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Government slow to act on revising weak laws

Government slow to act on revising weak laws on child sex abuse images

Figures release today by the Department of Internal Affairs’ Censorship Compliance Unit show that in 2004 only seven out of 24 offenders convicted of possessing or trading child sex abuse images received prison sentences.

Stop Demand Foundation spokesperson Denise Ritchie says “Conversely, this means that 17 out of 24 offenders (or 70%) received a mere ‘slap on the wrist’ for offending that contributes directly to sexual crimes against children.”

“All 24 offenders should have faced stiff prison sentences,” says Ritchie. “Those who possess or trade such images perpetuate the demand for further images, the making of which requires more children to be sexually violated. That 70% of offenders last year received fines or community work is a grave injustice, and insulting, to the thousands of child victims who were raped and abused in the making of those images.”

Denise Ritchie, who has appeared before three Select Committees on this issue - the first, in December 2000 - questions why the Government is procrastinating on a Bill currently before the House. Ritchie says, “Currently Judges are hamstrung in the penalties they can impose on offenders. The government recognises that current laws are woefully inadequate and that existing penalties fail to take account of the nature, gravity and volume of offending that has come about with modern technology. Yet, despite introducing a Bill last March, its passage continues to take a back seat while seemingly ‘more important’ Bills take priority.”

If passed, the revised laws would see a ten-fold increase in penalties for trading offences (from a maximum one year to 10 years imprisonment) and up to two years prison sentence for possession offences which currently attract a mere fine.

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