Anyone guilty of child abuse or who watches child pornography online could face from 1 to 10 years behind bars, according to proposals adopted by the Civil Liberties Committee Tuesday. The rules would also require that any child pornography on the web is removed at source in all EU countries. If the pages are hosted outside the EU, countries could block access, in line with national laws.
The proposals set minimum penalties for around 20 criminal offences of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and child pornography. MEPs fought for tougher penalties especially in cases where the offender is someone in a position of trust, like a family member or teacher.
This is "an innovative legislative instrument and represents a step forward for the protection of our children", said Roberta Angelilli, the Italian EPP member who is steering the legislation through Parliament. "It will be at the disposal of the competent authorities and NGOs, so that there is zero tolerance against all crimes against children."
New measures to fight child pornography on Internet
The legislation calls for all web pages containing child pornography to be removed at source, meaning member states should cooperate with third countries to ensure the removal of pages hosted outside the EU. Blocking would be considered an option only if these countries refuse to cooperate.
Minimum penalties have been set for the production and possession of child pornography and for those knowingly viewing this material online.
In addition, new offences have been added including: "sex tourism" - travelling abroad to abuse children - and grooming -befriending children through the internet with the intention of sexually abusing them.
Sex offenders will also face stricter rules after they have served their sentences. They may be permanently restricted from involvement in professional activities that require contact with children, employers would be able to request information about convictions for sexual offences against children and member states could list those convicted on a sex offender register.
The rules are set to be voted in plenary in September and should be approved by ministers soon after that. Once adopted, the directive will replace current EU legislation dating from 2004. Member states will have two years to transpose the new rules into national law.