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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Henson Images cleared by Censorship board

Censors decide on PG rating for Henson child photo
David Marr
June 6, 2008
IT'S official. The naked girl that sparked the Bill Henson fuss is not porn. The sight of her on an invitation to the photographer's Sydney exhibition a couple of weeks ago provoked shock and outrage, but the Classifications Board has now declared the picture "mild" and safe for many children.

It is believed the Director of Public Prosecutions is on the verge of advising NSW police that any prosecution of Henson would be unlikely to succeed.

The case against Henson appears close to collapse.

The Classification Board, under its new chief, former head of the ABC Donald McDonald, has now given the young girl on the invitation the rating PG.

Considered one of the most confronting in the Henson exhibition, the picture came to the board for classification when it was discovered in a blog discussing pornography and the sexualisation of children. But the classifiers found the "image of breast nudity … creates a viewing impact that is mild and justified by context … and is not sexualised to any degree".

While a minority of the board thought the impact of the picture was "moderate" rather than "mild", none of the classifiers thought it deserved banning or called for any restriction on its display.

The board's guidelines state: "Material classified PG may contain material which some children find confusing or upsetting, and may require the guidance of parents or guardians. It is not recommended for viewing or playing by persons under 15 without guidance from parents or guardians."

This verdict is bad news for police hoping to convince the DPP, Nicholas Cowdery, QC, that Henson's photographs would provoke the "offence to reasonable persons" needed to prosecute him as a child pornographer.

Another hurdle for police is Henson's right to call expert evidence that his work has artistic merit or purpose. Legal commentators over the past fortnight have generally argued this makes his prosecution either as a pornographer or publisher of indecent articles highly unlikely.

Police seized 32 Henson photographs from Sydney's Roslyn Oxley9 gallery on May 23 following uproar the previous day on talkback radio.

Since then, Henson photographs have been removed from the walls of two regional NSW galleries and impounded at the National Gallery in Canberra.

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