Senator van Turnhout calls on Ireland to immediately transpose the EU Anti-Trafficking Directive into national legislation

Press Statement, 15 April 2013

 ***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***

 

SENATOR VAN TURNHOUT CALLS ON IRELAND TO IMMEDIATELY TRANSPOSE THE EU ANTI-TRAFFICKING DIRECTIVE INTO NATIONAL LEGISLATION

 

I warmly welcome today’s publication of the European Commission’s Eurostat Report Trafficking in human beings.  I note with extreme concern that 62% of all those identified or presumed to be victims of human trafficking in the EU over the 2008-2010 period, were trafficked for sexual exploitation, with countries of trafficking origin identified both inside and outside the EU.

 

According to Department of Justice annual reports of trafficking in human beings in Ireland for 2009, 2010, and 2011, there were 132 detected cases of trafficking for sexual exploitation, of which 32 were children.  Despite this, there has been a negligible number of prosecutions under the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act, 2008 and the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act, 1998.  Furthermore, Ireland has failed to transpose the EU Anti-Trafficking Directive, the deadline for which expired on 6 April.

 

Following a very constructive meeting last week with Myria Vassiliadou, EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, where we shared our mutual concerns, I call on the Government to immediately transpose the EU Anti-Trafficking Directive into national legislation.  The EU Directive will have a significant impact on the lives of trafficking victims and will prevent others from falling victim to this heinous crime.

 

I will continue my work in the Seanad: advocating to criminalise the purchase of sex in Ireland to curb prostitution and trafficking; seeking to introduce and strengthen regulations around vulnerable work placements, such as Au-Pairing; and focusing on the distinct vulnerability of asylum seekers in Direct Provision to trafficking and exploitation in Ireland.

 

-ENDS-

Notes for the Editor:

European Commission Report: Trafficking in human beings, Directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 April 2011 on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2002/629/JHA, and all related European Commission press releases can be view at http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/malmstrom/news/archives/2013/04/20130415_en.htm

 

For More Information, Please Contact:                                                                

Senator Jillian van Turnhout,                                                                                                                                    Leader of the Independent Group (Taoiseach’s Nominees)                                                              Phone: 01-6183375                                                                                                                                      e-mail:jillian.vanturnhout@oireachtas.ie

 

Directive of European Parliament on Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children: Statements

Thursday, 19th September 2013

I too welcome the Minister to the House and thank him for his comprehensive presentation on the EU directive. I could say a lot on issues related to the directive, but I intend to focus on article 25 which relates to child abuse material online. I welcome the commitments the Minister has given this morning. Among the wide-ranging provisions relating to criminal offences and sanctions in the area of sexual abuse and exploitation of children, the directive requires all member states to take the necessary measures to ensure the prompt removal of any web pages containing or disseminating child abuse material hosted on servers within their jurisdiction. It also asks member states to make appropriate safeguards to block access for Internet users within their territory of web pages containing or disseminating child abuse material hosted on servers outside of their jurisdiction.

I do not know whether the Minister’s comprehensive presentation is a sign of things to come, but I feel the Seanad’s role has been airbrushed out of it. In February 2012 we had an Independent group motion on the EU directive and the need for Ireland to block sites. At the time, I was delighted my colleagues, among them Senators Mary Ann O’Brien, Fiach Mac Conghail, Katherine Zappone, Marie-Louise O’Donnell and probably every Senator in the House, supported the motion calling for a blocking of sites. We took the Minister’s word that he would consider that, even though we knew at the time the ISPs and some officials did not agree with us on the need to block them. I welcome the moves being made now, but I wish to acknowledge the role of the Seanad in calling for this.

I have produced a report on effective strategies to tackle online child abuse material which is published today and I will be happy to present the Minister with a copy of it. Often we are told that blocking does not really work, that we will not get rid of it all and that we should not be naive. Would the Minister say the same to drug traffickers or suggest that we should just remove customs and borders because drugs get into the country anyway? We must put a deterrent in place to block this material. I am not living in some naive world where I believe that implementing the directive will solve the issue, but implementing it will act as a deterrent and will ensure that average citizens will not come across such material accidentally, as they do currently.

I welcome the commitment given, but I would like to see greater urgency attached to it. I was disappointed to see in the legislative programme that the criminal law (sexual offences) Bill is still under section C, which means that publication is not expected until 2014. The Minister for Justice and Equality will know that I have a long list of issues he has promised the Bill will cover and other colleagues have other issues. However, there is a problem with regard to the proliferation of child abuse material on the Internet and this is a stain on our moral conscience. I am very concerned by this and that is the reason I commissioned the report I did, in which I go through the options for Ireland and what needs to be done.

