A bus driver wrongly accused of owning a film of a woman having sex with a tiger is trying to change the law on extreme pornography after a 14-month campaign to clear his name.
Andrew Holland, 51, suffered a heart attack, received hate mail and was targeted by vigilantes after being charged with possessing two videos that he was sent by friends as a joke.
He said he viewed one for just six seconds but the charges led to him being the subject of “widespread ridicule” and being mistakenly labelled a paedophile. After more than six months on bail, the charge of possession of an extreme pornographic image was dropped in December 2009 when prosecutors realised that the “animal” was a man dressed up in a tiger suit.
The Crown Prosecution Service said it only recognised that it was a man when the tiger was heard on the soundtrack saying “that’s grrrrrrreat”, like Tony the Tiger from Frosties’ breakfast cereal adverts.
Similar charges against Mr Holland were dropped nine months later in relation to a second clip called The Pain Olympics – a spoof video put together using “prosthetics, cocktail sausages and ketchup”, according to its producers.
Mr Holland’s legal team has now written to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to seek a change in the law to prevent “harmless but crude jokes” from ending in prosecution. If they are unsuccessful, they will go to the High Court to seek a judicial review.
Mr Holland was denied contact with his young daughter for more than a year and forced to leave his home town after a campaign of abuse against him as a result of the charges, he told The Independent.
Mr Holland said he was punished for failing to delete the items and had no interest in extreme pornographic images. Police confiscated his computers over an unrelated domestic dispute that did not result in charges being brought.
“I lost my job, I had to move and I ended up having a heart attack with all the stress of it,” he said. “People were ringing me in the middle of the night. Three young lads turned up at my door and were calling me everything. I was threatened on more than one occasion.”
The offence of possession of an extreme pornographic image was introduced in 2008 and has resulted in more than 5,500 prosecutions, the majority for clips of bestiality. Ministers had predicted that there would be just 30 cases a year.
Under the law, a person can be prosecuted for possession of a pornographic image labelled “extreme” if it shows necrophilia or bestiality, threatens someone’s life or could cause serious injury to anus, breasts or genitals. In addition, the law applies to “grossly offensive” or “disgusting” images – a highly subjective test.
Jon Fuller, a spokesman for Backlash, which campaigns on matters of sexual freedom, said the issue “potentially criminalises” millions of people. “This law threatens anyone with a sex life they want to keep private,” he said. “It threatens ordinary members of the public who exchange dirty jokes by phone and over the internet.”
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