'Not guilty' verdict in Peacock case was major stride forward for sexual liberty

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'Not guilty' verdict in Peacock case was major stride forward for sexual liberty

Michael Peacock, quite simply, is a force to be reckoned with -- a fact that one prosecuting attorney learned the hard way.

Peacock is as colorful, as affable, and as confident as the avian that bears his surname. In 2004, the UK resident, at the age of 45, left his job in the railroad industry and instead turned to male escort work. Though it was a unique career change, it was a move Peacock knew was the right one. Taking to the Internet and beginning with classified advertisement websites, Peacock enjoyed success almost from the start, selling not just his time but also DVDs featuring hardcore gay sex. 

Ironically, it was the seemingly innocuous movies that drew the attention of law enforcement officials, who charged Peacock with six counts of obscene publication in late 2009. Under the UK's Obscene Publications Act of 1959, the sexual acts depicted in the DVDs Peacock sold, which included fisting, whipping, urination, and staged rape, are illegal to depict but not actually perform. 

Under the draconian law, the state passes moral judgment, not to "uphold (society's) moral purity or chastity," according to a January 2012 opinion column by British journalist Nichi Hodgson. 

In early January 2012, the case of R v. Peacock finally went to court after multiple delays. Hodgson reported the jurors in the courtroom being shown scenes from Peacock's DVDs, emitting audible gasps at the first few scenes of an entire day of screening the evidence. Hodgson praised the jurors' abilities to separate emotion from fact, as well as their adherence to the judge's direction to deliver a 'guilty' verdict out of any feelings of homophobia.

"Even if the jury did think the acts were wrong," Hodgson observed, "they correctly understood what prosecuting for obscenity required them to do, and that was to decide whether knowledgeable customers with particular sexual peccadilloes, who had then sought out, ordered and paid for DVDs featuring a specific niche of porn would be corrupted by it."

The trial lasted only four days, and the jury's deliberation took only two hours before a 'not guilty' verdict was delivered, determining that the scenes depicted in the DVDs couldn't possibly deprave or corrupt the members of their target audience, as those who purchased the films were fully aware of the content and had sought them out.

Now, for the first time, according to legal experts, more British citizens seemed to awaken to the realization that the 1959 law made no sense. More importantly, Peacock had become the very first person to successfully plead 'not guilty' to charges made under the Obscene Publications Act.

Peacock, himself a patron and supporter of The Bob Mizer Foundation, credits Mizer with paving the way for other artists in the years before the 1959 law was enacted and beyond. 

"Bob, you are my hero that you so often made such outspoken comments about censorship ... (It) resonates with me on a very personal, real-life experience," he says.

Check back on our blog next week, when The Foundation will feature an exclusive interview with Peacock about his court victory and its aftermath.