Parliament debates on law enforcement measures against child pornography

European Parliament held on 15 November a preliminary debate within the Civil Liberties Committee, about the proposal for Directive on sexual abuse of children and child pornography. MEPs stressed the need to overcome some difficulties about this regulation based on Member States' differing sensitivities and traditions, specially in aspects related to web access blockage.

Civil Liberties Committee rapporteur Roberta Angelilli pointed out that there are still some critical aspects to be discussed within the debate over the Directive due to Member states differences in the legal systems and their criminal law provisions. Issues such as the rules to prevent anyone convicted of child abuse offences in one Member State from getting a job with children in another Member States, combating sex tourism, and blocking access to internet sites, still need to be clarified.

The proposal for Directive on the fight against child pornography will be discussed as a priority item at the December meeting of the Council in order to reach a final decision so that the directive can be finalised and approved under the Hungarian Presidency next year. The December Council will be on procedural matters, protection of victims, and prevention. Parliament's Committee rapporteur draft report should be presented in January 2011 and the committee vote should be taken in February.

Is blocking web access really effective to fight against child pornography?

However, one of the most sensitive issues of the procedure will certainly be the possibility of blocking internet access, or deleting internet pages where Member States have different approaches. Furthermore, it seems that this measure may not be entirely effective, and could be hard to enforce as an EU-wide measure. Some MEPs suggested that this issues could be left to Member states decision, instead of EU, highlighting that such measures are frequently only cosmetic and more of a political matter. Preventing child abuse is much more important, as pointed out by some Deputies, and further discussion will be needed on the proposal's "internal contradictions" with regard to sanctions to be imposed.

Belgian justice minister Stefaan De Clerck, representing the Council Presidency, emphasised that it will be necessary to strike a good balance between feasibility and the efficiency of the instrument as a whole. All types of measures are required, in order to react early to prevent any sexual abuse. It should be reminded that some studies suggest that between 10% and 20% of children in Europe are sexually assaulted during their childhood.