Seanad Éireann - Volume 156 - 17 June, 1998
Child Trafficking and Pornography Bill, 1997: Second Stage.
Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue) Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue)
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): One of the most important functions that we as legislators have is to ensure that our legislation offers children the type of protection to which they are entitled and which will provide them with the opportunity to enjoy a carefree and happy childhood. The Bill before the House is one that offers further assurance that all that can be done by way of legislation is being done to protect our children from having their childhood blighted by abuse, in particular by sexual abuse.
The Child Trafficking and Pornography Bill, 1997, is the latest legislation that offers protection against sexual abuse. There is no need for me to recite a list of such legislation; suffice to say that even in the recent past we have passed the Criminal Law (Incest Proceedings) Act, 1995, which arose from a Private Members' Bill which I introduced in the previous Dáil; the Sexual Offences (Jurisdiction) Act, 1996, which I, together with my colleague, Deputy Eoin Ryan, published by way of a Private Members' Bill and the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997, with its important stalking provision. In addition, the Children Bill, 1996, will update the law on the protection of children against abuse, including sexual abuse, in certain circumstances.
There is an important document in the pipeline which I will be publishing shortly, namely, the interim report of the working group on the illegal and harmful use of the Internet. The working group will report on the very difficult issue of what can be done at a national level to deal with objectionable material such as child pornography being transmitted to this country from all parts of the globe by means of that most personal and modern means of communication, the Internet. One other important document which I published last month is the discussion paper on the law on sexual offences. The paper deals with many issues relevant to child sexual abuse, including the age  of consent to sexual relations and other matters raised in the report of the Law Reform Commission on child sexual abuse, issues surrounding the establishment of a sex offenders or paedophile register and child prostitution. The paper has provided the impetus for a public debate and a backdrop to consideration of the need for further changes in the criminal law to combat the problem of sexual exploitation and abuse.
The manner in which international agencies co-operate and share their expertise in trying to understand the problem of child sexual abuse and the role child pornography plays in that abuse was brought home to me when I had the privilege of opening the first conference on Combating Paedophile Information Networks in Europe, or COPINE Conference, in Dublin Castle last December. This project is funded under the EU STOP programme; it is a partnership between the Child Studies Unit in the Department of Applied Psychology at Cork University, the Paedophile Unit of the London Metropolitan Police, An Garda Síochána and the Association for European Law Enforcement Co-operation in Brussels. The conference addressed many issues of importance, including paedophile activity on the Internet, something that can only be realistically combated through international co-operation. While such international co-operation is critical in tackling the problem of child sexual abuse, we must not lose sight of the need for our own national response.
The Bill before the House is an important and integral part of the ongoing programme of legislation aimed at providing comprehensive protection against sexual abuse or exploitation. Child sexual exploitation can take many forms, ranging from direct physical sexual assaults to the depiction of children in pornographic materials. The making of child pornography constitutes child sexual abuse and can often involve the most horrendous violation and abuse of children. With increasing globalisation and greater movement between countries, new forms of child sexual exploitation have begun to emerge. To deal with the continuing and changing nature of the problem, imaginative and novel responses by both law enforcement agencies and legislators are required.
The Bill also represents a response to the horrific events surrounding the Belgian paedophile ring which was uncovered in 1996. The tragic fate of the young Belgian children who fell victim to that paedophile ring galvanised the EU into immediate action. It was during our Presidency of the EU, when those events came to light, that a joint action on trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation of children was negotiated. This Bill will give effect to the provisions of that joint action as it applies to children.
The Bill offers protection to children against exploitation in three main ways. First, it protects children against being trafficked for the purpose of their sexual exploitation. Second, it protects  children against being used in the making of child pornography, and third, by criminalising the possession of child pornography, it protects children from abuse by persons whose fantasies have been fuelled by watching child pornography. The first and second of these protections are obvious, the third not so obvious. Child pornography is one form of temptation for paedophiles and potential child sex abusers. Possessing and looking at child pornography by paedophiles poses a real threat to children by reinforcing cognitive distortions and fuelling fantasies. Child pornography can also be used in grooming or conditioning possible child victims into believing that what they are watching constitutes normal behaviour. There can be no comparison in this context between the possession of child pornography and the possession of other forms of pornography for personal use. This is why it is necessary to specifically outlaw child pornography in all its manifestations. The making and use of child pornography by paedophiles is frightening. Most of us will never see it unless we come upon it accidentally, because it tends to circulate among paedophile rings and not otherwise.
There may still be some people who think of paedophiles as pathetic old men, as much to be pitied as feared. Nothing could be further from the truth. Paedophiles may appear to be ordinary people who live apparently ordinary lives but they can be highly manipulative and seductive, often charming themselves into people's confidences so that they can insinuate themselves into a position where they have unsupervised access to children. They are capable of taking the long view, even spending years to get themselves into positions of trust with the parents of their targeted victim. They will similarly use the devious side of their characters to obtain positions of trust, power and responsibility directly over children. Not all persons who possess child pornography are necessarily paedophiles. However, all paedophiles will probably possess child pornography; it could almost be described as a necessary accessory to their activities. It is this connection between paedophilia and child pornography which this Bill targets.
Since its publication last December, this Bill has received a welcome response both inside and outside the Oireachtas. Quite a number of amendments were made to it in the other House, with the result that the Bill in its present form represents an effective measure in the fight against child sexual exploitation, a measure which I am sure we are all anxious to see passed into law as speedily as possible. It is worth bearing in mind when discussing this Bill the comment made by a member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child when, during the discussion on Ireland's initial report on the convention, he said Ireland was to be commended on its pioneering legislation on the sexual exploitation of children.
I would like to turn now to the actual provisions in the Bill. Section 2 deals with interpretation  and the most important definition it contains is that of “child pornography”. Defining the expression “child pornography” is something of a departure from the approach heretofore of leaving it to the courts to interpret what is meant by “obscene” or “indecent”. It is important in a Bill such as this to give the prosecuting authorities and the courts a clear indication of what exactly we, as legislators, mean by the term “child pornography”. It does not matter how the child pornography is represented or how it is made, it is caught by the definition. For example, section 2 (2) puts it beyond doubt that any figure resembling a person that has been generated or modified by computer graphics is comprehended by the definition of “child pornography” if it conveys the impression that the figure is that of a child. This means that any person who would try to circumvent the legislation by means of computer technology would not succeed. There are exceptions in the definition. It will not apply to any written material which has been examined by the Censorship of Publications Board and in respect of which a prohibition order under the Censorship of Publications Acts is not in force. Neither will it apply to any film or video work which the official censor has passed for release. These are common sense exclusions which will mean that the present criteria in respect of material in books, periodical publications, films and videos passed by the censors will not be affected by the Bill.
