A blogger who was charged with obscenity after he wrote an erotic story detailing the kidnap, sexual torture and murder of the pop group Girls Aloud was cleared at court yesterday after prosecutors offered no evidence against him.
Darryn Walker's case was the first time that the 1959 Obscene Publications Act had been applied to written material on the internet. His case was regarded as a test which could have had far-reaching ramifications for bloggers and publishers of online fiction.
But yesterday, on what was supposed to be the first day of Mr Walker's trial, the case was abandoned following the introduction of evidence from an information technology expert.
The Crown Prosecution Service said it originally charged Mr Walker believing that the story, called "Girls (Scream) Aloud", could be easily accessed by young fans of the group. But the IT expert said this was not the case and that the article could only be found by those who were specifically searching for such material. Unable to refute this, the CPS surrendered the case. It brought an end to a saga which started more than a year ago and was seen as one of the most significant censorship cases since the publisher Penguin was prosecuted for sanctioning DH Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover in 1960.
Mr Walker, 35, was arrested in February 2008 by officers from Scotland Yard's Obscene Publications Unit who were alerted to his story by the Internet Watch Foundation. Last week the former civil servant, of South Shields, Tyneside, was told that he would be cleared and yesterday left Newcastle Crown Court after a short hearing in which the court heard that he had lost his job since he was arrested last year. He refused to comment as he left court.
The 7,300-word story tells of the kidnap of the chart-topping band from their tour bus. The author then explains in graphic and sexually-explicit terms how he wishes to kill the band's members – Nadine Coyle, Sarah Harding, Nicola Roberts, Kimberley Walsh and Cheryl Cole – and sell their limbs and other body parts on the internet auction site eBay.
Yesterday Tim Owen QC, defending Mr Walker, said: "It was never his intention to frighten or intimidate the members of Girls Aloud. He had written what he had described as an adult celebrity parody and was only meant to be for an audience of like-minded people."
David Perry QC, prosecuting, said: "A crucial aspect of the reasoning that led to the instigation of these proceedings was that the article in question, which was posted on the internet, was accessible to people who were particularly vulnerable – young people who were interested in a particular pop music group."
However, the report for the defence by an IT expert said this was not the case. A spokeswoman for the CPS said that the service was served with the new defence evidence on 12 June, two weeks before the trial. She added: "The case was reviewed again and in the light of the evidence, it was decided it could no longer go ahead. The prosecution was unable to provide sufficient evidence to contradict this [new evidence] and so took the decision there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction."
Judge Esmond Faulks formally returned a not guilty verdict to the charge of publishing an obscene article and said Mr Walker was free to leave court.