Criminal Law

By Rachael Scott


The dangers of Child Pornography; do our teens really understand?

The media has been abuzz lately with the news of several Australian schools being targeted by a pornography ring, including schools in Canberra. It has reiterated that nothing put on the internet, or sent via text message is ever really safe – or private, for that matter.  As criminal defence lawyers we encounter this regularly.

There have been cries of outrage and disgust at the actions of the young men who are involved. This reaction is understandable. Their behaviour cannot be justified.  But before you light your torch, grab your pitch-fork and join the angry mob, ask yourself – is it criminal?

As much as you detest what these young men have done, the reality is that most of them are not sexual predators and do not deserve to be treated as such.  Young people, especially young men, often do stupid things without thinking of the consequences.  I think it is safe to say that a few of the people involved in this controversy would fall into that category.

Part of the solution to this problem must be to better educate young people about the dangers of sharing explicit images of themselves, even with someone they ‘love’.  Obviously that education needs to include greater respect for your girlfriend/boyfriend and instilling better values.

From our perspective as criminal defence lawyers, it also needs to include information about the very serious legal consequences that this conduct can attract.  You can safely assume that none of the youngsters involved in this saga would have turned their mind to it.

A naked (or semi-naked) photo of a person under 18 is child pornography.  Production of child pornography (even a selfie) is one of the most serious offences of its type and carries a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment.  Transmitting, accessing and possessing child pornography also attract severe gaol terms.  A conviction for a child pornography offence is also likely to trigger entry onto the sex offenders’ registrar and the reporting consequences that flow from that.  It is life changing and life ruining.

If you know somebody who has been caught up in this incident they would be well advised to go and speak to a good criminal defence lawyer, like my colleagues at Ben Aulich & Associates.