Monday 23 January 2017

What To Do If You Notice Someone Watching Pornography On A Bus


What would you do if you were on the bus home or the train from Plymouth to Exeter and someone next to you started watching pornography on their phone or tablet?

Unless the person is clearly watching footage which is illegal then the laws around it are very vague.

British Transport Police (BTP) said the number of calls they received about people watching porn on trains rose from 17 in 2015 to 26 in 2016.

A BTP spokesman said: "We are aware there has been some discussion in the media recently about people watching pornography on public transport and whether transport groups or the police can do anything about this.

"If you feel uncomfortable or distressed by someone who is looking at pornography on the railway, we want you to report it to us.

"There is various legislation which could potentially be used to prosecute this behaviour in some circumstances, including railway byelaws or Section 5 of the Public Order Act for causing harassment, alarm or distress."

BBC journalist Siobhann Tighe wrote last week about her troubling experience on a London bus.

She said: "I sat on the lower deck beside a complete stranger and didn't give it a second thought. As we meandered through the London traffic, my gaze was drawn to my neighbour's phone.

"Although I didn't mean to or want to, I found myself looking over towards his mobile a few times and then it suddenly occurred to me what was going on. The man beside me was watching porn.

"I didn't hear any sound and the man didn't seem to notice my glances towards his phone. He seemed oblivious to me and others around him, who admittedly wouldn't have been able to see what I saw.

"I felt uncomfortable and annoyed, but I didn't do anything about it. I didn't say anything to him and neither did he pick up on any of my glances or quizzical looks."

It was only after she got off the bus that she began to think about what happened.

She said: "Questions flooded into my mind about what I had just experienced. What if a child saw that? Are there any laws about looking at porn in public spaces? If there are laws, how easy are they to enforce? Why did this passenger feel public transport was an appropriate place to watch porn, and should I be worried from a safety point of view?

In the BBC article, Professor Clare McGlynn, from Durham University who specialises in the law around porn, says there is little to stop someone viewing pornographic material in public - on public transport, in a library, in a park or a cafe, for example.

"It's like reading a book," she told the BBC. "They are viewing lawful material which is freely available, and restricting people's access to it presents other challenges."

In Prof McGlynn's view, the law would only prevent it if the porn viewer is harassing someone or causing a disturbance.

However, James Turner QC told the BBC to say that there is a law - the Indecent Displays (Control) Act - which might form the basis for a prosecution.

Five years ago, in the US, the executive director of a group called Morality in the Media had a similar experience. As a result, the group - now called the National Center On Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) - campaigned to get the major US airlines to stop passengers watching porn.

All but one airline agreed to improve their policies to prohibit passengers from viewing porn during flights.

But here in the UK, there is no law, regulation or policy to deal with this moral dilemma.



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