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Theatrical Performances (Prosecutions)

Volume 22: debated on Monday 26 April 1982

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asked the Attorney-General whether, having regard to the statutory provisions relating to the content of theatrical performances, he will discuss with the Director of Public Prosecutions a policy towards initiating or allowing prosections in such cases.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that, since the unsatisfactory denouement of Mary Whitehouse's reent dramatic action in the courts, theatre producers simply do not know where they are? Is he further aware that they thought that they were given a guarantee by the Theatres Act that they were subject to that Act, not to the sort of prosecution that we have seen recently under the common law? Does not the Attorney-General think that it is his responsibility, as a member of the Government, to give theatre producers some sort of guidance on when they will be subject to such common law prosecutions and what certainty they may have?

They have the certainty that anything that could be considered an offence under the Treatres Act can be prosecuted only with my consent and at my institution. Unfortunately, it is not only the common law. For example, if a director were determined to be totally realistic in staging the play "Lolita" and insisted that the girl was 14-years-old and that, in the course of the play she was indecently fondled, that would be an offence under the Sexual Offences Act and obviously should be prosecuted as such.