A 14-year-old Preston boy — a child by any definition — has been charged with possessing, making and distributing child pornography, crimes punishable by up to 10 years in prison.A child charged with child pornography?
Is this who we intended child pornography laws to protect our children from?
Let’s start with what we know, at least according to the police. There was a party on April 5. Kids were drinking. At some point, a 15-year-old girl performed what was described as “a consensual sex act” on a 14-year-old male. The boy used his cell phone to videotape the act in progress and later posted it to a social media site where he “tagged” the video to make it easier for others to discover.
Three days later, an adult alerted police about it. The department’s internet child exploitation unit launched an investigation, seized the boy’s cellphone and arrested him.
If the police version is accurate, the boy is guilty of a cruel, reckless, dangerous, stupid and perhaps criminal act. But is it reasonable to describe it as child pornography?
That law’s purpose was to deal with the sexual exploitation of minors by adults. It defines child pornography as material, “the dominant characteristic of which is the depiction, for a sexual purpose,” of someone under 18 engaged in, or appearing to engage in, explicit sexual activity.
While this video apparently shows explicit sexual activity, its purpose is less clear. Was the teen posting it, as a conventional child pornographer might, for the sexual gratification of others? Or was he simply boasting, brainless-teenager-like, about his sexual prowess.
Neither is acceptable. But they are different. And, using the blunt bludgeon of child pornography laws in a case like this cheapens the crime.
As Michael Unger, the co-director of the Dalhousie Resilience Research Centre explained to CTV: “We need a way of addressing this that doesn’t turn reckless acts by teenagers into categorizing this young man as a pedophile.”
Nova Scotia Justice Minister Ross Landry’s proposed new law to criminalize the distribution of “intimate images” without consent — regardless of the ages of those involved — seems like a far saner approach.
It’s unfortunate it wasn’t available in this case — or in the Rehtaeh Parsons tragedy.