Interfact Ltd & Pablo Ltd v Liverpool City Council
Reference:  EWHC 995 (Admin)
Court: Administrative Court
Judge: Maurice Kay LJ and Newman J
Date of judgment: 23 May 2005
Summary: Distribution of Pornography - Freedom of Expression - Article 10 - s.7(2)(c) Video Recordings Act 1984
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Instructing Solicitors: Henri Brandman & Co for A1, Howrey Simon Arnold & White for A2, Liverpool City solicitor for R
Interfact and Pablo ran (unconnected) licenced sex shops. In addition to on-site sales, both offered R18 videos and DVDs by post. Films classified R18 within s.7(2)(c) of the 1984 Video Recordings Act can only be ‘supplied’ to persons over 18 and only in a licensed sex shop. Liverpool Trading Standards brought test prosecutions against the two defendants on the basis that delivery of R18 films was being effected without the person being physically present in the sex shop. Postal delivery of the films was accompanied by catalogues ‘offering to supply’ further films. Both were convicted of supplying recordings contrary to the Act, fined and ordered to pay prosecution costs. The defendants appealed the decisions.
What was the proper construction of s.7 (and subsection 2(c) in particular) of the Video Recordings Act and whether it was an offence to supply R18 films to customers other than at licensed sex shops in person.
Dismissing the appeals; (1) The purpose of R18 classification is to prevent children viewing unsuitable material and the ambit of the restriction on supply in section 7(2)(c) of the Act should be interpreted with a view to that purpose being achieved and the event of supply is confined to a licensed sex shop; (2) s.12(1), as an enforcement provision relating to R18 films, falls to be interpreted according to the same purpose; (3) The restrictions in question protected children and were lawful, necessary and proportionate by reference to Article 10(2); (4) It was an offence to offer to supply R18s other than in a sex shop.
The Divisional Court was prepared to regard restrictions on the supply of R18 sex films by mail order as an interference with Article 10 rights of the defendant sex shops but held that the restriction was necessary and proportionate to the legitimate aim of protecting juveniles from inappropriate material. Mail order sex film business could go abroad but Customs and Excise control of such material crossing borders tended to work against this.