There is a long and proud tradition of prison writing that the Government now seeks to kill off by either banning such activity altogether or scooping up the proceeds. Apart from the (unfashionable) human rights implications of such a move and the inevitable flood of appeal cases that this would generate concerning added punishment, proportionality, causation and intellectual property rights, whoever in their right mind would want to close a door on the insights provided by the writing (or other creative talents) of many ex-offenders? It is yet another example of short-sightedness; another headline grabbed at the risk of a detrimental outcome. There are perhaps few situations in which it might truly be said that offending is a cash cow, even if the modern way is celebrity whatever it takes.
The mind boggles. Will it extend to foreign publications, spin-offs, fiction, adaptations and the internet? What about the presumption of innocence? How will the new copyright work? What about covert versions, or those by ghost writers? What is benefiting from their crime? Does it count whilst someone is on remand? What about books that are already in print or reprints? What about the families and friends of offenders, will they be allowed to write about the crimes of a relative or associate, or the effect that his or her offending had on them? How about campaign books written by an offender or on his or her behalf (including where there has been a miscarriage of justice)? Can offenders write about the issues and skirt around their own crimes? Might there be exceptions, such as books that add public value; where the offender acted in self-defence but used too much force; offences taken into consideration; or other charges involving acquittal? What about charges left on the file? At what point, if at all, will the prohibition bite re anti-social behaviour orders? Where does the Assets Recovery Agency come in? Does it mean forever banned? Will the courts admit argument about sources of inspiration, or is it just crime, story, kapow!