The other important definition in section 2 is that of a “child”. There are several different ages for which one could make a case. The most logical and appropriate age is 17 years since that is the age of consent to sexual relations in this jurisdiction.
Section 3 is the first of four sections in which new offences are created. Section 3(1) makes it an offence to organise or knowingly facilitate the journey into, out of or through the State of a child for the purpose of his or her sexual exploitation, or to provide accommodation for a child for such a purpose while in the State. This section gives effect to one of the most important aspects of the EU Joint Action on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Exploitation of Children. The seriousness with which this offence is regarded is reflected in the penalty of up to life imprisonment.
The ingredient in this offence which makes it so serious is that it concerns children being taken from their family, community, and indeed their own country, and trafficked across international borders to another country, possibly on the other side of the world, for the purpose of their sexual exploitation. We are giving a clear message in this provision to any would be traffickers in children that they would use this country for their despicable trade at their peril. We will not allow children to be brought into or out of this country for the purpose of their sexual exploitation and we will not allow this country to be used as a transit point for such children.
 The term “sexual exploitation” is used to include not just trafficking for the purpose of using children in the production of child pornography, but also trafficking for the purpose of inducing or coercing children into prostitution or other sexual activities. Section 3(2) creates offences of taking or detaining or otherwise using children for the purpose of their sexual exploitation. To a large extent it reinforces a provision in section 17 of the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act, 1997. Section 17 deals with the abduction of children by persons other than their parents and has a maximum penalty on conviction on indictment of seven years imprisonment. The extra ingredient in this provision is that the taking or detaining of the child is for the purpose of his or her sexual exploitation and, because of that extra ingredient, we are providing a higher penalty on conviction than for the offence in the 1997 Act, that is, up to 14 years imprisonment.
Section 4 of the Bill makes it an offence for any person who has the custody, charge or care of a child to allow that child to be used for the production of child pornography. It parallels a provision in the Children Bill, 1996, under which it will be an offence for any person who has the custody, charge or care of a child to cause or encourage the commission of unlawful sexual intercourse or buggery with that child or to cause or encourage the seduction or prostitution of, or the commission of a sexual assault upon, the child. Section 4 and the provision in the Children Bill, 1996, are aimed at persons such as parents or guardians who, for whatever reason but usually monetary gain, allow their children to be so sexually exploited. Is there a worse breach of trust than parents allowing their children to be sexually exploited by others? The term “custody, charge or care” is defined in such a way as to encompass other persons in whose care the child may be and would include, for example, childminders or swimming coaches.
Section 5 is aimed at persons who would profit from child pornography, although it also catches persons who are involved in the child pornography business for other reasons as the profit motive may not always be a significant factor in the dissemination of child pornography. Under this section it will be an offence to knowingly produce, distribute, print, publish, import, export, sell or show any child pornography. While elements of it are required by the EU joint action, it is a comprehensive provision which attempts to deal with any person who is knowingly involved in any way in the child pornography trade.
The word “knowingly” is necessary because it is possible for child pornography to be distributed or imported without the knowledge of the distributor or importer. This arises in particular in the case of those involved in providing Internet services who would not be in a position to police everything that is available on the Internet. This issue will be dealt with in the Report of the Working Group on the Illegal and Harmful Use of the Internet to which I referred. Therefore, in  fairness, the prosecution in any case will have to satisfy the court that the defendant knowingly distributed or imported child pornography.
Section 6 will make it an offence to knowingly possess child pornography. This provision is also required by the EU joint action and, from some of the comments I made earlier about the potentially horrific effects of child pornography, I need to say little more to explain or justify it. The offence of possession will not apply in three circumstances: first, where it is in the possession of a person who is exercising his or her functions under the Censorship Acts or the Video Recording Acts; second, where possession is for the purpose of the prevention, investigation or prosecution of offences under the Bill, and third, where the possession is for the purposes of bona fide research. Similarly, the offences in section 5 will not apply in the same three circumstances.
I mentioned that the maximum penalty on conviction for trafficking in children will be life imprisonment. The maximum penalty on conviction for possession of child pornography will be five years on indictment. The other offences all carry a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment. These are without doubt severe penalties but they are necessary if we are to offer our children the protection they deserve. There can be relatively minor manifestations of some of these offences and the fact that provision is made for a summary charge in some cases reflects that.
The remaining provisions of the Bill are relatively straightforward and routine and I will comment briefly on a number of them. Section 10 will amend the Criminal Evidence Act, 1992, by allowing evidence to be taken from children by television link in cases involving child trafficking and child pornography. It does this by adding the offences created in sections 3, 4, 5 and 6 of this Bill to the other offences in the 1992 Act for which children can give evidence by television link.
Section 12 amends the Bail Act, 1997, by adding the offences under two of the sections of this Bill to the list of offences in the Schedule to the 1997 Act for which a court may refuse bail to a person on the ground that such a refusal is reasonably considered necessary to prevent the commission of a serious offence by that person. The offences that are being added to that Schedule are those for which I consider there would be a likelihood of the person committing a further offence while on bail.
Section 11 amends the Schedule to the Sexual Offences (Jurisdiction) Act, 1996, by adding to it the section 3 and 4 offences, namely, trafficking and taking or otherwise using a child for the purpose of sexual exploitation and allowing a child to be used for the production of child pornography. This means that if those offences are committed outside Ireland by a person ordinarily resident in Ireland, on his or her return to this country he or she will be treated as if the offences  took place here and will be prosecuted accordingly.
This is a critically important Bill. Some years ago the necessity for such a Bill might not have been clear. However, in the light of what we now know and the advances of modern technology, this legislation has become essential. I hope it will have a speedy passage through the House and can become law without delay. I commend the Bill to the House.
Mrs. Ridge Mrs. Ridge
Mrs. Ridge: I appreciate that the Minister has had a tiring morning but I hope he will take note of the comments I will make in the interests of children and families. I agree with the Minister that the Bill, which I welcome, is long overdue.
