Thursday, August 07, 2008

This is genius

Sheffield University lecturer Marcus Phillips took indecent photos of two young girls.

Boo! Hiss!

He has been successfully prosecuted and ordered to undertake 150 hours' unpaid work.

Hurray!

But. Well now. It seems that in his spare time Dr Phillips runs a photography business. He "creates portraits of fairies combining digital technology and the original photographs of his models.

"He was asked by the parents of the two girls, aged 10 and 12, to create a portrait of them which involved taking close-up photographs of various parts of their bodies, which were then superimposed on top of each other, to create the fairy images. The girls' parents were present at some of the photo shoots.

"However, when Phillips went to have the pictures developed at his local branch of Bonusprint, staff there became concerned about the images with showed the girls topless and alerted police, who arrested him.

"Sheffield Crown Court heard that Phillips, a tutor at Sheffield University, ran a photography business in his spare time which specialised in turning photographs of clients into 'ethereal' images of fairies....

"Because of the girls' ages, the photographs fell under the legal definition of indecent images of children.

"He was sentenced to 150 hours community service by Judge Lawler QC, who said there was 'never a sexual motive' for the photos.

"Passing sentence he added: 'You always acted perfectly properly and their parents were perfectly law-abiding, sensible people who cared for their children.

"'What is clear is that you had no base motive, no sexual motive and there was not any question of deriving sexual gratification from what you were doing.'"

A couple of thoughts.

First, for the CPS to prosecute this (or any) offence, a CPS lawyer must decide that it is in the public interest so to do. Personally, not a big fan of this 'public interest' malarky, I think it's just a helpful carte blanche to justify whatever an individual thinks is important. Be that as it may, on any view, where was the 'public interest' in prosecuting this man?

Second, if he 'always acted perfectly properly' (per Hizzoner), then where does the judge get off in giving him 150 hours' community service? I have consulted the current edition of Sexual Offences Law & Practice and there is no mention of minimum sentence requirements for such an 'offence'.

And I'll tell you what, even if there was a minimum sentence for this kind of thing you can bet it's not 150 hours' work in the community.

In short, if Dr Phillips' behaviour was proper, why was he prosecuted? And if it was proper, why was he not given a nominal sentence, a 50 quid fine, say?

Oh, and why did the parents get off scott-free? Why were they not joined on the same indictment?

Still, lucky old Dr Phillips "will not have to sign the sex offenders' register."

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