Downing Street has refused to comment on allegations that David Cameron performed an obscene sex act with a dead pig while at university.
The claims, published in a new book by former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, Lord Ashcroft, have electrified social media.
The peer himself has said the allegations might be a case of mistaken identity. But were someone to have committed a similar act, what would the legal situation be?
It’s not illegal to have oral sex with a dead animal
Sexual activity with an animal is covered in UK law by Section 69 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Under this law a person is said to have committed an offence if they intentionally have sex with an animal.
Recent allegations that a politician might have had oral sex with a dead pig would not be covered by this offence. This is because the law stipulates that the animal involved must be a “living animal”.
It also only covers penetration in “the vagina or anus” of the animal.
This means oral sex with a dead pig is not covered by the Sexual Offences Act 2003; such an animal would not be alive, and a vagina or anus is not involved.
However, a photograph of someone having sex with a dead animal might be illegal
The allegations in the biography allege that there is believed to be “photographic evidence” of the sex act involving the pig being carried out.
Extreme sexual images featuring animals are covered by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.
This Act makes it an offence to possess images which are both “extreme” and “pornographic” at once.
This law specifically mentions oral sex and dead animals, noting that an image is extreme if, amongst other possibilities, it features “a person performing an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal (whether dead or alive)”.
Under this definition it is likely that such an act would be extreme.
But it’s probably not illegal within the context of a student initiation ritual
However, the law against extreme pornography requires the image to be both extreme and pornographic.
An image can be extreme without being pornographic.
For an image to be pornographic, it must “reasonably be assumed to have been produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal”.
A photograph of a student society initiation ritual is unlikely to have been produced for this purpose: it is likely that such a photograph’s primary purpose could be argued to be for purposes of record-keeping, for bullying, or simply for “banter”.
This means that anyone who had photographic evidence confirming such allegations could probably come forward without fear of legal reprisal.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies