John Reid moves to close child sex abuse loophole

Home secretary John Reid yesterday proposed closing a loophole that currently allows people to possess images of child sex abuse so long as they do not resemble photographs.

He called for a new offence to be created banning the possession of computer-generated images, drawings, cartoons or animations of child sex abuse, with a maximum penalty of three years in jail and an unlimited fine.

Currently, only photographs depicting abuse or other images made to resemble photographs are illegal, despite technology existing to manipulate photographs of actual abuse to look like drawings or cartoons, thus making them legal.

The government, which will be consulting on the proposal until 22 June, said evidence indicated possession of such images was on the increase, but police had no power to confiscate or remove them. It said they reinforced abusers’ sexual feelings towards children and could also be used to groom children for abuse.

John Reid said: “Rapid technological advancements in the post decade have brought may benefits, but also threats. The ease with which images can be circulated or altered brings fresh challenges in combating the availability of child sex abuse images.”

The penalty would make the proposed offence a lesser crime than the possession of a photograph depicting child sex abuse, which carries a maximum jail term of five years.

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