ATVOD December conference speakers questioned

Posted: November 22, 2013

Jerry Barnett’s Sex and Censorship campaign continues to ruffle feathers, with the publication of an open letter raising concerns over the nature of ATVOD’s planned conference on child protection. This meeting, to be held in London on December the 12th, will help shape future legislation but Sex and Censorship, embodied in Barnett [pictured], is worried it will be based on fear not fact, and be more about web censorship than child protection.

In Barnett’s letter of November 18th, he criticises the choice of two speakers attending the conference. He points out that Paula Hall, Chair of the Association for the Treatment of Sex Addiction and Compulsivity, represents what many mental health professionals believe to be “quack psychiatry”. He also questions the inclusion of Julia Long, spokesperson for the morality group Object. This group regularly links pornography with sexual violence – a connection Barnett asserts is made without evidential foundation.

In contrast, Barnett suggests three respected individuals within the field of the impact of pornography who may be more appropriate to speak to decision-makers. To quote, “Dr Guy Cumberbatch is a chartered psychologist who has been commissioned previously by Ofcom to conduct research on this very subject area. It would seem sensible that the conference should be informed by an expert in child psychology before coming to any conclusions. Dr Clarissa Smith is Professor of Sexual Cultures at Sunderland University, and (along with colleagues) is conducting the most exhaustive study to date into the effects of pornography on its users. Sharon Girling is a former senior Police officer with national responsibility, now an independent consultant, and probably the UK’s leading authority on online child abuse imagery, and protecting abused children who are identified from such imagery.”

In response to the letter, which was sent to Julia Hornle, ATVOD board member and Sue Berelowitz, Deputy Children’s Commissioner, Barnett received the following email, the following day: “Thank you for your letter and suggestions for the joint ATVOD-QMUL conference on 12th December. We have finalised the composition of the panels and speakers. I’m familiar with the work of the speakers you suggest and have no doubt that they also have interesting contributions to make, perhaps at a different conference.  Please let me know if you are organising such an event in the future.”

You can read Barnett’s full letter here

In addition to the above, it’s been announced that an alternative conference will be held. The event, titled 1984: Freedom and Censorship in the Media – Where Are We Now?, will take place at Sunderland University on April 8-9 2014. It marks 30 years since the introduction of the 1984 Video Recordings Act and will examine the effect of censorship on society, self expression, civil liberties and personal freedoms. A website for the conference is under development at