Two main aspects are highlighted in it, trafficking and pornography. I hope the Minister will accept amendments which will seek to deal with those who provide access to pornography involving young children. I am concerned that this aspect is not specifically covered other than with regard to the Internet. I also intend to table amendments regarding the trafficking aspects of the Bill. This area is covered generally but a new practice has developed in Ireland recently. Unfortunately, the selling of girls, some as young as ten years of age, as brides is common in some ethnic minorities. There was a recent case in Dublin where an 11 year old girl was sold for £10,000 and then raped by the male relatives of the groom. This is trafficking of a sexual nature for reward. I appreciate it is a new departure in Ireland but it has occurred and, unfortunately, will probably happen again. A provision to deal with it should be included in the Bill. No one could disagree that it is child trafficking of a sexual nature and it is opportune that it should be dealt with now. Trafficking is defined in the dictionary as “disgraceful trading” and many things the Minister has spoken about come under that heading. The selling of young girls is surely one of them.
I have other concerns which are not mine alone. We have all spoken about them in the House and I have received support from colleagues on all sides. There are real concerns among parents about the ease of access to pornography by children, particularly in Dublin. It is provided by unscrupulous shopkeepers and by incredibly greedy newspaper groups who carry advertisements which give access to audio and visual pornography. This ease of access exists because of our ridiculous censorship laws which require three consecutive issues of a magazine or periodical to be deemed lewd or obscene by the Censorship of Publications Board before it can be banned.
Up to now that did not matter much, but in the last few years we have had a flood of filth coming into the country. It is freely available in many shops which are not even newsagents. These people are getting round the antiquated laws by only having three, four or five non-consecutive issues. In that way the censorship law does not apply since no one can supply the three consecutive  issues necessary for action to be taken against them. I appreciate that the law was introduced in 1929 when nobody could conceive of visual or other pornographic images such as we now have to deal with. However, it is surely time to amend the legislation governing the Censorship of Publications Board to allow such matters to be dealt with.
Other European countries are acknowledged as having high shelf areas but, unfortunately, Ireland seems to be becoming a low shelf society. I have seen young people with unlimited and free access to disgusting pornography, both visual and written, contained in magazines of a gross nature. They are freely available in many shops in Dublin on production of the price of the magazine. They are on ordinary shelves, not high ones. I cannot describe the content of the magazines. The ridiculous fact is that if a garda tried to seize such a magazine he could be accused of larceny because we do not have an Obscene Publications Act covering publications that are harmful to children. How can one supply proof if one cannot even obtain three consecutive issues of a publication?
I will continue to describe it as a flood of filth because that is what it is. It is increasing daily and is available in shops not too far from this House. If the Minister of State wants to take a walk down Nassau Street I can give him the address. It is not a closed door, it is open and the material is freely available. He will find it on the lower shelves. I suggest that no matter what age the Minister of State is, he would be physically sickened and shocked by the pictures in these magazines. It is a sad comment on Ireland that we have become not only a country of lap top computer users but also of lap top dancers. The values in our society are being eroded and, while we all stand back and say it is terrible, we do not seem to be capable of doing anything about it.
I will table amendments to the Bill on Committee Stage by asking that access to pornography for young people be restricted under the terms of the Bill. The Minister of State should include a realistic method of dealing with this matter. I have suggested one way in which it could be done and I am sure the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has enough expertise to be able to devise some method of dealing with it.
I wish to mention another aspect of the Bill which is referred to in section 2(1) of the explanatory memorandum as follows:
The definition applies to visual or audio material that advocates, encourages or counsels unlawful sexual activity with children. The definition applies to child pornography irrespective of how, or the medium through which, it has been produced.
If such be the case and if I have understood the explanatory memorandum, I am very pleased that pornographic sex chat telephone lines can be dealt with by this Bill. It is well known that these  “services” can be easily accessed by children. Some families have received bills from Telecom Éireann to the tune of £600 per month because of these lines. I will spare the Minister of State's blushes, and mine, by not playing a tape of the call I made recently from my State phone to one of these lines. I was told they are controlled by PIN numbers but they are not. One just rings the number.
Advertisements for these sex chat lines are published in The Star and Sunday World newspapers. I have always disputed that such advertisements should be carried in newspapers. I accessed such a line by dialling a number advertised in the Sunday World, which has a wide readership. There is absolutely no control. All I had to do was dial the number and I was then asked if I wanted the depravity line or the perversion line. In order to access those I had to obtain a PIN number. However, I got the PIN number by being instructed to dial another digit. The sample of the depravity line they supplied, which I got on the basis of the first call, was so aurally shocking that I did not bother going on to listen to the further depravities on offer.
I have been trying to do something about this for a year. I genuinely feel that we can use this Bill to deal with this matter. The Telephone Regulator says he can do nothing. Telecom Éireann says it is obliged to provide the service even though it is clear that the service is in breach of the Telecommunications Act, 1983. That Act clearly states that anyone who sends a message by telephone, which is grossly indecent or obscene, shall be guilty of an offence. The fine is £800 or £50,000 on indictment.
Article 40 of the Constitution forbids the utterance of indecent matter. Indecent matter is being uttered all around us and it is more than freely available to any child who can use a telephone. There is no way it can be controlled other than acting to ban the advertising of these “services”. I hope the Minister of State will take on board the fact that these sex chat lines are demeaning, expensive and a complete con. They represent a shameful exploitation of young children's curiosity.
I will be tabling amendments and I hope they will not be blocked by the interpretation in the explanatory memorandum. I think it is covered but I can only expect a positive response in view of the statements made by the Government parties when I raised these matters before.
We hear a great deal about improving the quality of life of children. This Bill goes some way toward achieving that goal. I am liberal in my opinions but I have found that the demands of others, including paedophiles, to get what they want when they want it, to be drowning out the voices of the majority. Does the right to certain freedoms supersede the wishes of those of us who do not wish for those freedoms?
I note what the Minister said:
This is a critically important Bill. Some years ago the necessity for such a Bill might not have  been clear. However, in the light of what we now know and the advances in modern technology, this legislation has become essential. I hope it gets a speedy passage through this House and can become law without delay.
I assure the Minister that I will not block this legislation. I hope my amendments will be taken on board. I emphasise that they aim to prevent children having access to pornography.
