Saturday, 22 June 2013

Girls (Scream) Aloud

Ben Robinson - Black Cheryl, 2010

Girls Aloud were an English-Irish pop girl group, which was created through the ITV1 talent show Popstars: The Rivals in 2002. The group comprised singers Cheryl Cole, Nadine Coyle, Sarah Harding, Nicola Roberts and Kimberley Walsh. The group achieved a string of twenty consecutive top ten singles in the United Kingdom, including four number ones. They also achieved six certified albums, of which two reached number one. They have been nominated for five Brit Awards, winning the 2009 Best Single for "The Promise". 

Beteta - Untitled,  2011

On 26 July 2007, UK tabloid newspaper The Daily Star reported that it had discovered an online text story about British pop group Girls Aloud that it described as "a chilling story detailing each singer's gory death in scenes that could be straight out of a horror movie", characterizing its author as "a vile internet psycho" and "a cyber-sicko". The news story said that The Daily Star had reported the content of the hosting website, "Kristen Archives" (a subsite of the ASSTR archive), to the IWF, and that the IWF had traced the site to the US. It also claimed that Interpol had been notified to help track down the site's operators and the writer of the story. An IWF spokesperson was reported as saying that since the site was hosted in the US, it fell outside the organization's remit, but that they were aware of the site. The spokesperson added that the site also contained "child abuse fantasy stories" and that they had passed on details of it to the British police.

Although the story, entitled "Girls (Scream) Aloud", had been published on a US website, British police carried out the investigation because the alleged author was identified as living in the UK. Although he had submitted the story under a pseudonym, he included an email address which was reportedly traced. Officers from Scotland Yard’s Obscene Publications Unit decided to take action over the story after consulting the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), and on 25 September 2008 it was announced that the author, Darryn Walker, was to be prosecuted for the online publication of material that the police and the CPS believed was obscene. It was the first such prosecution for written material in nearly two decades, and was expected to have a significant impact on the future regulation of the Internet in the UK.

Walker appeared in court on 22 October 2008 to face charges of "publishing an obscene article contrary to Section 2 of the Obscene Publications Act 1959". He was granted unconditional bail, and his case was set for trial on 16 March 2009. However, at a directions hearing in January, the defendant made it known that given the seriousness of the case he would be represented by a QC (Queen's Counsel), following which the Crown Prosecution Service gave notice of its intention to similarly employ a QC, and the trial date was put back to 29 June 2009.

He appeared at Newcastle Crown Court on 29 June 2009 but the case was abandoned on what was supposed to be the first day of the trial, following the introduction of evidence from an IT expert. The CPS said that it had originally charged Walker as it believed that the story in question could be "easily accessed" by young fans of Girls Aloud. However, the IT expert showed that the article could only be located by those specifically searching for such material. A spokesperson for the CPS said that the prosecution was unable to provide sufficient evidence to contradict this new evidence and therefore took the decision that there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction. Judge Esmond Faulks, presiding, returned a formal verdict of not guilty to the charge of "publishing an obscene article".

Svelte - Girls Aloud, undated

A former civil servant who wrote an internet article imagining the kidnap and murder of the pop group Girls Aloud has been cleared of obscenity.

Darryn Walker, 35, from South Tyneside, was charged after his blog appeared on a fantasy pornography site.

He appeared at Newcastle Crown Court on Monday but was cleared when the prosecution offered no evidence.

His defence argued that the piece was not easily accessible and could only be found in a specific internet search.

Judge Esmond Faulks formally returned a not guilty verdict to the charge of publishing an obscene article.

Mr Walker's 12-page blog - Girls (Scream) Aloud - was brought to the attention of police by the Internet Watch Foundation, an organisation for the public and IT professionals which polices potentially obscene material.

CherylTweedy(dot)TK - Untitled, undated

One popslash fantasy came to public attention this week when, most unusually, its author found himself in court. Darryn Walker's writing is darker than most. The 35-year-old former civil servant's story, a 12-page article called "Girls (Scream) Aloud", depicted the kidnap, rape and murder of each member of girl band Girls Aloud by their coach driver.

The story was spotted by the Daily Star first, and then the Internet Watch Foundation, the internet regulatory body, which in turn notified the police. Walker's home was raided by Scotland Yard, and last October he was charged under the Obscene Publications Act - a 1959 law which hasn't been used against written material since the attempt to prosecute the publishers of Inside Linda Lovelace, a biography of a porn star, in 1976. The jury in that trial were unwisely told that if the book was not obscene, "nothing was" and showed their contempt for this argument by returning a verdict of not guilty. Shortly afterwards, the Williams report on obscenity and censorship recommended that similar cases should not be pursued in future.
Afua Hirsch

truerose1 - Cheryl Cole Mosaic Portrait, 2013

While certainly depraved, Walker's story is far from being the only sick fantasy out there in cyberspace. So why this piece of writing in particular? The fact that Walker's "story" concerned real people must have had something to do with it, but the CPS prosecution seems to have been based on the idea that unsuspecting children might come across it while seeking general information about the group. In fact, this was never remotely likely - the story was hidden in a specialist archive, and could only have been accessed by someone looking for it, or something like it. The crucial defence evidence, it appears, was provided by freelance journalist (and regular contributor to The Register) John Ozimek. Ozimek found, not only that any search for Girls Aloud will turn up millions of hits, but that even Googling "Girls Aloud + rape + murder" gives around 100,000. So the chances of happening upon Walker's story by chance were non-existent.



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