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Investigating 'indecent, obscene or pornographic' art : lessons from the Bill Henson controversy
journal contributionposted on 2009-01-01, 00:00 authored by Dan MeagherDan Meagher
This article considers the manner in which police in Australia investigate art that is putatively indecent, obscene or pornographic. It does so by examining the recent Bill Henson controversy and other similar instances where art and the criminal law have collided. This analysis will demonstrate that under Australian law there is little or no chance of a successful criminal prosecution for obscenity, indecency or pornography. Consequently, it is argued that police investigative procedures must take account of this legal reality. To this end a reform proposal is offered: upon receiving a complaint of this nature, police must — as a matter of internal procedure or law — immediately refer the impugned artwork to the Classification Board for a classification decision before they commence a formal investigation.