There was a story on the front page of my local paper this week about a man who is charged with possessing 3.5 million child porn images (yes, you read that right).
This man is accused of making 14,450 indecent photographs and 6,023 movies classified by police as level five (this is using the SAP scale which classifies child sexual abuse images on a scale of one to five, with five being the most serious).
It is anyone’s guess how many children have been raped and tortured in the making of these images (including photographs and videos). But even if only one child has been raped and tortured, that is one child too many. The accused has not yet been tried and has not entered a plea. Yes, despite the severity of the charges levied against him, he was granted unconditional bail until 27 July 2013.
This is just one story, but it is representative of the law’s approach to dealing with those who make, possess and distribute child sexual abuse images. Why is the making and/or possession of child sexual abuse images not taken more seriously?
The seriousness with which such offences are taken is demonstrated by the leniency of the sentencing handed down to offenders. For example:
Possession of a large quantity of level 4 or 5 material for personal use only. Large number of level 3 images shown or distributed:
Starting points: 12 months custody
Sentencing ranges: 26 weeks – 2 years custody
So, with time taken off for ‘good behaviour’, the most a person could expect to serve for the above crimes would be around one year in custody. That’s one year for possessing
level 4 or 5 material images of children which include penetrative sexual activity involving a child or children, or both children and adults and/or sadism or penetration of, or by, an animal, and for distributing a large number of level 3 images images showing non-penetrative sexual activity between adults and children.
Anyone would think viewing and/or distributing child sexual abuse images is a victimless crime, such is the seriousness such crimes are dealt with by our legal system. The children who are being raped and otherwise sexually abused so that such images can be produced are being seriously let down. Why don’t these children matter? It is almost as if they are not being treated as human beings. The sentences are so laughably lenient that it is almost as if viewing and distributing child sexual abuse images is expected, or even condoned.
The children being raped and otherwise sexually assaulted in the production of such images are overwhelming prepubescent. One study conducted over a one-year period in the United States found that 83% of offenders possessed pornographic images of prepubescent children and 80% possessed images graphically depicting sexual penetration. Approximately 1 in 5 (21%) had images of children who were gagged, bound, blindfolded, or otherwise enduring sadistic sex. More than 1 in 3 (39%) had child-pornography videos with motion and sound. 79% also had what might be termed ‘softcore’ images of nude or semi-nude children, but only 1% possessed such images alone.
The Internet Watch Foundation conducted a study in 2012 which found that 81% of online child sexual abuse images involved children aged 10 or under, with 53% showing children being raped and tortured.
Still think it’s a victimless crime?
And all this suffering, rape and torture of predominantly small children, for what? Is having an orgasm really so important? More important than protecting the children who become victims of
adults’ men’s sexual desires? The seriousness with which the possession and/or distribution of child sexual abuse images is dealt with appears to suggest so.
I read somewhere once that the reason most the adults who are convicted of possessing images of child rape and child sexual abuse are not given lengthy prison sentences – if they are sent to prison at all – is that we would need so many more prisons to house them all. This might be an urban myth. I sincerely hope so, but I wouldn’t count on it.
If you wish to report any child sexual abuse images online, please contact the Internet Watch Foundation. It is UK-based but can be used to report child sexual abuse content hosted anywhere in the world.
From the IWF’s website:
About the Internet Watch Foundation
The IWF was established in 1996 by the internet industry to provide the UK internet Hotline for the public and IT professionals to report criminal online content in a secure and confidential way. The Hotline service can be used anonymously to report content within our remit:
- child sexual abuse images hosted anywhere in the world;
- criminally obscene adult content hosted in the UK;
- non-photographic child sexual abuse images hosted in the UK.