BBFC tangent

Jasper Sharp at
Tue Apr 11 07:59:28 EDT 2000

Thanks for the information Peter,
For those that are interested or intrigued by British censorship, my own
private enquiries to the BBFC elicited the following two responses, which
both seem to suggest that I'm going to have to spend a lot of time and
effort trying to explain the artistic merits of 'Tokyo Decadence' to some
pimply customs office in Dover should I ever feel the urge to return to
England's grim unpleasant land. If the British government could actually get
round to putting money into the basics that the rest of Europe take for
granted instead of spending billions on suppressing democracy then maybe I
would never have felt the need to move to one of those 'dirty foreign
countries' in the first place. 
(Forgive the polemic - British politics just makes me seethe)

Here we go then.

"Dear Mr Sharp,

Further to your attached E-Mail, the position regarding importation of
unclassified video works is as follows.

Under the Video Recordings Act 1984,  you can own an unclassified video as
long as it is for your own private use, and is not to be supplied to any
other person, whether by sale, hire or loan.

However, the Customs and Excise Consolidated Acts gives  U.K. Customs &
Excise the right to seize any material that is imported into this country
if they believe it may breach U.K. law, even if it is intended for private

Unfortunately, the BBFC cannot offer any advice on whether importing
particular titles is acceptable - it is best to check with Customs & Excise

Yours sincerely,

David Hyman
Head of Registration"

And the slightly more helpful:

"Thank you for your e.mail.

The BBFC has no jurisdiction over what can and cannot be imported to the
UK.  This is entirely a matter for HM Customs & Excise to decide.
Importation of unclassified videos for personal use is legal so long as
those videos are not subsequently offered for supply within the UK thereby
breaching the Video Recordings Act 1984.  HM Customs and Excise only seize
videos if they feel that the video in question (and the same applies to
magazines, books etc) is likely to be in breach of UK law (eg the Obscene
Publications Act).  The uncut version of TENEBRAE, for example, was last
convicted in a UK court under the Obscene Publications Act in 1994.  This
is one of the reasons why the BBFC needed to cut the video before
classification.  Importing the uncut version of TENEBRAE could therefore be
regarded as importing an item recently convicted as obscene in a British
court.  This would, nonetheless, be a matter for Customs & Excise to decide
upon.  However, Dutch videos of CAREER GIRLS etc are unlikely to be a
problem in reality.  We cannot comment on the Godard case as we have no
further details.  Any such seizures can anyway be contested.  Customs are
in fact fully within their rights to seize material where they feel it
breaches UK law.  This is well established in case law and does not
conflict with European Free Trade.

Yours sincerely,

Craig Lapper,
Assistant to the Director"

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