(Photo: Unsplash/Christian Wiediger)

The High Court has given the go ahead for a legal challenge over the Government’s decision to abandon age verification checks for online p0rnography. 

Legislation to introduce the scheme was passed by Parliament in 2018 with the aim of protecting children. 

The plans were hit by repeated delays before finally being shelved for good by the Government last October.  At the time, the Government said it would introduce a new Online Harms Bill that would be ready for pre-legislative scrutiny by early 2020, but this has failed to materialise. 

The legal challenge to the U-turn was mounted by age verification companies and welcomed by CARE (Christian Action Research Education), which campaigned for the scheme to be implemented.

Responding to the High Court’s ruling, CARE’s Chief Executive Nola Leach expressed disappointment that the decision to drop age checks meant that children were not protected during the lockdown. 

“Given the substantial evidence suggesting consumption of p0rnography has harmful consequences for children and the shaping of their understanding of, and attitudes towards, se x and relationships, the position of the Government is now completely indefensible,” she said. 

“There is one thing worse than not bothering to take action to develop legislation to protect children from accessing p0rnographic websites – it is having gone to great lengths to develop such legislation, which helps keep children safer now, but to then decide not to use it, in favour of some other solution that has not even been published yet in Bill form, let alone passed by both Houses of Parliament.

“Had the Government implemented Part Three as they should have done in October last year, children would have enjoyed access to important protections during the lockdown period, when we know the p0rnographers worked so hard to increase visits to their sites.” 

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