The legislation on harmful publications stems from 1955 and was introduced to address concerns about comics, mainly from the USA, that were around at the time. The legislation is very rarely used and there have been no attempts to enforce it since the 1970's.

In Summary:

  • It is illegal to sell or let for hire harmful publications to a person under the age of 18 years.

  • It is illegal to print, publish or import harmful publications.

  • A harmful publication is any book, magazine or other like work which is likely to fall into the hands of children and contains picture portraying the commission of crime, acts of violence and cruelty or incidents of a repulsive or horrible nature in such a way that it is likely to corrupt a child or young person.

  • The above offences carry a £1,000 fine, up to 51 weeks in prison or both in a Magistrates Court.

  • It is a defence to show that the offender had not examined the material and had no reasonable cause to suspect that it was a harmful publication.

  • It is NOT A DEFENCE in this legislation for the offender to have taken reasonable precautions or exercised due diligence, but that would, undoubtedly contribute to mitigation.

  • A police officer has powers to apply for a search warrant in connection with these offences and officers of HM Revenue and Customs can seize harmful publications at ports of entry.

  • There are no powers for trading standards officers and no direct powers of test purchase for these products.