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Headline: Bill to fight child exploitation passes second reading

A Bill to better protect children from sexual exploitation passed its second reading in Parliament last night.

The Objectionable Publications and Indecency Legislation Bill increases the penalties for making, trading or possessing child sexual abuse material – and introduces a new offence for communicating with young people in an indecent manner.

Justice Minister Amy Adams says the Bill sends a clear message that activities which sexually exploit children are abhorrent and will not be tolerated.

“Studies have shown that internationally an estimated 200 new images depicting sexual abuse of children are put into circulation every day. The measures proposed in this Bill reflect the serious nature of these crimes, and align with the Government’s pledge to protect children from sexual exploitation,” says Ms Adams.

“Material which sexually exploits children encourages the abuse of children. It also takes a heavy toll on the children who are the victims of this exploitation. In the internet age, those children are often re-victimised by the knowledge that images of their abuse could be shared over the internet for years to come,” says Ms Adams.

The new category of offence ‘indecent communication with a young person’ which this Bill proposes, can apply to online or text messaging, as well as verbal communications.

“The law change reflects the changing ways in which criminals access, share and distribute this abhorrent material.  This ensures such behaviour is criminalised, regardless of how it takes place,” says Ms Adams.

Under the proposed new law, people convicted for possession of objectionable material (which includes child exploitation material) could face up to 10 years in jail – while anyone caught making or distributing child exploitation material could go to prison for up to 14 years. The current maximum sentences are 5 and 10 years, respectively. 

The Bill would make prison the standard punishment for any repeat offenders being convicted for a second (or subsequent) time, unless the court decides the circumstances mean they should not receive a jail term.

The Bill also clarifies the criteria for “possession” of an objectionable publication, to include viewing electronic material without consciously downloading or saving it.

Ms Adams acknowledged the work of the Justice and Electoral Committee and thanked those who made submissions on the Bill.

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