A law against "extreme pornography" is being challenged by a man whose life was ruined after he was charged for possessing a video of a woman having sex with a tiger, that turned out to actually be a man in fancy dress.
Andrew Holland, 51, was charged with possession of the video that a friend sent him unsolicited as a joke after the crucial distinction between a real and pretend tiger eluded police and prosecutors.
While facing trial, Holland suffered a heart attack, had to leave his hometown of Wrexham in North Wales because of harrassment from vigilantes and was prevented from seeing his daughter for a year, he told The Independent.
He also faced "public ridicule" from those who thought he genuinely owned a video depicting bestiality, his lawyers said.
The charge was dropped when Mr Holland appeared in court, after being on bail for six months and the clip was played with the sound on.
It was then that prosecutors realised the "tiger" in the video could be heard saying "that's ggggreat!"
While Tony The Tiger, the animated talking mascot for Frosties cereal says this, real tigers do not.
A tiger that is real and, therefore, not the one featured in the video
Campaigners have said there have been thousands of prosecutions a year under the law, which could "potentially criminalise millions of people".
This is despite ministers' prediction the law would only result in around 30 cases a year.
Backlash, a coalition of lawyers and academics who campaign to protect sexual freedoms, have written to David Cameron about the case.
Mr Holland's solicitors Hodge Jones & Allen (HJA) have written to Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions and one of the government's most senior lawyers, to ask for a review of how the relevant law is enforced.
Myles Jackman, legal advisor to Backlash and a lawyer at HJA, wrote that the huge increase in people sharing videos made the review more urgent.
"(Mr Holland's) name became synonymous with the joke, which had a devastating impact on his reputation," he blogged.
"Now, Mr Holland has requested that the Crown Prosecution Service (led by DPP Ms Saunders) review this law, to save other innocents from facing the same fate as him."
He added: "This review comes when it has become clear that millions of adults using mobile phone messaging services like WhatsApp can be sent potentially 'extreme' material to their phones, by friends, without knowing that they are actually in technical possession of illegal images.
"If it is unclear whether an image might be extreme and therefore illegal, how can a person be expected to know if they’ve broken the law?"
The 'real' Tony the Tiger from the cereal box
Section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act forbids possession of "extreme" pornography that shows necrophilia or bestiality, threatens life or could cause serious injury to a person's "anus, breasts or genitals".
It also says "extreme" images are those that are "grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character".
In addition to Mr Holland's request, HJA and Backlash have asked the Home Office to do a human rights impact assessment, to back their claim that the law is "disproportionate," the crime is not clearly defined and people cannot be expected to judge what images might be illegal.
If it fails this assessment, they will push for a judicial review of the law.
Backlash spokesman Jon Fuller said: "This law threatens anyone with a sex life they want to keep private.
"It threatens ordinary members of the public who exchange dirty jokes by phone and over the internet.
"Potentially criminalising millions of people is a disproportionate consequence of a law not based on harm and with no clear benefit."
In a statement, HJA said: "Mr Holland does not want others to go through the ordeal that he has faced.
"He wants to ensure that others are not prosecuted unnecessarily in the manner that he was.
"He remains subject to the risk of further criminal charges in the event that he is in possession of similar joke images in the future."
The Crown Prosecution Service, which pursues prosecutions against those charged under the act, had not commented as this story went live.
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