The Independent Group of Senators (Taoiseach’s Nominees) will table a Private Members’ Motion in the Seanad this evening, calling for the Government to take action to combat the easy availability of images of sexual abuse to internet users in Ireland.
The motion will call on the Minister for Justice and Equality to take action in line with the Directive adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of Europe in December 2011 ‘on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography’.
The State already takes steps to secure the removal of child abuse material held on servers within its jurisdiction. Legislation in line with the Directive would allow Ireland to block access to websites containing this illegal material where it is hosted outside our jurisdiction and where its removal is difficult or likely to take an unreasonable length of time.
The Independent Group motion will remind the House that images of child abuse are not just images: every child abuse image is a crime scene. Where images are disseminated, there is ongoing harm to victims, while the number of offenders continues to grow. One survivor of this kind of abuse said that “[T]hose who view the images 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.”
Senator van Turnhout, emphasising the importance of the motion said, “a child abuse image is a crime scene, a digital record of sexual abuse being perpetrated against a child. Statistics show that a staggering 69% of the victims depicted in child abuse images are between 0 and 10 years of age. The sheer depravity and calculation of the offenders is such that they are increasingly targeting children at pre-speaking age because they can’t articulate the abuse they are experiencing.”
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 puts the number of known images at over 1,000,000.
While other countries – including the UK, Australia, and Sweden – already have systems in place for blocking access to sites containing child abuse material, there has been some resistance to the idea in Ireland. The Independent Group motion aims to encourage the Minister to legislate on this critical issue.
The motion will call on the Government to:
1. Bring forward legislation to implement the EU Directive, to combat sexual abuse and the sexual exploitation of children and child abuse material in cyber space.
2. Ratify the United Nations Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, signed by Ireland in 2000.
3. Ratify the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, signed by Ireland in 2007.