We need to think about the victim profile. Many Members attended an extraordinary briefing we received in 2012, before we moved our group motion in the Seanad. Pat McKenna of ChildWatch and Michael Moran, assistant director of Interpol’s directorate dealing with trafficking of human beings briefed us at that meeting and provided us with startling figures. When they examined some of the images in question, some 74% of the victims appeared to be ten years of age or younger. We heard of images of children with their umbilical cord still attached. The prevalence is moving towards children who cannot yet speak, because they cannot articulate what is happening to them. The images and pictures we are talking about are horrendous. They are a crime scene.

Another problem is the offender profile. Some 70% of the offenders are aged between 21 and 50. Some 59% are likely to be married, 41% are likely to have children and 33% are physically abusive in other aspects of their lives. What we were told at the briefing stays with me. We were told that the average person who comes across this trade accidentally is horrified and walks away from the computer. However, within a week, many will go back to the computer and start looking for more images. These images are not traded in money, but in images, so what will one do when one wants to be king of the pack but create one’s own images. We must introduce a blocking system. This problem affects Irish children and children worldwide.

I have been very affected by some of the stories of children who have been abused. I cannot understand the reason behind many crimes, but I can nearly understand murder, although I do not condone it. However, I cannot understand child abuse. I cannot get my head around why people would do it. In the case of this kind of child abuse we have victims who find out that their images are proliferated across the world and that their own country will not block these images. We must ensure we have a blocking system in place.

The Minister mentioned a hotline. I call it the lesser known hotline. It is great to have it, but it is not much use if it is not publicised and people do not know about it. To be honest, I believe the existence of the hotline can be used as a cover or excuse by the ISPs who can point to its existence. This is a bit like the issue of drink awareness, where people can point to MEAS and drinkaware.ie. We need a much more independent system.

The countries that already have filtering in place are Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Italy, Netherlands, Finland, New Zealand, France, Malta, Australia and the UK, including Northern Ireland. All our mobile telephone providers across Europe have it. Therefore, I do not accept any arguments we hear about why we cannot do it.

I commend the Garda Síochána, Europol and Interpol, who are doing amazing work and I feel strongly that we need to support them.

Why is there not a greater urgency to transpose the directive? We should be doing so without delay. It is great that we have the EU directive. Let us put filtering in place. Self-regulation is not working. The Internet service providers, ISPs, are being dragged to the table.

A child abuse image is a crime scene. It is a digital record of some of the most monstrous crimes against children.

This is a question of protecting children from abuse. We must take action. I plead for greater urgency. We can undertake it discreetly and efficiently, a suggestion that I examined in my report.

Order of Business, 19 September 2013

Thursday, 19th September 2013

I support Senator O’Brien in his call for No. 2 to be discussed. It is something we should do to ensure any inquiry is as we intend it and as we would expect. Perhaps it cannot be facilitated today but if there were a commitment, I would be supportive of it.

I commend the French Senate, which yesterday banned beauty pageants for children under 16 years. In fact, it will impose prison sentences. This is about protecting childhood. Beauty pageants prematurely force children into roles of seduction that seriously harm their development. I am most disappointed to note that this weekend for the first time in Ireland there will be such a beauty pageant. It is not a welcome development. I wish to send a clear message that it should be cancelled and that we should not be having these types of beauty pageants in our country. We should be protecting childhood.

I thank the Leader for putting on the agenda for discussion today the EU directive on combatting the sexual abuse and exploitation of children and child pornography. As colleagues are aware, in February 2012 the Independent group put forward a comprehensive motion that dealt with the directive, but nothing has happened since. I welcome that it is on the agenda today. I have published in advance a report on effective strategies to tackle online child abuse material. We should remember that a child abuse image is a crime scene. It is a digital record of some of the most heinous crimes against children. This is about protecting real children from real abuse in the real world. I have copies of the report if colleagues would like to see it in advance of our discussion at 11.45 a.m. We should send a clear message to the Government that we need to ensure we have filtering in place to block online child abuse material. I thank the Leader for placing this matter on the agenda. However, we must do more than just discuss it.

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/

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”.

Independent Senators call for government action on child abuse images

Independent Senators call for government action on child abuse images
Press Release, 29th February 2012

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.

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.

The motion can be viewed at: http://scr.bi/CAMIrl

Independent Senators call for government action on child abuse images

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.

 

The Lancet

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