Email Newsletter – March 2012

Independent Group Motion on Child Abuse Material on the Internet

As a member of Seanad Éireann and the Independent Group, I relish the opportunity under Seanad Private Members Business to engage with issues I feel passionately about. I am truly proud of our Group’s recent motion, which called on the Government to introduce legislation to block access to child abuse material on the internet.

I would like to say a special thanks to Michael Moran, Acting Assistant Director of Cybersecurity and Crime and Coordinator of Crimes Against Children at Interpol and Pat McKenna, Director of ChildWatch.ie, for their extremely informative briefing to Oireachtas Members in advance of the Seanad debate.

Child abuse material is much more than a clinical definition of “child pornography” can encompass. A child abuse image is a crime scene, a digital record of sexual abuse including, rape, incest, assault, sadism, and bestiality, being perpetrated against a child. I was shocked and saddened by statistics showing that 69% of the victims depicted in child abuse material are between 0 and 10 years of age. The sheer depravity and calculation of the perpetrators is such that they are increasingly targeting children at pre-speaking age because they can’t articulate the abuse they are experiencing.

Where the images are disseminated, there is on-going harm to victims, and the number of offenders continues to grow. I was moved by the testimony of one survivor of this type of abuse who said that “[T]hose who view the image of my abuse are no different from those who made them in the first place. It feels like they are in the room, encouraging my abuse.”

Since the advent of widely available broadband, access to images of child abuse has become far simpler and more widespread. In 1995, Interpol was aware of 4,000 child abuse images in total. Recent data now puts the number of known images at over 1 million!

While other countries-including the UK, Australia, and Sweden-already have systems in place to block access to webpages containing or disseminating child abuse material hosted on servers outside their jurisdictions, there has been some resistance to the idea in Ireland.

The Independent Group motion aimed to encourage the Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter TD, to legislate on this critical issue. Following an excellent debate, Minister Shatter made a commitment to fully consider blocking of child abuse material on the internet in the context of the development of the planned Sexual Offences Bill.

European Citizen’s Initiative

I’m really excited that the European Citizen’s Initiative (ECI) is coming into force on 1 April. The ECI will allow EU citizens to participate directly in the development of EU policies, by calling on the European Commission to make a legislative proposal, and by doing so will put citizens on the same footing as the European Parliament and the European Council. This represents a unique opportunity for European citizens and has been rightly hailed as the first transnational instrument of participatory democracy in the world! I encourage as many Irish citizens as possible to participate. I know only too well from my work with civil society and community and voluntary organisations of the quality we can bring to the process.

Best Wishes,
Jillian
Senator Jillian van Turnhout

Column: Blocking child porn isn’t about censorship. It keeps children safe.

21st March 2012

Column: Blocking child porn isn’t about censorship. It keeps children safe.
The rights of children must come first – and it’s time to block images of the worst sexual abuse, write Senators Deirdre Clune and Jillian van Turnhout.

CHILD ABUSE MATERIAL is often spoken about as “child pornography” but it is far more serious an offence than can be encompassed by any single definition. A child abuse image is a crime scene, a digital recording of rape, incest, assault, sadism and bestiality being perpetrated against a child.

The sheer horror of such images is closer in content to depictions of the atrocities of war by those who perpetrate them. It is imperative that Irish internet service providers move to block child abuse material to prevent the proliferation of these images.

Think for a moment about the most humiliating and degrading moment you have ever experienced. Think of the desperate helplessness you felt. Now imagine that someone had managed to capture that moment. That image was then spread across the globe so that no matter how far you ran you could never be sure that those you meet did not see it. Now imagine the scenario for a victim of child sexual abuse whose trauma has been recorded and disseminated for the sexual gratification of others. Try to comprehend the on-going harm that victim suffers as long as the image remains available for others to view, their sense of being re-abused again and again and being defined by defilement for ever.

Blocking child abuse material on the internet is not going to stop those who are determined to view it. Traders will share their collections via peer-to-peer, email and other services. The blocking measure is aimed at those who stumble across one image inadvertently and whose curiosity sparks a dangerous spiral, which leads them to seek out more. Interpol describes these individuals as ‘simple viewers,’ and their statistics show that one in three simple viewers go on to abuse a child themselves.

We live in the information age. A photo taken in one part of the world can reach into millions of homes within seconds of being uploaded. It can seem inconceivable that images of child abuse are being sought online. However, a huge volume of requests are made to access child abuse material, intentionally or accidentally, through standard webpages throughout the world. For example, 4.5 million requests are blocked in Norway each year; 13.5 million requests were blocked in New Zealand between February 2010 and November 2011; and BT alone blocks 40,000 requests each day in the UK.

’750,000 people are using websites displaying images of child sexual abuse at any one time’

In 2009,the UN-Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Najat M’jid Maalla, stated that 750,000 people are using websites displaying images of child sexual abuse at any one time. Attempting to eliminate child abuse material on the internet is a difficult task. As soon an image is removed it can spring up again in another location. Google and Facebook have their own systems in place to block such images. Mobile operators in Ireland also block this material under the Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Content.

