For an image to be considered illegal it must fall under 2 categories. 'Pornographic' and 'Extreme'. As you will see, it is difficult to even place TieGuyUK in the category 'Pornographic' and it certainly doesn't feature anything remotely 'Extreme' but for those of you that are not familiar with the bill and may be slightly concerned please read the following summary which is taken from my solicitors official statement.

  • Pornographic
    According to the bill, 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'. The images on your website may fall under this definition, as it can be argued that the purpose of the website is to provide sexual stimulation for people who are aroused by light bondage. However, there is an alternative argument that the images are produced for the principal purpose of communicating the message that it is acceptable to enjoy light bondage, as this seems to be how you describe your reasons for producing the images. If the images on your website do not fall under the definition of 'pornographic', then the bill will not affect you. However, as it is possible that they 'could' be construed as 'pornographic', it is worth reviewing the rest of the section.

  • Extreme image
    The current definition has two legs to it: it is an image that (1) falls under subsection 7 and (2) is grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character.

    Subsection 7
    As both legs of the definition of an 'extreme image' have to be satisfied under the bill, the images would also have to fall under the list of examples in subsection 7. Given the moderate nature of the images, it seems unlikely that the images would fall under subsection 7.

    Grossly offensive
    There is no indication that these words will have a special meaning in the bill and so it seems likely that they will simply have their ordinary meanings, as in the 2007 case of Connolly v Director of Public Prosecutions, which dealt with whether the sending of disturbing abortion images fell under the Malicious Communications Act 1988 by being 'grossly offensive and indecent'. The 'shocking and disturbing' nature of the images in that case (close-up colour photographs of dead 21-week old foetuses with face and limbs clearly visible) were found to be 'grossly offensive'.
    These images are at the higher end of the scale in terms of offending the public's sensibilities.

    The most extreme images that I have seen on TieGuyUK involve tied up men immersed in water, men taped up, and men taped together. I have not seen any violent images, or any full nudity. In this way the moderate, light-hearted and non-violent images of half-dressed, tied up men on your website can clearly be distinguished from the shocking images in Connolly which dealt with death and the highly sensitive issue of abortion and the welfare of foetuses. Therefore it is unlikely that the images on your website would be construed as 'grossly offensive'.

    Disgusting/Of an obscene character
    The Obscene Publications Acts 1959 and 1964 make it an offence to publish an obscene article. Under these acts, the test of obscenity is whether it 'tends to deprave or corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it'.

    Case law has also confirmed that the test of 'tending to deprave or corrupt' would vary for the different persons viewing the material. Therefore in the case of TieGuyUK, the tendency to deprave or corrupt regular visitors to/members of the website could be different from the tendency to deprave or corrupt other internet users, including young children, who may stumble across the website, although you have helped to prevent this occurring by including a warning as to the content of the site before users may enter, as well as a members only section which requires a password.

    It is most likely that the images on your website would not be described as 'obscene'.

    In the case of Knuller (Publishing, Printing and Promotions) Ltd and others v Director of Public Prosecutions, it was decided that to 'deprave and corrupt' was not merely to lead astray morally. In the case of R v Anderson, it was decided that an article is not necessarily obscene just because it is repulsive, filthy, loathsome or lewd (in other words, the ordinary dictionary definition of the word 'obscene' cannot be relied on). Other than this, it is hard to find an objective meaning of 'deprave and corrupt': it is a subjective question that is put to the jury in each individual case.

    Given that it must be more than merely leading astray morally and more than being 'lewd', it is unlikely that the images on your website fall under this definition of 'obscene'.

    To establish the offence of 'an act outraging public decency', it has to be proved that the act was of such a lewd, obscene or disgusting character that it outraged public decency. An obscene act in this context has been defined as an act which offends against recognised standards of propriety and which is at a higher level of impropriety than indecency. A disgusting act has been defined as one 'which fills the onlooker with loathing or extreme distaste or causes annoyance'.

    It seems that ('causing annoyance' aside) particularly strong words have been chosen to define 'obscene' and 'disgusting': higher than indecency, loathing (rather than dislike), 'extreme' distaste.

    The case law definitions suggest that the words used in the bill have been specifically chosen to cover acts at the highest end of the spectrum, whereas TieGuyUK clearly declares itself to be at the lowest end, with an emphasis on lightness and fun, and this is reflected in the images themselves, which do not show violence or even nudity. Therefore it is unlikely that the images on your website would be described as 'grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character'.

  • The purpose of the bill
    This section of the bill has been introduced to criminalise the possession of 'extreme' pornography, rather than target the pornography industry as a whole. Research paper 07/93 states that the bill was introduced after a campaign by Liz Longhurst whose daughter had been strangled to death by a man who was addicted to violent porn. The content of the pornography he was addicted to included images of women being raped and strangled as well as pictures purporting to show necrophilia.

    The images on your website do not contain nudity and do not show violence of any sort. Within the adult entertainment industry, TieGuyUK must be at the moderate end of the scale and therefore outside the focus of the bill.

    The research paper notes that, when the bill was introduced, 'the Government did not seek to change the law in respect of what was obscene or pornographic, or extend the Obscene Publications Act 1959, but needed to create the possession offence in order to enforce the current law, with a high threshold for the offence, focusing on material that [they] believe is already illegal to publish'. Therefore, if the images on your website are not considered 'obscene' under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 and are not currently illegal, they will not fall within the ambit of the new bill.

  • Conclusion
    In conclusion, therefore, I think it is currently very unlikely that TieGuyUK website would fall under the provisions of the bill, as it is unlikely that the images would fall under the definition of 'extreme'.