Connolly v Director of Public Prosecutions: Admn 15 Feb 2007

The defendant appealed against her conviction under the Act for having sent indecent or grossly offensive material through the post in the form of pictures of an aborted foetus sent to pharmacists. She denied that they were offensive, or that she wished to cause distress, and said she wished to educate the pharmacists as to the effect of the ‘Morning After Pill’, and said that a conviction would infringe her right of free speech.
Held: Having seen the photographs no tribunal could be criticised for calling them grossly offensive. This was however not purely an issue about the sending of an offensive article, and the appellant’s article 10 freedom of speech rights were engaged. Applying Ghaidan, section 1 of the 1988 Act could be read to impose a higher standard of offensiveness to found a conviction, and its interpretation will therefore vary with the context. The case stated gave no record of how the court had treated the defendant’s article 10 rights. The court had to balance also the rights of the recipients of the letters: ‘the persons who worked in the three pharmacies which were targeted by Mrs Connolly had the right not to have sent to them material of the kind that she sent when it was her purpose, or one of her purposes, to cause distress or anxiety to the recipient. Just as members of the public have the right to be protected from such material (sent for such a purpose) in the privacy of their homes, so too, in general terms, do people in the workplace. But it must depend on the circumstances. ‘ On the issues not dealt with by the case stated, the court was as able to make findings as the original court, and there was no need to remit the case. The Article 10 appeal was dismissed. The defendant’s article 9 rights of freedom of thought and religion held no higher status.


Dyson LJ, Stanley Burnton J


[2007] EWHC 237 (Admin), [2008] 1 WLR 276




Malicious Communications Act 1988 1(1)(b) 1(4), European Convention on Human Rights 9 10


CitedRegina v Stanley CACD 1965
Lord Parker considered dicta as to the meaning of the expression ‘indecent or obscene’: ‘This court entirely agrees with what Lord Sands there said. The words ‘indecent or obscene’ convey one idea, namely, offending against the recognised standards . .
CitedMoyna v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions HL 31-Jul-2003
The appellant had applied for and been refused disability living allowance on the basis of being able to carry out certain cooking tasks.
Held: The purpose of the ‘cooking test’ is not to ascertain whether the applicant can survive, or enjoy a . .
CitedBrutus v Cozens HL 19-Jul-1972
The House was asked whether the conduct of the defendant at a tennis match at Wimbledon amounted to using ‘insulting words or behaviour’ whereby a breach of the peace was likely to be occasioned contrary to section 5. He went onto court 2, blew a . .
CitedGhaidan v Godin-Mendoza HL 21-Jun-2004
Same Sex Partner Entitled to tenancy Succession
The protected tenant had died. His same-sex partner sought a statutory inheritance of the tenancy.
Held: His appeal succeeded. The Fitzpatrick case referred to the position before the 1998 Act: ‘Discriminatory law undermines the rule of law . .
CitedRegina v Shayler HL 21-Mar-2002
The defendant had been a member of the security services. On becoming employed, and upon leaving, he had agreed to keep secret those matters disclosed to him. He had broken those agreements and was being prosecuted. He sought a decision that the . .
CitedJersild v Denmark ECHR 20-Oct-1994
A journalist was wrongly convicted himself of spreading racial hatred by quoting racists in his material.
Held: Freedom of expression is one of the essential foundations of a democratic society. The safeguards to be afforded to the press are . .
CitedChassagnou and Others v France ECHR 29-Apr-1999
A law permitted local authorities to oblige landowners to transfer hunting rights over private land to approved hunting associations. The landowners could not prevent hunting on their property. Landowners so affected were made members automatically . .
CitedMuller And Others v Switzerland ECHR 24-May-1988
The Court considered a complaint that Article 10 had been infringed by the applicant’s conviction of an offence of publishing obscene items, consisting of paintings which were said ‘mostly to offend the sense of sexual propriety of persons of . .
CitedKokkinakis v Greece ECHR 25-May-1993
The defendant was convicted for proselytism contrary to Greek law. He claimed a breach of Article 9.
Held: To say that Jehovah’s Witness were proselytising criminally was excessive. Punishment for proselytising was unlawful in the . .
CitedRegina v British Broadcasting Corporation ex parte Pro-life Alliance HL 15-May-2003
The Alliance was a political party seeking to air its party election broadcast. The appellant broadcasters declined to broadcast the film on the grounds that it was offensive, being a graphical discussion of the processes of abortion.
Held: . .
CitedHandyside v The United Kingdom ECHR 7-Dec-1976
Freedom of Expression is Fundamental to Society
The appellant had published a ‘Little Red Schoolbook’. He was convicted under the 1959 and 1964 Acts on the basis that the book was obscene, it tending to deprave and corrupt its target audience, children. The book claimed that it was intended to . .

Cited by:

CitedLukaszewski v The District Court In Torun, Poland SC 23-May-2012
Three of the appellants were Polish citizens resisting European Arrest Warrants. A fourth (H), a British citizen, faced extradition to the USA. An order for the extradition of eachhad been made, and acting under advice each filed a notice of appeal . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Crime, Human Rights

Updated: 09 July 2022; Ref: scu.248835