In 1990, in his capacity as Organiser of NCROPA, David Webb decided to address the blanket prohibition against the importation of all “indecent items” into the United Kingdom, (Customs Consolidation Act, 1876). He did this in response to queries from NCROPA members. As the Act did not define “indecent”, he decided to test it himself. Therefore, he was given some sexually explicit video recordings by a Dutch anti-censorship activist in Amsterdam and brought them back with him to the United Kingdom. When he arrived at Heathrow Airport on November 14, 1990, he declared these imports. He was thereupon arrested and subjected to an intimate body search.
While he was being held at Heathrow, customs officers raided his Chelsea apartment and seized a number of items, including medicine prescribed for a heart condition.
He was then released without charge but was informed that the videos would be retained and confiscated, and he was given a written notice to this effect. Shortly thereafter, a worried customs officer called at his apartment and returned his medication, which had apparently been taken in error. The aforementioned notice informed Mr Webb of his right to appeal against the confiscation order, which he duly exercised.
His appeal was heard at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court. This was rejected, so he appealed by way of case stated to the Divisional Court. This failed too, whereupon he took the case to the Court of Appeal, and changed Counsel. His new Counsel (Michael O’Maoileion), asked for leave to change the grounds of appeal drafted by the previous Counsel. Unfortunately, the Court refused but stated that if the proposed amendment had been granted, it would have allowed the appeal, because the new grounds pointed out that the items imported were for the sole use of David Webb. In other words, they could not have fallen foul of the Obscene Publications Acts which required publication to at least one other person. The Court of Appeal stated that the prohibition against indecent material should be construed in the same way as the Obscene Publications Acts. This was because, under the Treaty Of Rome, the United Kingdom was not permitted to discriminate against imports from other European Community countries by imposing a stricter level of prohibition (indecency) on them than applied to domestic products (obscenity). Thus, David Webb lost his video recordings but made his point!
The legal proceedings described above generated a voluminous number of documents, as can even the simplest of cases, which clearly this was not. The great bulk of those documents have not been published here. Among the duplicate legal bundles can be found affidavits, skeleton arguments and page after page of case law.
The documents published below are in strict chronological order:
Judgment in Noncyp Limited v Bow Street Magistrates’ Court and Martin Dubbey, Court of Appeal (Civil Division), December 14, 1988
The above judgment is included because it is a similar case and was obviously used by David Webb as part of his argument. Some text on pages 5, 6, 11 has been highlighted, probably by him.
Customs seizure sheets 1 and 2
Firstly, regarding the above, the lop-sided scans are not my fault, these are photocopied documents. The numbers assigned by me are arbitrary. The titles of the other four seized films were: Brotherload, Honesty, Rock Hard, and Young Cadets. Yuk. I have no idea when they were viewed, presumably shortly after they were seized. No doubt some people would find the thought of customs officers viewing this stuff and ticking the appropriate boxes amusing. Certainly David Webb did, indeed he tried to compel the magistrates to view it all, alas to no avail!
Judgment in R v Webb, Divisional Court, June 3, 1993
The above document has been highlighted – presumably by David Webb – at page 1 (the duplicated blue front page and the second page ‐ both numbered page 1), and pages 11 & 13.
Judgment in R v Webb, Court of Appeal, January 26, 1996
Order on R v Webb, Court of Appeal, January 26, 1996
The above is the best scan possible; the lop-sidedness is not my fault.
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