The government could be planning to up the ante when it comes to material it doesn't approve of - it may become illegal to even look at images, not merely possess them.
Some odd, ambiguous remarks by Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions, raise this gruesome possibility. Evidence for it emerged from an elliptical exchange between Starmer and Jenny Willott, Lib Dem MP for Cardiff Central during the committee stage of the Coroners and Justice Bill.
Miss Willott has clearly done her homework. She noted that whilst the Internet Watch Foundation focuses on images that can be downloaded – the traditional web route – images accessed through other means, such as streaming, are not within its remit. She asked Mr Starmer: "If someone is watching streaming images online, there would be no actual copy on their computer, so they would not technically be in possession."
He replied: "It would be for the courts to interpret the meaning of possession. We would proceed on the basis that there should be no such loophole."
Mr Starmer’s reply can be interpreted in two ways: streaming is not a loophole, either because the government is not interested in going after it; or because they intend – or hope – that in time the courts will extend the definition of "possession" to the simple act of watching something unfold on a screen.
We asked the Crown Prosecution Service to expand on this statement, but they were equally Delphic in their pronouncements. A spokesman said: "The Director has given an answer to the committee… We are not in a position to expand upon it.
"It is clear from the fuller exchange that the Director is saying that he doesn’t think that there is a loophole, and we would proceed on that basis."
So there you have it. Or possibly not.
Mr Starmer ducked other questions raised by the Committee. Conservative MP Henry Bellingham raised the fear expressed by many fans of cartoon art that the Bill had been drawn too widely and could catch material that was wholly innocent.
This is the fear raised by, amongst others, the Comic Book Alliance, who point out that at the consultation stage for this law, no significant producers of legitimate comic book material were consulted: the government appear to have proceeded on the basis that adult cartoons were at best pornographic, at worst abusive, and to have ignored any input from those involved with the subject.
Mr Starmer expressed the view that there will be no issues in respect of artistic works, because, he argued, this law will be aligned very closely with the existing law relating to indecent images of children.