NEVER GO GUILTY AND NEVER ACCEPT A CAUTION has been the advice we give consistently strongly. Take a recent case – 2008 – come to us via the gay grapevine – because these are unreported cases.
Tom has a mobile phone that takes pictures and he’d bought a gay soft porn DVD of lads he says were all over 16 messing about sexually. With his mobile phone Tom transferred some pictures from the video. Why ? To test the technology ? To show off in banter in his local gay bar ? For a bit of a lark ? Whatever the reason – that’s what he did, albeit that the images on the mobile were not very clear, and of course very small.
Tom then loses his mobile phone – but some kindly stranger finds it and hands it in to a police station. By using numbers in his address book the police find out this mobile phone belongs to Tom and where Tom lives. The police however, ever enterprising, had a little look at what else was in the mobile’s memory – and up comes Ye Porn.
Now although sex is possible between lads over 16 to be legally o.k. under certain circumstances – it is illegal to possess or to take images of them unless they are over 18. So four officers make a call on Tom, in plain clothes. They point out to Tom his possession on his mobile of illegal material – but suggest they won’t prosecute because he wouldn’t want that, would he – with the attendant harassment and publicity etc. – if he accepts a caution, they will not proceed.
Tom seizes at the caution – “Yes” and he is formally cautioned. BUT, but within that caution comes a requirement to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register and that means his employers are notified. He works as a cleaner at a school and he is sacked.
When a caution is issued it’s rare to have your lawyer present. Tom didn’t.
And there is virtually no appeal against a caution. In theory one could take a private prosecution against the police – that one was cautioned under duress. What chances of that succeeding ?
In Tom’s case the evidence was so slight it is doubtful the police would have succeeded in persuading the CPS to make a prosecution – and doubtful if they did, it would be successful in court.
But The Mounties got their man – just by a caution. There. One understands it takes a lot of nerve to say in effect “go on, you prosecute me.” – but a caution these days is a lot more than just a word in the ear. Be aware. Of the cautionary tale of Tom.