A new Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill has had its first reading in Parliament, which means that it has been published and awaits debate and committee scrutiny.
The possession of extreme pornography will be punishable by up to three years in jail, according to a statement from the Ministry of Justice. "Material covered will include necrophilia, bestiality and violence that is life threatening or likely to result in serious injury to the anus, breasts or genitals," said the statement.
Such material has been illegal to publish until now under the Obscene Publications Act. The material has not been illegal to view or possess, though; the new law will make possession a crime. Images of child pornography are already illegal to view or to possess.
The legislation is designed to tackle the fact that with internet publishing something can be created and published on the other side of the world and instantaneously viewed or stored in the UK.
"[This material] can be accessed in the UK from abroad via the internet. Legislating in this area will ensure that the possession of such material is illegal both on and off line," said the Ministry of Justice. "This Government will always seek to close gaps in the law caused by misuse of new technologies, such as the internet, which allow existing controls to be avoided."
The legislation covers realistic pictures, even those which are not photographs, moving images, and files or data that can be converted into pictures.
The new law is designed to take account of the context of images, and recognises that an image which might seem to constitute extreme pornography in isolation may not do so in a wider context.
"Where an image forms an integral part of a narrative constituted by a series of images, and it appears that the series of images as a whole was not produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal, the image may, by virtue of being part of that narrative, be found not to be pornographic, even though it might have been found to be pornographic if taken by itself," said the published bill.
"The new law is not intended to target those who accidentally come into contact with obscene pornography; nor would it target the mainstream entertainment industry which works within current obscenity laws or those who sell bondage material legally available in the UK," said the Ministry of Justice statement.