Martyn McLaughlin - Australia needs a reality check over this wacky cartoon case

THE image of Olive Oyl wearing only an under-sized leather-look bondage suit, her mouth faintly visible through the steel zip, is not one I wish to have burned into my retinas – though perhaps, in a rare moment of weakness, Popeye, bewitched by her gummy grin after a dearth of spinach, would disagree.

Such a vision, or some approximation of it, doubtless exists – the internet is home to countless such dark nooks. No matter how inscrutable their purpose or lewd their design, these pictures are created because someone out there enjoys the result and believes others will share their appreciation. All it takes is Google and a few words that most people would never think of putting together.

Alan McEwan is one such individual. This week, he found himself the owner of a criminal record after an Australian judge ruled a series of cartoons featuring characters from The Simpsons engaged in sexual acts was tantamount to child pornography.

The animations, found on his computer, depicted figures based on family members from the animated show. They included child characters, such as Bart, Lisa, and Maggie, all of whom had been rendered with human genitalia.

Appealing against his conviction in February of possessing child pornography and using his computer to access it, McEwan argued that such fictional characters could not be considered people, as they "plainly and deliberately" departed from the human form.

Justice Michael Adams, however, ruled that under the relevant laws, even a likeness of a cartoon character could be classified as a "person".

"The mere fact that the figure depicted departed from a realistic representation in some respects of a human being did not mean that such a figure was not a 'person'," he said in his ruling at the New South Wales Supreme Court.

Child pornography is not an issue that lends itself to nuanced discussion, and few would argue McEwan's hard drive contained the most enlightened of material. It was without question boorish, and to many offensive, but to consider it sufficient to name him as a paedophile is bewildering.

If McEwan is guilty of any law, then it is breach of copyright, but more importantly, he has demonstrated poor taste. One suspects he is the kind of individual who would forward such material to his colleagues' inboxes on a quiet afternoon without recourse to thought or possible repercussion.

But for a court of law to wield such powerful legislation to prosecute against personal inclinations – or perversities, depending on your viewpoint – is an absurd step.

The likes of Spongebob should keep his Squarepants firmly on, but for those unable to resist temptation, we should not confuse crassness with criminality.

Apollo's praises to be sung

I WAS still in short trousers when the last broken beer bottle was swept from the Apollo's floor, but the music venue's legend lives on in Glasgow. Notorious for its baying crowds and drunken atmosphere, some of the biggest names in music spent uneasy evenings on its stage, including the Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, and The Clash.

Now it's to be commemorated in a new musical, entitled I Was There. It seems a candied medium in which to pay homage to tales of excess and violence, but the Apollo's stories deserve to be cemented into rock folklore.

A personal favourite comes from the theatre's first general manager, who recalls the crowd being distinctly underwhelmed by a tired, emotional Lou Reed.

Noticing two parallel lines scraped across the stage floor, he asked a member of staff what had caused them. "They were made by Lou's boots as they dragged him back into the dressing room," came the reply.

THE Foreign Secretary's wish that India and Pakistan forge "close links" after the Mumbai attacks is all very well, but Britain has done little to ease the two nations' volatile relationship.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office issued licences for 82.5 million of British arms exports to India last year, including components for electronic warfare equipment and components, combat aircraft, and munitions-launching gear. Pakistan, meanwhile, benefited from 18 million of exports, including components for air-to-air missile control and military utility helicopters.

Regardless of your enemies, the British government is always your friend.