While Irish ISPs do secure the removal of child abuse material on domestic servers, they are yet to follow the likes of Australia, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Malta, New Zealand, Sweden and the UK by blocking the same material hosted overseas, where removal proves difficult or takes an unreasonable length of time.

There are those who will argue that any form of blocking content online is an infringement on their civil liberties. The only images which are being targeted are those which fall into Interpol’s list of the three most severe forms of child sexual abuse: assault, gross assault and sadism/bestiality. Even the most ardent opponent of internet censorship cannot argue that failing to block the spread of these images of child sexual abuse maintains virtual freedom.

Having robustly debated this issue in the Seanad recently as part of a private members motion proposed by the Independent Group of Senators (Taoiseach’s Nominees) we are even more committed to tackling this issue through the introduction of a blocking system. In response to the motion Minister for Justice Alan Shatter assured the Senate that the Government abhors the evil trade in illegal images of children being sexually abused and pledged his commitment to fully consider blocking internet child abuse material in the development of the planned Sexual Offences Bill.

Deirdre Clune is a Fine Gael senator, and Jillian van Turnhout is an independent senator.

Article link: http://www.thejournal.ie/readme/column-blocking-child-porn-isn%e2%80%99t-about-censorship-it-keeps-children-safe-390656-Mar2012/

Order of Business, 21 March 2012

I welcome the adoption by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last Thursday of the report of the working group on Ireland’s universal periodic review, UPR. During the review on 6 October last, UN member states made 127 recommendations to Ireland concerning our human rights record. As the Leader knows, I noted on the Order of Business before that the Government immediately accepted 26 recommendations, was unable to support 15 and undertook to further examine 50. On Thursday’s adoption, His Excellency, the permanent representative to the United Nations, Gerard Corr, announced that of the 50 pending recommendations, the Government has fully accepted 29, partially accepted one and was unable to accept four. In total, Ireland has made a commitment before our UN peers to implement either fully or partially 108 of the 127 recommendations.

I applaud Ireland’s civil society organisations for their valuable and committed engagement to the UPR process and commend their representatives who spoke so eloquently at the adoption of the working group report. I welcome the permanent representative’s announcement that he will publish a voluntary interim progress report on implementation in October 2013.

As this first cycle of the UPR comes to a close, the process does not end. We now embark upon the second, and the most important, cycle, the implementation of the recommendations. For that reason, I call on the Leader to invite the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, to provide the House with information on how the Government is planning to implement the recommendations and the structures that will be put in place at national level to ensure effective implementation. The House has a role to play in monitoring and ensuring Ireland upholds its UN obligations.

In light of the Electoral (Amendment) Bill debate in the House last week, the commitment made by the Minister, Deputy Hogan, and the vote that took place, will the Leader call on the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, to bring in a system of vouched expenses for the party leaders’ allowance without delay?

Independent Group Calls on Government to Establish Vouched System for Leaders Allowance

Independent Senators call for Government to establish vouched system for Leader’s Allowance

Press Release, 21th March 2012
***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***

The Independent Group of Senators (Taoiseach’s Nominees) tabled a number of amendments to the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill 2011, at both Committee and Report stage, which completed its journey in the Seanad last week.

The wide-ranging amendments covered the allowances paid to Party Leaders and Independent Members of the Oireachtas, a ban on corporate donations to political parties, and changes to extend gender quotas for candidate selection.

Speaking in the Seanad, Independent Group Leader Senator Jillian van Turnhout said that “all allowances should be fully vouched. We should be obliged to be accountable in respect of these allowances. When I sought guidance on the Party Leader’s Allowance, I discovered that the only form available relates to political parties.” Regrettably, the Government voted against the amendments proposed by the Independent Group to ensure a system of fully vouched expenses. Today we are calling on the Government to immediately establish a vouched system for the Party Leader’s Allowance, making representatives more accountable for their use of public money.

Under the same debate, Senator Fiach Mac Conghail addressed the issue of the Leader’s Allowance, paid to leaders of political parties and to independent members of both Houses. The Senator, who is in receipt of a Leader’s Allowance, said that while there are guidelines for its use, “there is no requirement to vouch or keep accounts”. To combat this worrying situation, Senator Mac Conghail proposed that “all independent members of the Oireachtas, including myself, should have a statutory responsibility to provide detailed accounts of donations and public funding on an annual basis”.

On the issue of funding by corporate donations in Irish politics, Senator Mac Conghail said “I think that it should be banned entirely. I don’t know why it can’t.” Drawing attention to the promise in the Programme for Government to abolish corporate donations, the Senator went on to point out that the disclosure requirements in the Bill under debate mean that parties could, in an election year, keep the sources of their funding secret until after votes were cast.

