The prohibition applies to imports from both EU and non-EU countries. However, to comply with legislation on free trade between Member States the United Kingdom can only prohibit the import of material that cannot legally be marketed or manufactured in the UK. To ensure a consistent approach we apply the same test to imports from the rest of the world.
The prohibition on the import of indecent and obscene material is contained in section 42 of the Customs Consolidation Act 1876. It prohibits ‘indecent or obscene prints, paintings, photographs, books, cards, lithographic or other engravings, or any other indecent or obscene articles’ and is maintained on behalf of the Home Office.
It is an offence under S170(2) of CEMA to be knowingly concerned in attempting to evade the prohibition on indecent and obscene articles imposed by s42 of the Customs Consolidation Act 1876.
Customs and Excise staff work to safeguard the UK against smuggling, but we also play a major role in protecting children from sexual and physical abuse. Our officers use detections of indecent and obscene material to help identify potential and active child abusers. They help to identify, and bring to the attention of the Police, children at risk and any activity related to international sex tourism.
We work closely with the police to identify potential and active child abusers. Those we identify and who are charged, summonsed or accept a formal police caution are required to register with the national Sex Offender Register as per the Sex Offender Act 1997. The register is not a public list.
Obscene material is any visual material including drawings, paintings and cartoons that contain explicit depictions of certain sexual acts, rape and bestiality, cruelty to animals and excessive violence towards humans. An act is likely to be obscene if it is explicit and can be clearly seen.
Any visual material including drawings, paintings and cartoons that show a child under 18 years of age involved in sexual activity. It also includes material showing excessive violence involving children.
Consists wholly or mainly of photographs or pseudo-photographs (including videos and DVDs) of naked or partially clothed children under 18 years of age with their genitals exposed.
Material will be considered indecent and obscene if it is photographic (including videos and DVDs) material showing sexual activity or excessive violence involving children.
It is not just British children who are at risk from child sex abusers living in the UK. Abusers often travel the world targeting vulnerable children. They systematically exploit the cultural and economic differences of countries as well as differences in international legislation.
While these so-called ‘sex tourists’ may not always traffic pornography they commit offences by their continual abuse of both boys and girls.
Countries such as Thailand, Morocco, Sri Lanka, the Dominican Republic, the Czech Republic and the Philippines are well-documented destinations for paedophiles. Our links with law enforcement agencies overseas allow us to carry the fight against sex tourism to those countries.