Obscene Publications Act 1959



Obscene Publications Act , 1959

(7 & 8 Eliz. 2) CHAPTER 66

An Act to amend the law relating to the publication of obscene matter; to provide for the protection of literature; and to strengthen the law concerning pornography.

Be it enacted by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

S-1 Test of obscenity.

1 Test of obscenity.

(1) For the purposes of this Act an article shall be deemed to be obscene if its effect or (where the article comprises two or more distinct items) the effect of any one of its items is, if taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it.

(2) In this Act ‘article’ means any description of article containing or embodying matter to be read or looked at or both, any sound record, and any film or other record of a picture or pictures.

(3) For the purposes of this Act a person publishes an article who—

(a ) distributes, circulates, sells, lets on hire, gives, or lends it, or who offers it for sale or for letting on hire; or

(b ) in the case of an article containing or embodying matter to be looked at or a record, shows, plays or projects it:

Provided that paragraph (b ) of this subsection shall not apply to anything done in the course of a cinematograph exhibition (within the meaning of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 ), other than one excluded from the Cinematograph Act, 1909 , by subsection (4) of section seven of that Act (which relates to exhibitions in private houses to which the public are not admitted), or to anything done in the course of television or sound broadcasting.

S-2 Prohibition of publication of obscene matter.

2 Prohibition of publication of obscene matter.

(1) Subject as hereinafter provided, any person who, whether for gain or not, publishes an obscene article shall be liable—

(a ) on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months;

(b ) on conviction on indictment to a fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both.

(2) Notwithstanding anything in section one hundred and four of the Magistrates' Courts Act, 1952 , summary proceedings for an offence against this section may be brought at any time within twelve months from the commission of the offence; and paragraph 16 of the First Schedule to the Magistrates' Courts Act, 1952 (under which an offence at common law of publishing, exhibiting or selling obscene articles may be tried summarily) is hereby repealed.

(3) A prosecution on indictment for an offence against this section shall not be commenced more than two years after the commission of the offence.

(4) A person publishing an article shall not be proceeded against for an offence at common law consisting of the publication of any matter contained or embodied in the article where it is of the essence of the offence that the matter is obscene.

(5) A person shall not be convicted of an offence against this section if he proves that he had not examined the article in respect of which he is charged and had no reasonable cause to suspect that it was such that his publication of it would make him liable to be convicted of an offence against this section.

(6) In any proceedings against a person under this section the question whether an article is obscene shall be determined without regard to any publication by another person unless it could reasonably have been expected that the publication by the other person would follow from publication by the person charged.

S-3 Powers of search and seizure.

3 Powers of search and seizure.

(1) If a justice of the peace is satisfied by information on oath that there is reasonable ground for suspecting that, in any premises in the petty sessions area for which he acts, or on any stall or vehicle in that area, being premises or a stall or vehicle specified in the information, obscene articles are, or are from time to time, kept for publication for gain, the justice may issue a warrant under his hand empowering any constable to enter (if need be by force) and search the...

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