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Goff Makes Further Change To Child Porn Penalties

Goff Makes Further Change To Child Porn Penalties

Justice Minister Phil Goff is proposing to further increase the penalty for possessing objectionable material such as child pornography to a maximum of five years' jail.

Mr Goff said the changes would bring New Zealand into line with recent moves overseas. He intends to make the changes in a supplementary order paper (SOP) to the Films, Videos and Publication Classification Amendment Bill, which is due to have its second reading in Parliament today. The SOP will be introduced during the Bill's committee stage, expected next week.

Penalties for producing and trading in child pornography are already being increased 10 fold to a maximum of 10 years' imprisonment by the Bill.

"The Bill, as introduced and reported back from select committee, created a new offence of knowingly possessing objectionable material, such as child pornography, that carried a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment. The existing provision for possession carries no prison sentence, with a fine of only up to $2000," Mr Goff said.

"There has been an emerging consensus among like-minded countries that a maximum penalty of up to five years should be available for possession of child pornography.

"For example a report to the Australian SCAG (Standing Committee of Attorneys-General) recommended at the end of last year that all Australian jurisdictions should provide for a five-year penalty for possession. I think New Zealand should also be aligned with that recommendation."

Mr Goff said harsher penalties set out in the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Amendment Bill reflected the abhorrence with which the government and society regarded the trade of child pornography and other objectionable material.

"Child pornography involves the actual abuse of children. People who trade or possess it are encouraging that abuse by creating a market for the images, and penalties should reflect that fact.

"The abusive nature of child pornography will also be recognised by it being considered as an aggravating factor at sentencing."

Mr Goff said the explosion of Internet-based child pornography had fundamentally changed offending patterns in New Zealand and overseas.

"Offenders use the Internet to access and exchange and thousands of images in a way not previously imagined. In particular, the Internet has seen a proliferation in child pornography, which can now be traded anonymously and cheaply around the world at an alarming rate.

"Much of that trade is not a commercial transaction, so is not treated as serious offending under existing laws. The penalties in this Bill will cover all forms of distribution, whether or not commercial gain was involved.

"The Bill also provides for the extradition of people who have committed offences in other countries, and introduces importing and exporting offences in recognition that the trade in child porn is an international problem.

"While adequate penalties are important, detection is the best weapon for fighting child pornography.

"The Department of Internal Affairs' Censorship Compliance Unit is among the most active and successful in the world, and has a prosecution success rate of nearly 100 per cent.

"The Unit should be congratulated for its excellent work, which the government has supported by providing funding for two extra staff in the 2004 Budget," Mr Goff said.


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