Second Reading: Crimes Amendment (Child Pornography and Other Matters) Bill 2015

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — I rise to speak on the Crimes Amendment (Child Pornography and Other Matters) Bill 2015. The Greens certainly support this bill, which will make it easier to prosecute and investigate online child pornography offences in Victoria.

All child pornography offences are of the utmost seriousness. They result in perpetual harm to children and act to validate and normalise the sexual exploitation of children. It is incredibly regrettable that child pornography is one of the fastest growing illegal businesses online. These offences, whereby images are transmitted across the world to offenders who redistribute them, are international crimes. And as we all know, once an image is on the internet it is incredibly difficult for it to be deleted.

The harm to victims is lifelong, and for some offenders child pornography is also a risk factor in other sex offending against minors. I note, as has been raised previously, that research shows that the people involved in child pornography offences are predominantly male. Furthermore, a snapshot of sentencing trends in the Magistrates Court of Victoria over a three-year period during which 197 people were sentenced for knowingly possessing child pornography showed that all of the offenders were men.

Whilst we have laws that effectively deal with child pornography and the technology used to distribute it, it is important that we address what makes someone commit sexual offences against children and that we address their attraction to child pornography. This means working closely with experts in psychology and psychiatry and other experts who work with the victims and the perpetrators, and it includes researching the role of gender as a risk factor for offending, since the majority of perpetrators are male.

It is also imperative that children who have been abused receive support and help early by undergoing extensive counselling, since we know that the trauma of abuse can lead to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and a range of other mental illnesses and disorders earlier in life and later as an adult. We also know that the trauma of abuse can lead to further tragedy, such as suicide.

The bill amends the Crimes Act 1958 to create three new offences concerning child pornography: administering a child pornography site, which attracts a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment; encouraging the use of a website to deal with child pornography, also with a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment; and providing assistance to another person in relation to avoiding apprehension for a child pornography offence, with a maximum 10 years imprisonment. It also increases the maximum penalty for the offence of possession of child pornography from 5 years to 10 years imprisonment.

The bill provides for the use of random sample evidence in proceedings for child pornography offences so that the people involved in investigation and prosecution do not have to view high volumes of child pornography evidence, which can be traumatic. It also provides for the giving of a direction under a warrant requiring assistance from a person with knowledge of a computer or computer network. This means that where evidence is held on a computer and it is password protected, police will be able to direct the owner of the computer to give them the password.

The bill amends the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 to restrict the inspection by an accused of evidence that is child pornography so that they do not obtain sexual gratification from viewing it. It also makes minor amendments to certain other acts.

The Greens support this bill, particularly considering the utmost importance of protecting children from sexual exploitation and also considering our obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Furthermore, we urge the government to provide a government-funded professional support service for defence lawyers to debrief after viewing child pornography, given that many of these lawyers are on modest incomes and most of this work is legally aided.

Whilst the minister's second-reading speech says that websites are the easiest and most visible way of accessing child pornography, research shows that peer-to-peer file-sharing networks are a major source of online child pornography. We urge the government to ensure that all peer-to-peer sharing of child pornography is addressed by our laws and to work closely with Victoria Police to make sure it has the latest technological tools to track pornography content.

That said, the Greens strongly support this bill.