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Prosecution for child porn hampered by lack of critical technology


WHILE some legislation exists locally against child pornography, Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison has lamented the non-existence of some critical technology that would help advance cases and secure convictions.

Speaking during this week’s Jamaica Observer’s Monday Exchange, Gordon Harrison, who is also the National Rapporteur for Trafficking in Persons, said there are no dedicated resources for carrying out the appropriate levels of investigation into reports of child pornography.

“Child pornography is in fact an issue here. From the perspective of having a legislative framework, I think we do have that in place. However, it is my own view that the penetration and the degree to which child pornography exists in Jamaica is not fully understood.

“We have seen all sorts of videos surface from time to time, but the ability to say how many other bits exist remains outside our focus and ability. I don’t think we have garnered all the forensic tools that we need locally to do that,” she said.

The Child Pornography (Prevention) Act 2009 describes child pornography as: any material showing a child engaged in sexual activity, actual or simulated; depictions of a child being subjected to torture, cruelty or abuse in a sexual context; and any visual representation, audio recording, or written material that advocates or counsels sexual activity with a child.

The children’s advocate added that anyone who creates, distributes or shares pornographic content of children must be aware that they are guilty of an offence. But, she complained that a lack of resources caused some investigations to fall through the cracks.

“Sometimes we get some things on our phone and we just pass it on. That in and of itself is seen as distribution under the legislation and is in fact an offence.

“In some other jurisdictions, you have dedicated resources to mapping anywhere that has a public Wi-Fi or hot spot. It could be a caf, it could be a restaurant or it could be a public library, and you have a monitoring of the type of sites persons visit while they are there.

“We don’t have the capacity to do that routinely yet, and so what I find is that, while our cybercrime unit plays a very effective role in dealing with cases that come to the fore, digital and remote monitoring with dedicated resources seven days a week is something we are lacking at this time.”

Gordon Harrison, meanwhile, acknowledged that child trafficking is a problem in Jamaica, but expressed optimism that the country is heading in the right direction in terms of minimising and eventually eradicating the practice.

“I think Jamaica is going in the right direction because we have, in fact, benefited under the child protection compact partnership agreement between the Government of United States of America and the Jamaican Government, which focuses very specifically on targeted responses to eradicating child trafficking.

“Child trafficking is but one of the many forms of human trafficking we have in Jamaica. Essentially, all that is, is sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, or any of the other forms, with the victim at the centre of it being a person under 18 years old. We have seen where children have, in fact, been exposed and we find a predominance of sexual exploitation more confined to our teenage girls.

“… In one of our recent convictions, the victim was a teenage girl who was recruited by her trafficker via Facebook and then was sexually assaulted over a period of months. Thankfully, this matter was properly investigated, rigorously prosecuted and resulted in a conviction Home Circuit Court. That perpetrator is now behind bars.

– Jason Cross

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