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The Ottawa Citizen
Sunday, January 17, 1999

Porn ruling angers experts

Children threatened by B.C. judgment, area critics say

by Charles Enman

The decision of a B.C. judge to strike down the law against possession of child pornography has left several area observers angry and incredulous.

"If this judgment is upheld in higher courts, I will simply retire", said Sgt. Keith Daniels, a child pornography specialist with the Ottawa-Carleton Police.

Gary Rosenfeldt, executive director of Victims of Violence, said: "I shake my head in amazement (at) such a judgment.

"British Columbia and Canada have both been embarrassed before the world."

On Thursday, Justice Duncan Shaw of the British Columbia Supreme Court struck down a section of the Criminal Code that outlaws the possession of child pornography, citing a "profound invasion" of freedom of expression and right of privacy guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

However, the judge left untouched laws against the sale and distribution of child pornography.

The decision was delivered in the trial of John Robin Sharpe of Vancouver, who was charged with two counts of possession of child pornography, and two counts of possession for the purpose of distributing and selling.

Ontario judges are not bound by the decision in B.C. However, lawyers defending clients charged with possessing child pornography may cite it as a precedent.

"This absurd decision came from way out in left field", Sgt. Daniels said.

He characterized the judgment as belonging to the Dark Ages.

"He can't have considered that every image, by its very existence, implies the sexual exploitation of children who are totally scarred for life by such experiences."

Pedophiles must not be allowed to possess such images because they can be used to desensitize children to the "horrors" of sexual abuse, Sgt. Daniels said.

"Why else would pedophiles send such images to young girls over the Internet?" he asked.

"If the judge's daughter or granddaughter received such an image, he would take a very different view of the matter."

Such images are irretrievable once they are sent on to the Internet, Sgt. Daniels said.

Such images are irretrievable once they are sent onto the Internet, Sgt. Daniels said. "Your own daughter could face her own picture (on the Internet) 20 years from now."

Mr. Rosenfeldt acknowledged that prohibiting possession of child pornography is indeed a restriction of freedom of expression, as the judge argued in his judgment.

"But what rights are absolute?" he asked. "Why not have heroin available at the corner store? It's because we allow reasonable limitations on our rights. And I doubt two per cent of the Canadian public would feel that outlawing possession of child pornography is an unreasonable limitation on anyone's freedom of expression."

Mr. Rosenfeldt, whose step-son was one of Clifford Olson's victims, said virtually every sex offender, pedophile, and serial killer has had pornography in his or her possession.

"No one can prove that just looking at pornography makes them commit their crimes, but we can't ignore the association."

This decision goes against the grain of worldwide trends regarding sexual abuse of children, Mr. Rosenfeldt said.

"Even those countries that allow child prostitution, facing the world's condemnation, are cleaning up their acts. And here enlightened little Canada comes along with this ludicrous court decision."

Crown attorney Andrejs Berzins said the law against possession of child pornography "will continue to be enforced as in the past unless our Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court of Canada says otherwise."

He doubted that judges in Ontario would follow in Judge Shaw's footsteps.

"There's too strong a social interest in taking all steps to eliminate or reduce child pornography. Making possession legal only encourages those who manufacture or distribute this stuff."

"And this is not a victimless crime like smoking marijuana -- by its very nature, child pornography is profoundly harmful to the child.


Copyright © 1999 by The Ottawa Citizen. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.