Mr. O'Donovan Mr. O'Donovan
Mr. O'Donovan: I welcome the Minister of State to the House with this important piece of legislation. The legislation does two things — it prohibits and prevents trafficking in children and it introduces legislation to prevent child pornography, as well as defining pornography. I compliment Senator Ridge on her sincere contribution to the debate and I concur entirely with everything she said.
It concerns me as a parent that many newspapers with wide readership take the line that child pornography stems from deprivation. I do not agree, it would sicken me to think so. It is a sad reflection on society today that this legislation is necessary in this land of saints and scholars. Minister O'Donoghue mentioned a plethora of other legislation in response to this situation.
We are all aware of the natural right of a child to a happy childhood. It should be the happiest time of a person's life. We know about the scourges of drug abuse, alcohol abuse and broken marriages, traumas which many children have to face. The lowest of the low, in my opinion as a parent, lawyer and citizen, is child abuse, whether that be trafficking in children or pornography which debases human beings of a very tender age. It sickens me and no words of mine can express sufficiently the abhorrence I feel for what is happening.
The Minister mentioned the awful situation in Belgium. Ministers had to resign and the government almost collapsed as a result of that. It showed how poor the investigation which took place was. Recently at Leonardo Da Vinci Airport in Rome, Europol and the Italian police intercepted a paedophile ring transporting Asian children to either Britain or America purely for sexual exploitation. This is appalling.
I welcome the establishment of a working group on illegal and harmful use of the Internet. The Internet is a wonderful technological development which has great potential but we must ensure that it cannot be used for the promotion of child pornography and the trafficking of children. Certain controls must be introduced to the Internet for this reason. The Internet is open to abuse with regard to libel and defamation of character. Will the working group also examine that situation?
I also welcome the recent publication of the discussion paper on the law and sexual offences. I compliment the Minister for doing this and the Law Reform Commission for the work it has carried out in producing a report on sexual abuse in  this State. It deals with issues such as the establishment of a register of sex offenders and paedophiles.
Ten years ago paedophilia was an uncommon word. Since then it has become more prevalent. It is a sickening disease but in certain instances these people are well organised. They are often mature people who may be community leaders, people who would charm you if you met them, but behind that facade they have developed a sick mentality and become involved in the abuse of children. It must be stamped out.
Anyone involved in child trafficking can now be sent to prison for 21 years. That is a severe penalty but it is necessary; the punishment must fit the crime. The Minister expanded on this when he said that this State could be used as a transit point for the taking of children to another jurisdiction to be abused. That must be stopped and the punishment of 21 years imprisonment is totally justified. We must send a message from the Houses of the Oireachtas that the legislators in this State take the situation extremely seriously. There are further penalties — five years for possession of pornographic items and 14 years for the preparation and dissemination of pornographic material. Again these are severe but necessary penalties. I note that Senator Ridge broadly accepted the thrust of the Bill.
I mentioned what occurred in Belgium and in Rome. There was an appalling occurrence in our own country, albeit in Northern Ireland, where a child of three years was repeatedly raped. Where is our society headed? We debate the establishment of tribunals and politicians are scourging each other for past mistakes, but in comparison to the trafficking and abuse of children, the rape of young girls or boys, the other issues pale into insignificance.
When we imagine paedophiles, we think of dirty old men. That is rarely the case. These people take up positions of trust in our society. The most appalling cases are when natural or adoptive parents or guardians involve children in prostitution, sometimes for financial gain. That is the lowest of the low and it must be abhorred. If the legislation has to be amended or strengthened then so be it, we must continue this fight.
Section 2 deals with the interpretation of child pornography. This is clearly defined and it is important that it covers areas such as computer technology so that no one can evade the legislation by using the Internet or other technologies. Under previous legislation the courts were obliged to interpret what was obscene or indecent. Doctors differ and patients die and in some instances these interpretations fell short of what was required to stamp out dastardly crimes involving pornography, child trafficking and related matters.
Section 3 creates a new offence of organising or knowingly facilitating the entry into or transit through the State of a child for the purpose of his or her sexual exploitation, or the provision of  accommodation for such a child while in the State. This is in keeping with the EU joint action on trafficking in human beings and the sexual exploitation of children. This offence carries a sentence of up to life imprisonment and it is most welcome. Any person directly or indirectly involved in such trafficking, or who knowingly permits or turns a blind eye to such matters, will be punished. If they carry on such a trade they do so at their peril and the law will be strengthened by this Bill.
The Bill also strengthens legislation by amending section 17 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act which deals with the abduction of children by persons other than their parents and carries a maximum penalty on conviction on indictment of seven years imprisonment. The new Bill doubles the sentence to 14 years, endorsing the thinking of legislators that we must move quickly to introduce legislation to ensure that children live in a safe environment.
Had we mentioned this Bill 30 years ago legislators would have asked what we were talking about. Society has developed in many positive ways since, but it is sad and sickening to most sane people to see what does and can happen to children. We do not have a major problem in this country but a problem exists which can be stymied and halted.
In the past ten years there was a huge problem of drugs being imported, particularly in my part of the country. We were the mules facilitating the passage of drugs into Europe and the UK. We must ensure that this country will never be used for the trafficking of children of any nationality or the accommodation of children by cowardly, sick or insane people who wish to deal in child pornography or the trafficking of children for the pleasure of adults.
The Minister rightly stated that this legislation is critical and it is of the utmost importance that it is added to the Statute Book as soon as possible. I concur with Senator Ridge's comments on telephone sex lines. These are appalling and the Minister might examine measures by which they could be eliminated. Most of the newspapers mentioned by the Senator are readily available. Children between the ages of ten and 14 are mischievous and it would appalling if my children had access to these lines.
I also concur with the Senator's comments on child brides. This is very common in Asia and South America but it must be stamped out here. It is unbelievable that, under our noses, a child of 11 is compelled to marry and is subjected to appalling treatment and sexual abuse. If this is a new trend coming from Eastern Europe, North Africa or Asia we must send out the message that the Oireachtas will take swift and severe action to deal with it. I welcome the fact that the Bill gives new powers to the Garda to enter and search premises and confiscate tapes. This Bill reflects badly on society but I hope it will provide some assurance that children will have a safer place in which to live.
