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I'm the Welsh Bus Driver Who Had His Life Ruined by 'Tiger Porn'

Andrew Holland had his life upended after police mistakenly identified a video on his phone of a woman having sex with a man in a tiger costume as bestiality. Now he's campaigning to change the country's extreme pornography laws.

by Frankie Miren
Oct 29 2014, 12:28pm

This is what a real tiger looks like. Photo via Wikimedia

"You could tell straightaway it wasn't a real tiger," says Andrew Holland, describing a video sent to him of a man in a tiger suit having sex with a woman. "Right from the word 'go,' the tiger was talking."

Unfortunately for Andrew, a 51-year-old bus driver from Wrexham, North Wales, police and prosecutors didn't pick up on this subtle clue. Instead, they claimed the video was of a woman having sex with a real tiger (again, it was not a real tiger; it was a human man dressed as a tiger) and charged Andrew with possession of extreme pornography.

As he was the first person to fall foul of this offense under the recently amended Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, prosecutors were determined to make an example of him. That, coupled with the fact that "MAN FOUND WITH TIGER PORN" is a very clickable headline, effectively meant Andrew's life was ruined from the second he was taken into custody.

He pleaded innocence, telling police, "It was a joke; my mate sent it to me. It's not a real tiger-real tigers don't say, 'That was grrrreat.'" But his pleas were ignored. In fact, the case made its way to the Crown Court before anyone actually bothered to listen to the soundtrack and concede that, no, it wasn't a real tiger. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) then finally dropped the case in December of 2009, after Andrew had already served six months on bail.

Human rights lawyer Myles Jackman

Soon after, he was called to face trial for a second charge-one relating to a clip titled "BME Olympics Final Round" (also sent to him by his banter-loving friend) that featured footage of genitals being pierced. This time, however, he had human rights lawyer Myles Jackman on his side.

Myles spoke to me about Andrew's first set of charges. "The prosecutor should have listened to the soundtrack," he says of the tiger video. "It's like going to court and the prosecutor saying, 'We found this white powder in a bag. We haven't sent it to the lab, so we don't know that it's cocaine, but we're just guessing it's not talcum powder.'"

The second set of charges were dropped nine months after he'd cleared his name in the tiger case, but by now Andrew had lost his job, suffered a heart attack, and, after being branded a pedophile, been physically assaulted several times.

"At first, everybody was on my side," he says. "But then, because of the wording of the charge-'obscene pornographic images'-people started distancing themselves from me. My name began appearing on 'name and shame' sites. One person suggested it could be to do with child porn, so then child porn was coming into it. I've had to live with that; with hate mail being put through the door, people beating me up, people booting me in the back as I walk down the road, not knowing who to trust."

It's a tale that's as sad as it is alarming; sending weird dirty videos to your friends over WhatsApp, or whatever, is-according to detailed scientific research-pretty fucking common.

Enter Andrew, wading back into the realm that ruined his life to try and ensure that other innocent people don't meet the same fate he did. Working with sexual civil liberties organization Backlash and Jackman, he's calling on the CPS to review Section 63 of The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, i.e. the section that relates to extreme pornography.

Andrew is claiming that:

(1) The term "extreme" pornography is not clearly defined in the legislation, and therefore a potential defendant would not be able to understand or anticipate whether being in possession of certain images might be illegal.

(2) There is insufficient guidance from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) as to when these offenses will be prosecuted.

(3) The offense is disproportionate to the legislation's intended aims. 

As it stands, definitions of extreme porn are precarious. For an offense to contravene Section 63 of the Act, the prosecution has to prove the image is "extreme namely grossly offensive, disgusting, or otherwise of an obscene character." This includes bestiality, necrophilia, acts which threaten a person's life, and those which could result in serious injury to a person's anus, breasts, or genitals.

At its inception, it was expected that the law would result in around 30 cases a year. The number is now closer to 1,000, and since it came into effect, 5,500 people have been prosecuted. (It's worth noting here that images of child sex abuse do not fall into this category and are prosecuted under the Protection of Children Act.)

Someone who may or may not be viewing weird porn on a phone. 

So what exactly is all this awful smut British people are looking at?

"We estimate that around 60 percent of the prosecutions have been for bestiality," says Jackman. "We have no problem with that whatsoever, because animals can't consent. However, that means 40 percent are probably for consensual adult material that has been misunderstood. It could be that more than 2,000 people have been prosecuted, and possibly gone to prison, for having images that may not even have been illegal."

Confusingly, acts that are legal in the bedroom may become illegal as soon as you watch them on a screen.

"The presence of a camera can turn a legal act into an illegal representation," says Jackman. "It's legal to perform anal and vaginal fisting, but if you film it you've probably created extreme pornography, and if you distribute it you're probably committing an offense under the Obscene Publications Act."

If you have friends who are fond of sending you the most fucked up pornography they can find, there's a good chance you've seen something that contravenes Section 63 yourself. A few months ago, for instance, my friend Paul sent me a video of a man placing his dick inside the mouth of a fish. I think the fish was a carp.

"A carp? Yes, it could be a criminal offense if you've got that on your phone," says Jackman.

"THE AMOUNT I'VE LOST I WOULDN'T WISH ON ANYBODY"

And don't think that not watching the video makes a bit of difference; just being in possession of the material is enough. What begins as an innocent attempt to gross out your friend could have some serious consequences.

"I have a number of cases of extreme porn that are going through the courts at moment," warns Jackman, "Three of them are about WhatsApp chat rooms, where one person has sent an image to the group. I could send you an image as a joke, not realizing it's illegal. You don't want it, you didn't ask for it, but you've got it on your phone and you don't know how to get rid of it. Now you're technically in possession of it."

For Andrew, the consequences of just two jokes of this nature have been brutal. While his imminent battle with the CPS has thrown his name back into the spotlight, he's clear that it's worth the sacrifice: things need to change.

"I'm not doing this just to clear my name," he says. "I'm doing it for everybody else who's been arrested for the same offense. The amount I've lost I wouldn't wish on anybody."

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