With regard to proposals in the Bill to introduce gender quotas, whereby at least 30% of each party’s candidates at the next general election must be of either gender, Senator Jillian van Turnhout called for two important changes. Firstly, Senator van Turnhout called for the initial quota to be raised to 40%, saying that a quota of 30% has been shown to be “the bare minimum level of gender parity necessary to achieve critical mass”, and a figure which “does nothing but delay the inevitable”. With a 30% quota, it could be more than a decade before 40% participation is reached.

Senator van Turnhout called for electoral quotas to be extended to local elections as well as the general election, arguing that local politics is where skills and experience are traditionally learnt by those who go on to become national representatives. The Senator argued that “Excluding local government from gender quota legislation denies potential female candidates the experience and sense of political legitimacy that would protect new female candidates from any allegation of tokenism being levelled against them”.

The amendments tabled by the Independent Group of Senators were not incorporated into the Bill. The Bill enters its second stage today in the Dail, 21st March 2012.

ENDS

Notes for editors: The Independent Group (Taoiseach’s Nominees) are Senators Jillian van Turnhout (Leader), Martin McAleese, Fiach Mac Conghail, Mary Ann O’Brien, Marie-Louise O’Donnell, and Katherine Zappone.

Government to fully consider blocking internet child abuse material

Government to fully consider blocking internet child abuse material

Press Release, 1st March 2012
*** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ***

In a Seanad debate yesterday, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter TD made a commitment to consider implementing blocking to stop Irish internet users from accessing child pornography.

The motion, proposed by Senators Jillian van Turnhout and Marie Louise O’Donnell on behalf of the Independent Group (Taoiseach’s Nominees), called for Ireland to follow the UK, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Italy, Malta, Australia, and New Zealand, in blocking access to sites hosting photographic images of child abuse, even where those sites are located outside of Irish jurisdiction.

While Irish law currently allows for the removal of such material where it is hosted on a server within the State’s jurisdiction, Senator van Turnhout argued that “We are forced to rely on other jurisdictions applying the same standard for removal at source as we apply to material hosted on domestic sites. Where other countries are uncooperative or simply unable to remove this material in a reasonable time, Ireland has a duty to block access to it in some other way”.

Senator van Turnhout also pointed out that, in fact, such blocking exists in one form in Ireland: mobile operators like Vodafone, O2, and Meteor subscribe to the Mobile Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Content and already prevent their users from accessing this material.

Describing the ongoing harm caused to victims as long as material remains available, Senator O’Donnell said that “Abusive pornographic images of children on the internet stay with the children throughout their entire lives. The child ends up being defined by defilement forever”.

The motion further called for legislation which would establish a victim identification database, to help identify victims and thus prevent further abuse. This would also lead to swifter and more efficient prosecution of abusers and the disruption of criminal networks which disseminate this material.

Responding to the Independent Group motion, Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter TD said: “I am, this evening, giving a commitment to this House that blocking will be fully considered in the context of the development of the planned Sexual Offences Bill”.

ENDS

Notes for editors:
The Independent Group (Taoiseach’s Nominees) are Senators Jillian van Turnhout, Martin McAleese, Fiach MacConghail, Mary Ann O’Brien, Marie Louise O’Donnell, and Katherine Zappone.

Government to fully consider blocking internet child abuse material

In a Seanad debate yesterday, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter TD made a commitment to consider implementing blocking to stop Irish internet users from accessing child pornography.

The motion, proposed by Senators Jillian van Turnhout and Marie Louise O’Donnell on behalf of the Independent Group (Taoiseach’s Nominees), called for Ireland to follow the UK, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Italy, Malta, Australia, and New Zealand, in blocking access to sites hosting photographic images of child abuse, even where those sites are located outside of Irish jurisdiction.

While Irish law currently allows for the removal of such material where it is hosted on a server within the State’s jurisdiction, Senator van Turnhout argued that “We are forced to rely on other jurisdictions applying the same standard for removal at source as we apply to material hosted on domestic sites. Where other countries are uncooperative or simply unable to remove this material in a reasonable time, Ireland has a duty to block access to it in some other way”.

Senator van Turnhout also pointed out that, in fact, such blocking exists in one form in Ireland: mobile operators like Vodafone, O2, and Meteor subscribe to the Mobile Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Content and already prevent their users from accessing this material.

Describing the ongoing harm caused to victims as long as material remains available, Senator O’Donnell said that “Abusive pornographic images of children on the internet stay with the children throughout their entire lives. The child ends up being defined by defilement forever”.

The motion further called for legislation which would establish a victim identification database, to help identify victims and thus prevent further abuse. This would also lead to swifter and more efficient prosecution of abusers and the disruption of criminal networks which disseminate this material.

Responding to the Independent Group motion, Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter TD said: “I am, this evening, giving a commitment to this House that blocking will be fully considered in the context of the development of the planned Sexual Offences Bill”.

The Lancet

In July 2021, Jillian co-authored an article in the world-renowned medical journal “The Lancet”