Friday, 6 June 2008

No case against Henson: prosecutors

Controversial ... Bill Henson.

Photographer Bill Henson will not face charges over naked photographs of a 13-year-old girl that sparked a political furore.

Twenty of the artist's photographs were seized from Sydney's Roslyn Oxley9 gallery last month after complaints from the public.

But the Director of Public Prosecutions has told police there is no reasonable prospect of a conviction.

The decision comes after the Australian Federal Police yesterday said they found the National Gallery of Australia's collection of Henson's works did not breach the law.

The Prime Minister, the New South Wales Premier and the state's Police Commissioner have condemned the photos, with Kevin Rudd calling them "absolutely revolting".

Assistant Police Commissioner Catherine Burn says police were obliged to investigate the works.

"Police did receive complaints and this has been a matter of significant public concern and debate. This is a complex area of law," she said in a statement.

"Matters involving the law and art are notoriously difficult and that is why police sought this advice...

"It is the role of the police to respond to community concerns and investigate complaints."

The works will be returned to the Paddington gallery.

The Classification Board has also ruled that the photograph that sparked the outrage was not pornographic.

The image of the girl was featured in an invitation to the Roslyn Oxley9 gallery's exhibition and posted on a blog.

The board has ruled the image is mild and given it a PG rating, meaning people under 16 might need parental guidance.

It cleared another Bill Henson image of a naked girl earlier this week, as well as four partly censored versions used by news websites.

Rudd stands by outrage

Commenting on the Classification Board's decision, Mr Rudd has stood by his initial reaction.

"My reaction was very-clear cut," he said.

"I've been asked many times since then, 'Have I changed my view?' ... I have not changed my view one bit.

"I also said, when it comes to the independent processes of the law, they are completely separate from what any individual or politician may think, feel or respond to by way of their own individual judgments."

Law Society president Hugh Macken says he is not surprised the investigation into Henson is likely to be dropped.

Mr Macken says a prosecution against the artist would have been unlikely to succeed.

"If Henson is not charged, it's because his photos are not child porn," he said.

"That is, they do not offend the Crimes Act because they do not show children in a sexual context."


Nude photo row to hinge on 'community standards'
The Australian Arts Law Centre says police will have to prove there has been a major change in community standards in order to successfully prosecute Sydney photographer Bill Henson.

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