Dr. Henry Dr. Henry
 Dr. Henry: This Bill may reflect badly on society. However, worse still is that it has taken so long to introduce legislation on child pornography, whatever about child trafficking. We must be one of the last countries in Europe to do so and I compliment the Minister for introducing the Bill. We should not feel that 30 years ago legislators would have been astonished to be dealing with this matter. I wish they had dealt with it, particularly in view of the report before the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy McDaid, outlining child sex abuse in swimming during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Child pornography may have been used to seduce some children into becoming involved in the sexual abuse to which they were subjected. It is not sad that we are introducing this legislation — it is timely, as we have had a very serious problem which we have not been prepared to face up to.
Incest has not been mentioned, yet one only need open a newspaper any day and look at the court cases to see how serious a problem it has been. One sees women, and some men, in their thirties, forties and fifties accusing their elderly fathers of the most appalling crimes against them when they were young. I welcome this Bill as another small effort to promote the welfare of children in Ireland and internationally.
The trafficking of children is probably far more widespread than we realise. It has been facilitated by the removal of national boundaries and improved methods of transport. Senator O'Donovan rightly mentioned the serious case discovered in Rome airport in which children were being transported from the Far East to Canada. This is a good Bill in that it deals with the transport of children through this country as well as into it.
It is important it is realised that the trafficking in boys can be as serious as that in girls who are more commonly the subject of media stories. It should not be forgotten that it is, perhaps, easier for men to accompany boys. This means it is easier for them to take a child out of their environment and away from their family to a country whose language the child does not speak thus making it impossible for them to complain to anyone in a position to help. I gather there is a serious trade in young boys from eastern Europe. The trade in girls from there to western Europe has been recognised for some time but emphasis should also be placed on the trade in young boys.
One is more likely to see young boys begging on the streets claiming they are homeless than young girls who must make themselves less visible. Greater importance should be attached to the issue of young boys on the streets. It will be found that most come from broken families where there has been a history of abuse and broken relationships. The child will leave the family home with few places to go except the streets. We have all seen television documentaries where children seek refuge for the night in Garda stations because no hostel places were available. They end up leaving the station to the great regret of the gardaí involved, congregating  together and sleeping rough. It is a gift to those who wish to abuse these children to find them in such a vulnerable position. Imagine how much more serious it is for them if they are from another country.
When examining the issue of trafficking of children, the role agencies can play should be addressed. Their activities must be carefully supervised, be they artistic agencies which advertise for children for showbusiness or marriage agencies. Senator Ridge mentioned the problem of children being bought for marriage. The problem is serious because most of these organisations are well established internationally. Great care must also be taken with adoption agencies. They must be supervised and I am sure the Minister of State will ensure this happens.
It is difficult to control the movement of children within Europe once they are in the company of an adult. It must be ensured that those who give information which they believe may protect a child they suspect is the subject of trafficking are adequately protected. It worries me that sufficient protection may not be given in the Bill. It must be ensured that there is increased surveillance by immigration authorities. Facilities will have to be set up to support children in need and to give them protection and assistance. Once discovered, these young victims cannot be abandoned.
I am delighted efforts are being made to do something about child pornography; it has been available and legal in Ireland for too long. It is used by paedophiles to justify their actions and to soften up children and to give them the idea that sexual relations between an adult and child are perfectly normal. One dreads to think how often this may have been used in Ireland, particularly in cases before the courts. It is terrifying that it took so long for us to do anything about it.
It is important to remember that pornography is a billion pound industry. There is big money in it and we are up against the most ruthless people. Most pornography is produced professionally. It is not now necessary to involve child actors, although they are used in some pornography. The use of morphing to create computer images has meant the activity can seem so dissociated for those making it that they feel they are doing nothing wrong. When the means by which morphing takes place is examined and the image of an adult's head transposed to a child's body with adult genitalia attached is seen, it is obvious that it is the most horrific abuse of children. The sex industry is well organised and has close links with organised crime; that should not be forgotten. The exploitation of children for commercial gain is what motivates pornography. Pornographic publications could not in any way be considered erotic; they are the most revolting publications.
I have a few queries about the Bill. The Minister is correct to insert the age of 17 because it is the age of consent. However, internationally and  in all United Nations declarations, the age to which childhood is considered to extend is 18. While the legislation clearly states that an image created by morphing is the same as an image using a child actor, it seems that, when a person is prosecuted, a child has to be produced in court. The fine of £1,500 for obstructing the Garda is too low; the Minister might consider increasing it.
The evidence exists that pornography is used to alter the behaviour of people regarding their desire for sexual relations with children. Not all people are altered by seeing such publications, but from personal testimony and from various research work carried out, it is known that people's attitudes and behaviour do change after viewing pornography.
One last suggestion is that money laundering should be dealt with as it has to be involved in producing and distributing pornography. It is all very well to state that money laundering is due to tax evasion but a great deal of it could be money from drugs, pornography or prostitution. Great efforts are being made nationally in terms of pursuing the holders of offshore accounts but questions should be raised internationally why there should be tax havens and where the money comes from. It is well known that a great deal of money which goes to tax havens is dirty money from drugs, pornography and prostitution. A campaign could be started to bring about the closure of such tax havens because it is difficult to see what useful role they have in a civilised society.
Mr. L. Fitzgerald Mr. L. Fitzgerald
Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. Ní hí seo an chéad uair dó bheith in ár measc. Is Bille an-thábhachtach atá ós ár gcomhair agus tá sé riachtanach agus práinneach.
I welcome the Minister of State with responsibility for children and compliment him and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform for bringing forward this Bill. It is urgently required and it is welcome that is brought forward now. As others stated, it is regrettable it was not brought forward earlier. That is not a comment on the Minister of State or on the Minister but on the issue of bringing forward Government legislation in recent years. The problem the Bill seeks to confront and deal with effectively has existed for some time. The evidence is in the public domain and the courts have been given forceful and unsavoury testimony to the existence of these problems in recent years, and particularly over the last decade.
This Bill is just one element of a legislative package, some of whose measures were introduced by the current Minister when he was Opposition spokesman on Justice. The package is an attempt, hopefully a successful one, to protect children from sexual exploitation, the most abhorrent form of exploitation and abuse imaginable. There is an onus on legislators to ensure that the law affords children protection from abuse. We must do everything possible — where it is not possible we must make it possible — to introduce laws to protect the welfare of children.  That is of paramount importance not only for legislators but also for the values of our society. It is the consitutional and legislative duty of legislators to create the type of environment which will ensure that children can have a carefree, innocent childhood that is free from threat or fear of abuse, intimidation and exploitation.
