By FRANCESCA MOLD political reporter


The Government will give judges the power to send child pornographers to jail for up to 10 years.

The new penalties, to be added to the Crimes Act, will dramatically increase penalties for involvement with child pornography.

The present maximum penalty for producing, copying or trading child pornography is one year in jail.

That will be be increased to 10 years, and the penalty for possessing it will be boosted from a maximum $2000 fine and community service to two years in prison.

Justice Minister Phil Goff said existing penalties were far too weak.

He cited the case of Paeroa man, Martin Nelson Silby, sentenced in January to 200 hours of community service for advertising and trading child pornography.

Silby's computer held 679 pornographic images of children, including pictures of 4-year-old girls being sexually abused by men, and young children being forced into sexual acts with other children.

"There is no one in New Zealand who can believe that sentence reflects the gravity of that offending," Mr Goff said yesterday.

The proposed law changes included extending the definition of "supplying" child porn to include motivations other than financial.

"It really doesn't matter whether it is for financial gain or prurient reasons. The same penalty should apply," Mr Goff said.

Making child pornography offences indictable would allow police to get warrants to search properties if someone was suspected of the lesser crime of possessing material. This would increase apprehension rates.

Mr Goff said a radical change to penalties was needed because technological advances had made it "frighteningly easy" for sexual images of children to be traded anonymously and cheaply around the world.

"There was a time in New Zealand when to get child pornography you would have to dress up in a gabardine raincoat, go down to a select number of sex stores and risk the exposure of your identity to get it," he said.

"Nowdays, it is readily accessible on the internet."

Campaign group Ecpat (End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking) is pleased with the Government's move but says the impact of the proposed law changes will depend on how seriously courts view the crimes.

"Some judges have grasped the fact that child pornography is about sexual crimes against children," said Ecpat spokeswoman Denise Ritchie.

"Other judges appear to treat it as a purely censorship issue."

National Party justice spokesman Richard Worth said it should be made an offence for paedophiles to "groom" children for sexual abuse through internet chat rooms, the telephone and text messaging.

Also yesterday, a Parliamentary select committee reported on its inquiry into the Films, Videos and Publications Classifications Act 1993.

Mr Goff said decisions on changes recommended by the committee would be included in the paper on child pornography penalties he would take to the Cabinet in July.

Legislation was expected to be introduced by the end of the year.

The committee's recommendations included changing the definition of "objectionable" material to focus on whether it is injurious to the public good, rather than the explicit nature of it.

Publications should be submitted to the Office of Film and Literature Classification without the need to seek the leave of the chief censor.

The censor should be given the power to "call in" publications, search and seizure powers should be broadened to make warrants available if someone is suspected of possessing objectionable material, and a code of practice should be developed for internet service providers.

It also recommended film trailers should be rated no higher than the feature film being shown.

THE PENALTIES

Old penalties

*One year in jail for producing, copying or trading child pornography
*$2000 fine and community service for possession

New penalties

*10 years in jail for producing, copying or trading

*Two years for possession