World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Obscene libel

Article Id: WHEBN0022089046
Reproduction Date:

Title: Obscene libel  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: History of English criminal law, R v Penguin Books Ltd, Defamation, Capital murder, Felo de se
Collection: Common Law, Common Law Offences in England and Wales, Defamation, English Law
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Obscene libel

The publication of an obscene libel was an offence under the common law of England. Prior to the abolition by section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 of the distinction between felony and misdemeanour, it was regarded as a misdemeanour.[1] It has been abolished in England and Wales and Northern Ireland.[2]

The existence of this offence was denied by Hawkins;[3] and by Holt, C.J., who said that it was within the jurisdiction of the spiritual courts.[4]

England and Wales

It was an offence under the common law of England and Wales to publish an obscene libel. This was an indictable-only offence. However, section 2(4) of the Obscene Publications Act 1959 provided that a person publishing an article should not be proceeded against for an offence at common law consisting of the publication of any matter contained or embodied in that article where it was of the essence of the offence that the matter is "obscene". For this purpose the word "obscene" was defined by section 1(1) of that Act.

Lord Reid said:

Accordingly, the effect of section 2(4) is that it was not possible for a person to be prosecuted for this offence, unless the definition of "obscene" at common law was wider than the statutory definition of "obscene". This was probably not the case, because the statutory definition is a paraphrase of the definition given by Lord Cockburn, J., in R v Hicklin (1868) L.R. 3 Q.B. 360 at 371.

The offence was abolished when section 73(c) of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 came into force on 12 January 2010.[2]

See also


  1. ^ R v Curl (1727) 2 Str 288, (1727) 93 ER 849; R v Wilkes (1770) 4 Burr 2527 at 2574, (1770) 98 ER 327; R v Hicklin (1868) LR 3 QB 360
  2. ^ a b Coroners and Justice Act 2009, section 73(c)
  3. ^ William Hawkins, Treatise on Pleas of the Crown, chapter 28, section 9, 1824 edition at p.545 (from Google Books)
  4. ^ R v Read, Fort 98, 92 ER 777; this decision was overruled by R v. Curl.
  5. ^ Knuller (Publishing, Printing and Promotions) Ltd. v. DPP [1973] A.C. 435 at 456, 56 Cr.App.R. 633 at 637
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.