Tragically, it has become clear in recent years that child sexual abuse, child pornography and trafficking in children and other humans for sexual exploitation is widespread. As Senator Henry said, it is widespread nationally as well as internationally. Unfortunately, for too long this type of exploitation has been shrouded in secrecy and denial.
I referred earlier to evidence that has come before the Irish courts in paedophile cases. The public is also familiar with the shocking revelations about the tragic fate of the young Belgian children who were victims of a paedophile ring. There was also a shocking incident in Rome. Such revelations warrant the strongest possible action both nationally and internationally, through bilateral and multilateral arrangements, to confront and defeat these forms of depravity and perversion. Sometimes they are presented attractively in the form of child sex tourism.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Ireland has ratified, imposes general obligations on the parties to the convention to take action at national and international level to protect children, not just child nationals of a state but also children in transit through a state, from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse. Article 34 of the convention specifically refers to the actions to be taken by states individually and in co-operation with other states.
The growing and widespread use of information technology facilitates the most modern means of communication via the Internet. There are many positive aspects to the development and availability of modern technology and the Internet but, sadly, in facilitating sophisticated levels of communication the transmission of the most objectionable, abhorrent and disgusting material such as child pornography is also facilitated. The extent of the incidence of this activity has provoked a huge response among states and international agencies which are responsible for the care of children.
Co-operation and the sharing of expertise are vital in endeavouring to understand the problem. It is acknowledged that activity of this sophistication can only be successfully combated through the highest level of international co-operation. The primary objective of this Bill is to target the connection between paedophilia and child pornography. It utilises a three pronged approach. First, it provides for protection against trafficking in children for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Second, it confronts the practice of children being used in making child pornography. Third, it criminalises the possession of child pornography.
 While all forms of pornography are objectionable, it is important to emphasise that the possession and use of child pornography by paedophiles presents a serious risk of harm to children by feeding and fueling the fantasies of the user. It has also been established by statutory and voluntary agencies seeking to tackle this problem that child pornography is often used to condition children to believe that what they are watching is normal behaviour. When these factors are taken into account it is obvious that possession as well as the use of child pornography must be outlawed.
Section 6 of the Bill creates the offence of knowingly possessing child pornography. The EU joint action programme on this problem also requires the inclusion of this provision. Analysis by caring agencies of the deviousness and manipulative abilities of paedophiles demonstrates that child pornography must be banned in all manifestations. The Minister emphasised this at length.
A proper definition of child pornography is crucial to the success of the Bill. In the absence of a proper and wide definition it would be easy for devious and manipulative people to successfully challenge prosecution. Section 2 outlines a definition that is sufficiently wide ranging to anticipate devious, sophisticated and subtle attempts by perpetrators of these offences to circumvent the law through the use of modern technology. It attempts to confront and legislate against clever misuse of technology to evade the law.
The Minister is giving the courts and the prosecuting authorities an unambiguous indication of what is meant by the term “child pornography”. Specific and detailed references to audio representation, visual representation and photographic representation ensure that no matter how child pornography is manifested or represented, it will be covered by the definition. Concern was expressed by Senator Ridge and others about the ease with which written pornographic material is available in shops. I hope the definition of child pornography in the Bill will also encompass that material.
I support the Minister's decision to define a child as a person under 17 years of age. It is appropriate and logical since 17 years is the age of consent to a sexual relationship in this country. All persons under the age of 17 years will be regarded, for the purposes of this legislation, as children. The definition is proper and correct.
Section 4 is extremely important. It refers to parents and guardians, the custodians of children. It is unpardonable, abhorrent and unthinkable that custodians of children have not alone sold those children for the purpose of abuse but have often, as has been proven in the courts, themselves abused the children under their care. The law must deal with such people vigorously, forcefully and with little mercy.
Section 5 is a comprehensive provision which targets people who profit from child pornography,  the producers, distributors, printers, publishers, importers, exporters and sellers. All are liable for prosecution if it is established that they are knowingly involved. I strongly welcome this provision.
Many other sections of the Bill are worthy of comment but my time is limited. The penalties are severe but they are essential. If penalties of such severity were absent, the Bill would not send the unambiguous signal it must to target, confront and deal effectively with these manipulative deviants. They must be made aware that if they engage in any activity proscribed by the Bill they will be dealt with severely and without mercy. If we are to respond to the challenge which confronts us we must send a clear message to all would-be offenders within and outside our national borders that we place the welfare of children at the top of our list of priorities. To do anything less would be an unpardonable dereliction of our duty as legislators for a society that professes to place the quality of life of our children at the centre of its programmes of care.
Ms O'Meara Ms O'Meara
Ms O'Meara: In welcoming this legislation I note that in the Dáil the Minister accepted a number of amendments including some from the Labour Party. I commend him for that. I can disagree with very little that has been said on both sides of the House. In the last number of years we have become sadly aware of the shocking extent of paedophilia in our society and are coming to terms with what we must do to protect our children and other vulnerable members of society.
For many victims it is already too late. Many felt they were not allowed to report abuse and some were not responded to. Many people, in adult life, hear of people they knew when children being apprehended and charged with child sexual abuse. This is becoming more and more common. Only this morning we read that the report of the inquiry into child sexual abuse in swimming by Mr. Roderick Murphy SC contains accounts of horrific cases.
I would like to say a word for victims who, because their lives were ruined, themselves became abusers. One thinks of a person such as Anthony Cawley who as a child from a vulnerable family was subjected to horrendous abuse while in the care of the State. His life was ruined and he is now a danger to others as a result. One's heart goes out to such a person.
As other Senators have said, this legislation sends an extremely strong signal of our lack of tolerance of child abuse in all its manifestations, particularly child pornography. We must not tolerate the obscenity of trafficking in children for the purpose of prostitution. We must state out total abhorrence of that obscenity and manifest it in our legislation. It is important that the legislation be strong, effective and impose penalties which reflect the level of our abhorrence. It is also important that our police force and all professionals  engaged in applying the legislation are trained and given the resources to ensure that the full power of the law is applied.
The legislation refers to computer generated images. This raises the issue of how children are portrayed visually. The advertising industry must become more aware of how children, and particularly young girls, are portrayed. As the mother of a small daughter, I am concerned at the overtly sexual messages young girls are exposed to on television. I appeal to the advertising and the music industries to be aware of this without being prudish.
