Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
The Newson Report

Controversial 1994 report alleging links between video and real-life violence

Main image of The Newson Report

Professor Elizabeth Newson, Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Nottingham, and a renowned expert on child development issues, was the author of the report Video Violence and the Protection of Children, published in April 1994. The report had been commissioned by Liberal Democrat MP David Alton to support his proposed amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill.

The report attracted huge media interest, largely thanks to initial claims that it had definitively established the long sought-for link between screen violence and the real-life variety, an issue that had recently returned to tabloid front pages thanks to allegations that the horror film Child's Play 3 (US, d. Jack Bender, 1991) had been a key influence on the ten-year-old killers of James Bulger in February 1993.

On closer examination, though, it was quickly apparent that no definitive link had been established, with Newson merely drawing inferences from individual case studies such as the Bulger case and the torture of teenager Suzanne Capper by her classmates (during which music from the same film had allegedly been played).

Newson defended herself by drawing parallels with the link between smoking and lung cancer, pointing out that no direct proof existed to say that smoking caused lung cancer, but the circumstantial evidence was so overwhelming that no-one outside the tobacco companies would deny a connection. However, those criticising the report pointed out that her case studies were sourced from often highly speculative accounts in the press rather than independent first-hand research.

Nonetheless, the Newson report was influential in that it introduced the concept of psychological harm into government debates about video censorship, something the British Board of Film Classification was required to take into account when the Criminal Justice Act was passed later in 1994.

Michael Brooke

Related Films and TV programmes

Related Collections

Thumbnail image of 1994 Criminal Justice Act1994 Criminal Justice Act

Wide-ranging legislation that also extended film and video censorship

Related People and Organisations