A garden shed in Wales would seem pretty banal to the average observer. Throw in a puttering housewife and some pruning shears and who would ever guess it to be the hub of a European pornography empire?
Last week, a courtroom found a 41-year-old Welsh housewife named Sharon Thomas guilty of assisting in the distribution of pornographic materials. For five years, she used her mailing address to ship Dutch porn catalogs to tens of thousands of customers.
Prosecutors told the court that an Amsterdam-based porn company called Your Choice, run by U.K. businessman David Waterfield and his wife, used Thomas' little shed to conceal their mailing address. The company's catalog contains a variety of porn CDs and videos.
Prosecutor Trefor Davies told Thomas that she was putting personal gain before her conscience, and was well aware of what she was doing. Thomas defended herself to the court, saying she thought catalogs were legal.
She interpreted the law to mean that images depicting women carrying out sex acts on men were not obscene. The catalogs she sent out, she asserted, were no more obscene than any other materials -- even if they did contain something titled "Sex Encounters of the Lurid Kind."
"I do not think that an ordinary person would regard that as obscene," Thomas said.
Thomas admitted that she agreed to help Waterfield, but insisted that over five years she had never earned more than 15,000 pounds (about $22,500) in cash payments. She also claimed that she was not aware of any violations of the law.
"I have questioned [Waterfield] time and time again about words like hardcore," said Thomas, "and the company always assured me that everything was above board."
The judge at Swansea Crown Court suggested that she put her affairs in order, as he intended to send her to prison.