It is our role as legislators, parents and members of society to protect children and childhood in so far as we can. As part of that protection we must see that children have information. After a long struggle we are recognising that we must give children information in our schools to prepare them for the unfortunate realities of the wider society. Legislation such as this Bill forms part of that protection.
Our society is maturing and coming to terms with very difficult issues and the very difficult past, details of which are only now emerging.
Dr. M. Hayes Dr. M. Hayes
Dr. M. Hayes: This legislation is welcomed by all sides of the House, as it should be. I make that point first so that any other remarks I make will be taken in that context. I must state, in relation to interests, that I am on the board of Independent Newspapers and from time to time I give advice on matters of an administrative nature to the regulator of premium rate calls.
Senator O'Donovan has outlined the extent to which this is a broader problem than mere legislation. In a consumer society, when younger and younger people have control over resources or can persuade their parents to spend, the whole entertainment and advertising industries are driven towards heightening sexuality particularly, but not only, in young girls.
The Bill addresses both symptom and substance. To the extent that pornography is a symptom we should remember that the objects of the paedophile are vulnerable children. It is important that society reduce the amount of vulnerability in children. This means more family support, better family and educational services and large investment in social support for vulnerable families and the vulnerable children of those families. Unless we recognise that, it would be dishonest to think we can deal with this situation simply by legislation to control the paedophile.
This is hugely important for social policy. So much child abuse takes place within families that we lose sight of the problem. We do not think of what is happening in families and how they can be helped to do a better job.
My experience of chat lines and advertisement, such as it is, is that it is a race between the regulatory agencies and new technology. That race is being lost. I am delighted that a report on the Internet is pending — it cannot come too soon. The international position is that as soon as the  regulatory agencies dam one hole there is a flood, which is particularly geared to new technology and the Internet.
The regulator has the power to require PIN numbers. However, as Senator Ridge said, it appears this is nullified by the ease in which one can get a PIN number almost on demand. The regulator has the power to control the content of advertisements. Perhaps this power should be increased. I agree with Senator Ridge that these advertisements should be controlled by legislation.
I commend the Minister on the positive aspects of the legislation. Like Senator O'Donovan, I commend the fact that children can give evidence by video camera. It is important to ensure that those dealing with children in the legal process — gardaí, social workers, judges and magistrates — receive the necessary training to help children through an extremely difficult period. It is important that children are not afraid to complain and that they bring their concerns to a responsible adult. There should be a series of listening posts in society to which children can turn.
I may be perverse in saying the following, given what I said earlier. However, I am not sure whether the age of childhood can be defined as 17 years for much longer. We need to look at what is happening in terms of shortened periods of adolescence and accelerated puberty. We may not like to deal with these matters and we may wish to protect children for longer. More study is required in this area. Society is changing rapidly and we do not help children by treating them as such when they are young adults.
As regards the imprisonment of paedophiles, long sentences are necessary to show that this is a crime taken seriously by society. We must also honour our international obligations as these issues transcend national boundaries. Domestic regulators find it difficult to deal with offences which are committed elsewhere. This Bill will help to deal with that problem.
When a paedophile is imprisoned, one should think about what happens when he is released. This is an increasing problem. In my area quite a number of people who were given substantial sentences in the past seven or eight years are being released. How does society deal with them? It is not enough to push them on to the next unsuspecting village or to send them to the anonymity of the city where there may be more vulnerable children.
A study should be conducted of the treatment given to paedophiles in prison. At the end of their term of imprisonment some assessment should be made of the risk they pose. Some people may be monitored after they are released. Some may be incapable of being cured of their drives and there may need to be some provision which protects society and children.
I welcome the Bill and I am sure it will have the support of the House. I commend the Minister on its introduction.
Mr. Mooney Mr. Mooney
 Mr. Mooney: I wish to highlight an aspect of child pornography which, while not covered directly by the Bill, is a matter which has concerned me for some time and in relation to which I have had correspondence with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. It relates to video games played on computers. Some of these games, while not directed at children, are questionable in content and are not suitable for them. They are marketed in this country because of a legal anomaly. Many parents are unwitting allies in procuring these games and are not aware of the content which is pornographic in nature.
Some months ago I discovered that video games are exempt from classification under the Video Recording Act, 1994. I became aware of this problem when my seven year old son, Andrew, told me about the “scary bits” he saw in a Nintendo game called “Mortal Kombat” which he rented from a local store. When I checked the game I discovered to my horror that it showed simulated blood gushing from limbs and amputations by the so-called contestants. The game should have had an adult classification but the label was missing.
I made further inquiries and discovered that the industry is self-regulatory in Europe but that a number of EU countries have amended their video games legislation — Ireland has not. I wish to compare the lack of legislation dealing with this insidious form of pornography — which many parents are unaware of even though it is happening before their eyes — with the legal obligation for the submission of other video productions to the film censor for classification.
At the same time I was made aware of “Mortal Kombat”, I received an inquiry from a Dublin music distributor who was surprised he had to submit a new comedy video featuring Brendan Grace to the film censor before he could distribute it. I checked with the film censor's office and discovered that this is true. A Brendan Grace video must be submitted to the film censor to ensure there are no “scary bits” in it. Yet there are computer games operated under a self-regulatory system outside the law which have a pornographic content.
Ninety-seven per cent of computer games are perfectly in order from the point of view of content, being innocuous, amusing and entertaining. However, 3 per cent are extremely pornographic and highly dangerous. I accept there is no section in the Bill covering this area. However, the issue concerns the philosophy and ethos behind the legislation which is attempting to prohibit trafficking in or the use of children for the purpose of their sexual exploitation or the production, dissemination, handling or possession of child pornography and to provide for related matters.
Despite the heavy legislative programme of his Department over the past six months, will the Minister seriously consider introducing legislation to amend the Video Recordings Act, 1994, to include video games as played on Nintendo, Sony Play Station, and other types of hardware to  ensure some legal checks and balances in the context of outright pornography? Pornography is not just sexual in nature; it is as much about mindless violence as it is about much of what is contained in the Bill. At the risk of incurring the wrath of certain people, I would be less concerned if I discovered my underage children observing sexual acts in an artistic and tasteful manner on television as against mindless violence perpetrated in many of these games. As John Lennon pleaded, let us make love, not war. This opinion reinforces the argument I am making. I would like a response from the Minister regarding his attitude to this area of pornography and whether he feels the Bill might accommodate an amendment to address this very serious issue.
