Dáil Éireann - Volume 441 - 12 April, 1994
Adjournment Debate. - Video Nasties.
Miss Quill Miss Quill
Miss Quill: I thank the Chair for allowing me to raise this matter and I am pleased that the Minister for Justice is dealing with it. Women have a clearer insight into the damage done to society by the proliferation of video nasties and pornographic material of every kind.  Professor Elizabeth Newsom, head of the child development unit of Nottingham University, in a report published last week established a clear and direct link between the tragic murder of Jamie Bolger and the video viewing habits of the children who perpetrated that horrendous murder. In her report she said, “I feel we have a large number of children today who are already totally desensitised by violence”. That means there is a large number of children who, in moral terms, have no conscience and do not know the difference between right and wrong. That is a shocking indictment of the manner in which children are raised in this generation. Any further complacency on foot of those findings would leave us all standing condemned.
I predict the day will come when another report will be brought out identifying a clear and direct connection between the viewing of pornographic material and the rising incidence of rape and related sexual degradation of women and children. That is a matter for a wider debate. I am asking that the office of the national censor be given all necessary resources to ensure the law is fully enforced in all elements; that a law be put in place the effect of which would be to exclude all children from the adult section of video shops and libraries; that new and strict controls be put in place at all distribution outlets with severe cash penalties for anyone breaching the controls; that steps be taken to ensure all outlets are licensed and a separate licence is required for each outlet and appropriate taxation measures introduced to put all video nasties beyond the price range of young people.
I look forward to hearing the measures the Minister proposes to introduce. I ask her to ensure that they are carefully monitored. If they fail to have the intended effect, women like me will come back to the House demanding nothing short of a total ban on certain categories of video nasties and pornographic material.
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn) Máire Geoghegan-Quinn
 Minister for Justice (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn): Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil den Teachta Quill as ucht an cheist seo a ordú ar an Athló trathnóna agus deis a thabhairt domsa a mhíniú go díreach céard atá ag tarlú.
I fully appreciate public concern about video nasties and their potential for inducing and encouraging certain persons to commit crime — particularly crime against women and children. I am personally convinced that these awful films can have such effects on vulnerable or perverted minds whatever experts may say about the lack of hard evidence. Sometimes it seems as well to use our common sense. Personally, I am determined to do all in my power to protect society from video nasties. The Video Recordings Act, 1989 was enacted with the twin aims of prohibiting trade in so-called video nasties and introducing regulatory controls on the video business, with a particular view to regulating the types of videos which would be available to children and young persons under 18 years.
With a view to achieving these aims, three levels of control were provided for in the Act. Two of these — licensing of dealers and power to prohibit videos regarded as not fit for viewing by the film censor — are in operation. The third level of control which will require all new videos coming on the market to be submitted to the censor for certification and classification will be brought into operation by way of regulations which I hope to make very shortly.
The licensing provisions of the Video Recordings Act, 1989 require all whole salers and retailers, including renters of videos, to be registered with the film censor's office and to display appropriate licences on their premises. These have been operating since 1991. A very important element of this licensing control is the fact that the licences may be forfeited by order of the courts in the event of the holder being convicted of certain offences under the Act. This can  happen now if a licence holder trades in prohibited videos. In other words, the courts can put the owner of a shop renting or selling video nasties out of business in certain circumstances.
Also, since 1991, the film censor has had power under the Act to prohibit by order any video which comes to his attention which he considers, by reference to criteria set out in the Act, to be unfit for viewing — this covers the so-called video nasties. To date, the censor has made orders prohibiting 940 videos and orders are in the pipeline in respect of approximately 1,000 more.
The third level of control provided for in the Act, which will be introduced by regulation, will require all new videos coming on the market to be submitted to the censor for certification as to their suitability for viewing and for classification by reference to the age groups for which they are deemed suitable. Also, they will provide that the copies of the videos then going on the market must carry official labels indicating that they have been certified by the censor and displaying the age class classification assigned.
These regulations are being finalised in the Attorney General's Office and I hope to be in a position to make them very shortly.
The measures which I have outlined are being implemented in close consultation with the video industry which — and I would like to put this on record — is largely comprised of responsible and public spirited people who are as anxious as everyone else to see the unacceptable trade in video nasties suppressed.
Parents too will have to play their part. Shortly, when videos on the shelves begin to carry the censor's age classification, it will be a matter for parents to ensure that their children do not watch videos which are not suitable for their age. The law cannot follow people into their living rooms. Parents will have to check the  classifications which will be clearly displayed on the videos and act accordingly.
It is open to anyone who comes across a video which they think should not be on sale to refer it to the censor's office for examination. There is no fee or charge for this and I would encourage people with genuine concerns to do so.
When the Video Recordings Act is fully in operation — which it will be shortly — I will be closely monitoring its effectiveness. If it emerges that more needs to be done at the statutory level it will be done. I am aware that something which is not covered by the Video Recordings Act is mere possession of video nasties as opposed to possession for supply. I intend to have this matter examined, particularly in relation to videos which portray children in a sexual or violent context for the paedophile market. This is a particularly obnoxious trade which may require to be addressed specifically. I am having the matter looked at as a matter of urgency.
Dáil Éireann 441 Adjournment Debate. Video Nasties.