Brizbunny has had two big posts here on the whole Henson Teen Photos controversy; original post here, and further explanation of some of the issues as we see them here. With the events over the past couple of weeks a follow-up post is called for.
The NSW Director of Public Prosecutions has advised that there is little chance of the NSW Police managing a successful prosecution. In light of this the police have now dropped the case against the gallery and Bill Henson.
The NSW Assistant Commissioner of Police, Catherine Burn noted that the case was a result of complaints received, which the police were obliged to investigate. As part of the investigation the photographs were seized, as possible evidence, from the gallery. The photographs have now been returned to the gallery and the exhibition has re-opened.
This is a case of the police acting in the manner in which they are obliged to under the law; they received a complaint, investigated the complaint, and seized evidence that would support any prosecution. Once an investigation had been conducted and it was clear that a conviction was unlikely to be obtained they returned the evidence. There was no attempt at censorship, it was a case of the police doing what they are paid to do.
The collapse of the prosecution case is centred around the concept of the “sexual context”. As far as the law is concern nudity is not a sexual context; it is this that separates nudity from pornography. No matter what anyone’s concerns are this is the law, and Henson’s work appears to be within the law.
The gallery responded to the news by announcing that the exhibition would go ahead. However there is a twist, on re-opening the exhibition was open to appointments only, and the appointments were vetted by the owner.
Before the police raid on the gallery the Henson exhibition was open to the public, with the more explicit work available in a private area for serious buyers. Was this in attempt to keep the non art-lover’s away, and make sure that only appropriate people could see the material that would not be appreciated by the general public.
The exhibition is now closed, and likely to head overseas.