“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” – George Orwell, Animal Farm
Questions of satire, reality and historical anachronism came to mind upon reading yesterday’s revelations about David Cameron. According to a controversial new biography, the Prime Minister inserted a “private part of his anatomy” into a “dead pig’s head” while at Oxford University – an act that was allegedly photographed.
Hearing the allegations, I was reminded of "The National Anthem" episode of Black Mirror. In it, the Prime Minister is ransomed into having sex with a live pig on national television. But it also brought to mind some of the more surreal parts of mediaeval law. Under certain laws, animals such as pigs were subjected to criminal trial and execution for infanticide and witchcraft.
While these claims about our elected Head of State may well be fallacious, and Lord Ashcroft has said it may be a case of mistaken identity, the legal ramifications deserve probing.
Intercourse with an animal
According to section 69 of The Sexual Offences Act 2003 a person commits an offence of intercourse with an animal if:
- (a)he intentionally performs an act of penetration with his penis,
- (b)what is penetrated is the vagina or anus of a living animal.
Since the animal in question was not living and nor was its vagina or anus penetrated it would appear no offence could have been committed under the 2003 legislation.
Sexual penetration of a corpse
According to section 70 of The Sexual Offences Act 2003 a person commits an offence of sexual penetration of a corpse if:
- (a) he intentionally performs an act of penetration with a part of his body or anything else,
- (b) what is penetrated is a part of the body of a dead person.
Since animals are not granted legal personhood at law no offence could have been committed under the 2003 legislation.
Outraging Public Decency
Outraging public decency is a common law offence, which requires:
- 1) An act of a lewd, obscene or disgusting nature which would outrage minimum standards of public decency;
- 2) Which is committed in a place accessible to or within view of the public;
- 3) In the actual presence of two or more persons, who were capable of seeing it.
This would be fact specific, based on the location of the act. Hence were it committed in a restaurant accessible to or within view of the public, and assuming that the colleague and photographer were indeed present, an offence could arise under the common law which would be punishable by unlimited imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.
Possession of an extreme pornographic image
According to section 63 of The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, it is an offence for a person to be in possession of an extreme pornographic image of:
- 7) (d) a person performing an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal (whether dead or alive), and a reasonable person looking at the image would think that any such person or animal was real.
It is interesting to note that while the act itself is legal, possessing a photograph of it could be a criminal offence attracting up to two years imprisonment.
Nonetheless, a defence might exist if it could be argued the image was not pornographic, since: “An image is 'pornographic' if it is of such a nature that it must reasonably be assumed to have been produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal.”
However, according to the Ministry of Justice’s Explanatory Note: “It is not a question of the intentions of those who produced the image. Nor is it a question of the sexual arousal of the defendant.”
Therefore, it could be argued that a person might possess such an image for the purposes of satire, political commentary or simple grossness.
What can we conclude?
Perhaps it is unsurprising, given that animals and cadavers cannot consent, that our Prime Minister voted against the proposal in The Children and Families Bill to teach the value of sexual consent, agency and negotiation in schools. Yet he is in favour of blocking and filtering pornographic images from UK internet service providers.
However, David Cameron could be considered fortunate since under European mediaeval law the punishment for bestiality, or offensa cujus nominatio crimen est, was to be put to death along with the animal.
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