While the industry is self-regulatory, there are examples of labels going missing. In the case I referred to the shop renting the game genuinely was not aware the label was missing. The game my seven year old son rented was categorised for over 18s. The same is happening in the video rental market, with feature films and in other areas of video entertainment. Labelling and classification is sometimes missing, shop owners are perhaps unaware of the law and parents are unwitting allies and not always aware of what their children are watching. I would be grateful for a response to these issues from the Minister and to hear whether he thinks there are areas of the law which could be addressed. We can have all the laws we want, but in the end of the day the important thing is enforcement. The forces of law and order are stretched and cannot visit every video store or stand outside every cinema to ensure those renting, buying or paying admission to visual entertainment are entitled to do so.
Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. Fahey) Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. Fahey)
Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. Fahey): I thank Senators who have contributed to the debate. It is clear that all of us attach the utmost importance to putting in place strict tough legislative measures to deal with the problem of child sexual abuse and provide our children with the legal protection to which they are entitled.
Senators O'Donovan and Fitzgerald mentioned the discovery of the Belgian paedophile ring. This and other discoveries of most gruesome crimes committed against children in Europe prompted a harrowing awareness of the problem of child sexual exploitation. The 1996 Stockholm world congress on commercial sexual exploitation of children provided an important impetus for action in this area. The success of the congress was evident during a European regional follow-up conference held by the Council of Europe in Strasbourg last month at which the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform was represented. The conference provided an opportunity for stocktaking what had been achieved since the Stockholm congress. The main message emanating from the conference was that while much has already been done, much more needs  to be done and Governments, together with nongovernmental organisations, must continue to take concerted action at local, national and international level and intensify efforts to combat the scourge of child sexual exploitation.
The Bill is one illustration of the Government's determination to prioritise the issue of child sexual exploitation and ensure incorporation into criminal law of the specific protections which children need. The recently published discussion paper on the law on sexual offences provides a unique opportunity to further strengthen and update the law on sexual offences in general with particular emphasis on children who, because of their youth and their less developed capacity to assess risk, are far more vulnerable to potential sexual abuse. I urge the widest possible range of submissions on the discussion paper as it will play an important role in the process of updating and modernising criminal law in this area.
Another legislative measure which will have a huge impact on how the problem of child sexual exploitation is tackled at European level is the recently enacted Europol Act, 1997. The Act paved the way for Ireland's ratification of the Europol Convention in March 1998. When ratified by all member states and on entering into force, hopefully this year, it will identify and establish an EU wide sophisticated structured system of information gathering and analysis of data relating to persons suspected of having committed or considered likely to commit a crime in Europe.
Crimes within the remit of the convention, including trafficking in human beings with a view to their sexual exploitation, have one common denominator in that they have a transnational or trans-frontier element. The exchange of information and intelligence under the convention will be a vital first step in combating such crimes via strengthened police co-operation among EU member states.
Senators O'Donovan and Fitzgerald referred to the increased popularity of the Internet and the possibility of using it to disseminate pornographic material. This is a problem which cannot be effectively combated by one country acting in isolation. There must be co-ordinated action at international level. There is only so much we can do — which we are doing — at national level. The Bill is framed in such a way as to enable prosecutions in relation to the production or distribution of child pornography on the Internet. In the other House the Bill was strengthened by way of an amendment on Committee Stage to deal with the practice of exchanging information between paedophiles via the Internet. The definition of child pornography was extended to include material, written or otherwise, which indicates or implies a child is available to be used for the purpose or production of child pornography or any other form of child sexual exploitation. Furthermore, the working group on the illegal and harmful use of the Internet established by the Government last year is due to report shortly.  Sustained action is being taken at EU level to promote the safe use of the Internet through encouragement of self-regulation and the creation of an international network of hotlines dealing with content such as child pornography, application of effective filtering services and compatible rating systems. User awareness, particularly among parents, teachers and children, will continue to be promoted and the Government will fully support any developments at EU or Council of Europe level in this regard.
Senator Ridge mentioned access to child pornography, which is covered by section 5, which makes it an offence to show child pornography. Senator Ridge also referred to the pornography laws generally and while those are outside the scope of the Bill, the subject is addressed in the discussion paper on law and sexual offences published recently. As I have said, any views on this or any other aspect of the paper will be considered before proposals for new legislation on sexual offences are prepared. Senator Ridge also referred to sex chat lines. These are almost impossible to control because of constantly changing numbers and the fact that, like the Internet, the material comes from abroad. However, I was interested in the Senator's comments and I fail to understand why advertisements for these lines are not prohibited.
Mrs. Ridge Mrs. Ridge
Mrs. Ridge: They should be banned.
Mr. Fahey Mr. Fahey
Mr. Fahey: I assure the House that I will look at this area. These advertisements do no good, especially when they are in newspapers that come into every home in the country.
Senators O'Donovan, Henry and Liam Fitzgerald referred to the trafficking discovered at Rome Airport. That incident illustrates that we must be constantly on our guard to ensure that Ireland is not used as a transit point for this despicable trade. Section 3 provides a penalty of up to life imprisonment where such activity is identified in this country.
Senators Ridge and O'Donovan referred to the taking of children for sexual purposes, which is covered by section 3(2). Senator Henry said that Ireland is probably one of the last countries in Europe to legislate for child pornography. That is not necessarily the case, but we will have the most comprehensive legislation in Europe when this Bill becomes law. Senator Henry also referred to child pornography as a multimillion pound industry. While this is the case, much child pornography is made for different reasons which distinguish it from other forms of pornography.
Senator Liam Fitzgerald was concerned that the definition of child pornography covered the written word: I assure him it does. Senator Maurice Hayes referred to the age of consent for a sexual relationship as 17 years; this issue is addressed in the discussion paper on the law and sexual offences. Senator Mooney referred to video games and I agree with him that that is a very serious matter but it is outside the scope of  this Bill. Senator Mooney said that violent images are a problem with some video games and if there is a child pornography element in any such game this Bill will cover it. I will ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to look at this matter with a view to introducing proper controls.
I thank Senators for their contributions and I thank my officials and those of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform for the intensive work they have put into this excellent legislation.
Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 23 June 1998.
Sitting suspended at 2.05 p.m. and resumed at 4 p.m.
Seanad Éireann 156 Child Trafficking and Pornography Bill, 1997: Second Stage.