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Child Porn Offenders Escape Jail Sentences

NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research figures show it has been five times easier to go to jail for stealing a car than for looking at child pornography!!
ONLY 15 of more than 100 NSW men charged in Australia's biggest child pornography crackdown are behind bars, even though almost all of them have been found guilty.
Police documents obtained by The Sun-Herald show prosecutors won 79 of the 102 cases that have been through the courts.
In all, 11 were sentenced to jail and four to periodic detention, but most of those who received jail sentences had them suspended. Many others escaped with fines and bonds.
Department of Corrective Services Assistant Commissioner Luke Grant said many jail sentences being dealt out to child pornographers were too short to allow sufficient time for rehabilitation.
"Part of the problem is that [child offenders] are not getting long enough sentences," Mr Grant said. A term of less than 12 months limited opportunities to work with offenders.
As Federal Police last week made fresh raids on three more Australians suspected of using what US officials called "the worst imaginable forms of child pornography", Opposition police spokesman Mike Gallacher condemned the courts for their treatment of those charged under Operation Auxin.
"They are the weak link in the chain - letting the community down, letting the cops down, letting the kids down," Gallacher said.
High-profile police raids across the nation, known as Operation Auxin, were launched two years ago after a tip-off from US authorities. Federal police described the charges as the "tip of the iceberg".
One source close to the investigation said some of the images police had found from the former Soviet state of Belarus had never been shown publicly, but clearly showed children suffering.
"No reasonable person could look at those images and not see the pain and distress on their faces," the source said. Some children were believed to have been kidnapped off the street.
Four men who have been put behind bars were given periodic detention, including David Cope-Williams, a career soldier who was reported to have had an unblemished military record.
At the time of his conviction last April, it was reported that magistrate Elizabeth Corbett appeared visibly uncomfortable when viewing evidence that Cope-Williams possessed 10,520 photographs of girls as young as five being sexually abused and raped by groups of hooded men.
He received eight months' jail with a six-month non-parole period, reduced on appeal to periodic detention.
When Operation Auxin hit headlines, NSW Parliament reacted swiftly, voting unanimously in late 2004 to more than double, from two years to five, jail terms for anyone caught with child pornography. "The Government is sending a clear message to the courts that child pornography should not be tolerated," Attorney-General Bob Debus told Parliament.
But those spoken to by The Sun-Herald said the courts had not heeded that call. Not one sentence in Local Courts or District Courts as a result of the Auxin raids has reached the maximum, partly because prosecutors had opted to send cases to the Local Court, where a maximum penalty of only two years could be handed down.
NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research figures show it has been five times easier to go to jail for stealing a car than for looking at child pornography. In 2004, 314 of 781 penalties for car theft resulted in imprisonment.
Following Auxin, magistrates opted to suspend the vast majority of jail terms. Last week, chief magistrate Derek Price took the unusual step of defending the record of courts.
"The seriousness of a suspended sentence should not be underestimated, as offenders are imprisoned for breaching the conditions of such a sentence," he told The Sun-Herald.
Auxin's first arrest in NSW, Bible studies teacher Stephen Laws, was sentenced to 43 months jail after police found images on his computer of under-aged girls in sexual acts. It was cut to 34 months on appeal.
Australian Childhood Foundation chief executive Joe Tucci feared judges had "taken the line that it's not abuse and it's not exploitative because there weren't any visible victims".
"The outcome is that it has sent a confused message to the community about this being as serious as it was initially made out to be," he said.
Last week Mr Debus claimed vindication for changing the laws, saying only 11 Auxin offenders had been convicted because they committed their crimes since the beginning of 2005. Five received custodial sentences, although only three were full-time. "This early trend . . . is very encouraging," he said.

AUXIN'S 644 CHILD PORNOGRAPHY TARGETS
- Auxin investigations began in February 2004 but took six months to peak with co-ordinated execution of hundreds of warrants and arrests across Australia.
- 644 child pornography offences have been identified and 399 men are or have been the subject of prosecutions.
- Most have been charged with offences relating to possession, production, sale or dissemination of child pornographic or child-abuse material.
- More than 2 million images and 200 computers have been seized.
- Auxin was the result of information supplied by US Customs based on their discovery of a global child pornography racket in the Belarus capital, Minsk.
- Police have launched action in relation to more than 1000 internet subscribers in 12 countries.

www.smh.com.au (19-3-2006)
John Kidman/ Catharine Munro

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