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Objectionable Publications

Volume 203: debated on Thursday 28 July 1870

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Question

said, he wished to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been directed to publications relating to objectionable subjects which are now being delivered by post and otherwise at the houses of Members of Parliament; and, whether any means exist of subjecting the authors and publishers of these publications to criminal proceedings?

Sir, the publications mentioned in the Question of my hon. Friend have not been officially brought under the notice of the Home Office. In common with other Members of Parliament, I have received copies of these pamphlets, which are not only mischievous from the exaggerated statements they contain, but in the highest degree offensive from the nature of the details on which they enlarge. In my opinion the publication, sale, or distribution of such works is an offence under the 20 & 21 Vict., c. 81, notwithstanding that their object may not be immoral. In the case of "The Queen v. Hicklin," which was that of an equally objectionable publication, The Confessional Unmasked, the Court held that, notwithstanding the object of the defendant was not to injure morals, but to attack the religion and practice of the Roman Catholic Church, this did not justify his act nor prevent it from being a misdemeanour—

"Proper to be prosecuted, as the inevitable effect of the publication must be to injure morality; and, although he might have another object in view, he must be taken to have intended what was the natural consequence of his act, and had, therefore, been guilty of an offence within the meaning of the statute."
I hope the warning conveyed by this decision may have the effect of checking the further distribution of these offensive works, more especially at a season of the year when there are no fires to which they may be conveniently and immediately consigned.