In a move to crack down on child pornography here, the House of Representatives has passed a bill that mandates a half a million dollar fine and/or a maximum 20 years in prison for adults convicted on indictment of involvement in the practice.
The provision forms part of the Electronic Crimes Act that received the nod during debate on Friday.
The bill states, “A person shall not intentionally, without lawful justification or excuse, publish, transmit or cause to be published or transmitted material in an electronic form, which depicts a child engaged in sexually explicit act or conduct, create text or digital images , collect, seek, browse, download, advertise, promote, exchange or distribute material in an electronic form depicting a child in an obscene or indecent or explicit manner.”
Its passage in the House comes about nine months after the distribution of a new set of sexually explicit videos taken via cellular phones featuring adult males and female students – most under the age of 16 and in school uniforms.
Attorney General Justin Simon said no action can be taken against the men – one of whom is said to be in more than 80 per cent of the videos – because the legislation was not in place at the time of distribution and the Act will not be retroactive once implemented.
“Do you know how happy I am that you have created this bit of legislation that deals in a real draconian manner and very appropriate with persons who are not only recording but distributing material with child pornography?” Minister of Education and Gender Affairs Dr Jacqui Quinn-Leandro asked Simon.
The government’s chief legal advisor said an alternative approach will be used for students participating in pornography.
“We have penalised the adults because we realise that the children are pawns in that game, innocent victims maybe due to their immaturity or they’re fooled into thinking that they are doing a good thing or that it is something that is the norm. Clearly, the schools will have to address that situation in respect of the children,” he said.
Opposition members Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin, Robin Yearwood and Molwyn Joseph endorsed this provision.
“We’re only asking that it be implemented and that the law will have teeth and that we can curb that type of conduct,” Benjamin said.
Joseph called for the “book to be thrown” at the perpetrators even as he chastised some adults for failing to set good examples for the youth, particularly by displaying “depraved” behaviour during carnival celebrations.
The suggestion by Yearwood that a sensitization programme on the bill be held in schools was agreed to by the attorney general.
Under the Electronic Crimes Act, action will also be taken against people involved in inducing a child into an online relationship for a sexual explicit act and those who facilitate abuse of a child online.
In addition, people convicted of sending threatening or defamatory messages through electronic media will be liable to a fine of up to $200, 000 and/or three years in prison, or a maximum $500, 000 and/or seven years imprisonment once convicted on indictment.
The bill further states, “A person who intentionally or without lawful cause or justification captures, publishes or transmits the image of a private area of a person or the image whether whole or partial of a person in a vulnerable position without his or her consent under circumstances violating the privacy of that person commits an offence.”