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Art lawyers rest hopes on law changes

Art lawyers rest hopes on law changes

Lawyers representing artists hope that proposed changes to NSW child pornography laws may provide the legal guidance to ensure innocent artistic work is not classified as child pornography. The…

Lawyers representing artists hope that proposed changes to NSW child pornography laws may provide the legal guidance to ensure innocent artistic work is not classified as child pornography.

The potential legislative changes may arise following the release of a report by the Child Pornography Working Party (CPWP) by the NSW Attorney-General over the weekend, and follow last year's debate over artist Bill Henson, who had his gallery raided by police on the grounds that his work depicting children was pornographic.

Robyn Ayres, executive director of the Arts Law Centre of Australia - a community legal centre that offers free advice to artists and arts organisations on legal issues - told Lawyers Weekly today that she hopes a better understanding of the defence of "artistic merit", as well as better training for prosecuting authorities, may prevent artists such as Henson facing allegations of child pornography in the future.

"On the one hand the CPWP recommends that the defence of artistic merit be removed from the NSW Crimes Act," she said. "However, when a court is considering the questions of whether material is child pornography and it is offensive the court must consider the literary, artistic or education merit of the material."

Ayres said a positive spin-off from such changes would be that prosecuting authorities would turn their attention immediately to the question of genuine artistic purpose in a piece of art before charging anyone with a child pornography offence, instead of making the charges and leaving it for the courts to decide.

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