh not guilty on all counts. The Crown Prosecution Service was widely criticised by many commentators for pressing charges against Walsh, with David Allen Green of the New Statesman calling it a “shameful and nasty prosecution”. Walsh’s solicitor, Myles Jackman, told The Guardian that the case raised, “grave questions… about the right of the state to intrude on the privacy of the individual with unfounded obscenity prosecutions.”

Giving evidence during the trial, Walsh himself had said that he had never hurt anyone whilst engaging in sexual bondage practices, adding, “I know the limits and I respect them.” He said that the accusation of possessing extreme pornography had deeply damaged his “career and personal standing”. After his aquittal, he thanked the jury for their “common sense” verdict, and expressed the wish to return to public life as soon as possible.

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