Agreement between Council and the Parliament on the Directive to combat child pornography

The Council and the European Parliament have reached political agreement on the draft directive aimed at combating sexual abuse and exploitation of children as well as child pornography. The new directive will harmonise around 20 relevant criminal offences and setting thresholds for maximum penalties.

The political agreement reached by the Council and the European Parliament will aim at combating sexual abuse and children pornography. With regard to the new penalties introduced by the draft directive, for sexual abuse of children and sexual exploitation will range from at least one year to a minimum of 10 years' imprisonment, depending on the nature of the crime. Acts such as making the child witness sexual activities (abuse) will by punishable by at least one year's imprisonment, whereas coercing child into a sexual act will be punishable by at least 10 years' imprisonment.

The penalties for attending pornographic performances involving children (exploitation) will be two years' imprisonment, whereas forcing a child into prostitution will be punished by a minimum of 10 years. At least one year's imprisonment is provided for possessing child pornography (the only exception – holding it for the purposes of investigation), whereas the production of such material carries a sentence of at least three years' imprisonment. Moreover, the draft law adds to the list of crimes the act of "online grooming" – befriending children in chat rooms and forums with the intention of sexually abusing them.

In addition, the directive will make possible to prosecute EU nationals for child abuse-related crimes committed outside EU territory (so-called sex tourism), which should help reduce demand for sexual services. In addition, the member states will have to ensure that the organisation of travel arrangements for such purposes is punishable too.

The victims will be more protected and in order to prevent paedophiles from obtaining childcare-related jobs across the EU, the directive introduces the possibility for future employees in this sector to request and receive information about candidates' previous convictions, also when the candidates are EU nationals from other member states.

The draft directive was agreed by the Council and the European Parliament in June and should become law by the end of 2011, after its formal adoption by the two institutions. The member states will then have two years to transpose the directive into national law. It is intended to replace the relevant framework decision 2004/68/JHA and significantly increases the number of common definitions and penalty thresholds.