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Decision to Charge

Once the Police have completed their investigations, they will refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service for advice on how to proceed. We will then make a decision on whether a suspect should be charged, and what that charge should be.

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CPS Decision on Baltic Exhibition Photograph

26/10/2007

Northumbria Crown Prosecution Service has advised Northumbria Police that a photograph seized from an exhibition at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, is not an indecent image.

Ms Kerrie Bell, head of CPS Northumbria’s South Unit, said: "A decision was made by the CPS in 2001 in relation to this particular photograph, "Klara and Edda Belly Dancing 1998", that it was not indecent and therefore there was insufficient evidence for a prosecution.

"In order to prove that the photograph is indecent we must be satisfied that contemporary standards of propriety are so different now to what they were in 2001, that it is more likely than not that a court will conclude that the photograph is indecent. I am not satisfied that is the case.

"Even if the photograph was now considered to be indecent, a defendant would be able to raise a legitimate defence, given that the photograph was distributed for the purposes of display in a contemporary art gallery after having been deemed not to be indecent by the earlier investigation.

"Accordingly, I am of the opinion that the evidence is insufficient to justify proceedings for offences of possession or distribution of an indecent photograph."

Northumbria Police were contacted by the Baltic at the end of September, shortly before the opening of the exhibition, called Thanksgiving, which was to show 149 photographs by the American photographer Nan Goldin. A file was sent to the CPS on 10 October 2007.

  1. The exhibition of photographs by Nan Goldin, called Thanksgiving, is from the Sir Elton John Photography Collection. The Baltic, at the request of the Sir Elton John Photography Collection, has closed the exhibition which was due to run until January 2008.
  2. Possible offences were considered under the Protection of Children Act, 1978, Sec 1, taking or distributing indecent photographs of children under the age of 18, or Sec 160 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1988, which creates an offence of possessing indecent photographs of children aged under 18.
  3. Any person charged with an offence either under the 1978 Act or 1988 Act has a defence if he can prove:
    1. that he had a legitimate reason for possessing/distributing/showing the photograph or pseudo-photograph or
    2. that he had not himself seen the photograph or pseudo-photograph and did not know, nor had any cause to suspect, it to be indecent.
  4. The photograph was exhibited in the Saatchi gallery in London in 2001 as part of the "I am a camera" exhibition. At that time the photograph, together with photographs by Tierney Gearon, became part of a police investigation in relation to possible offences under the Protection of Children Act 1978. The evidence was considered by the CPS Casework Directorate, which advised the police that the photograph was not indecent and there was not a realistic prospect of a conviction for an offence under the 1978 Act.
  5. For further information contact Julie Seddon, CPS Press Office, 020 7796 8180 or email julie.seddon@cps.gsi.gov.uk