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Lord Bassam of Brighton: On this occasion I admit to being slightly confused by the general drift of the argument of the noble Baroness. In Amendment No. 101 she talks about youth justice services and there is a reference in her other list to the Youth Justice Board and a member of a local board. We believe that we have covered most of the instances in which someone working in a local authority will come into close contact with young people. We need to keep such matters under review continually. I am grateful for the way in which the noble Baroness raised the issue. We have had a constructive discussion. I am happy to reflect on the amendments. At this stage I do not promise to bring forward changes, but we shall have to revisit this subject in due course in judging the effectiveness of the legislation.

Returning to the sub-committee point, at some point in the future we may have to consider what it covers and whether it relates to the old chair of social services or to the new member of a local cabinet in local government. Those matters are also important as part of the changing pattern of local government service provision and the way in which people operate as politicians. I suspect that all these matters will come up for future consideration. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for raising these issues. Perhaps we are

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heading in a direction where, in the future, we may have a degree of consensus. I trust that she is happy to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Blatch: I shall withdraw the amendment. I am sorry about the confusion. In relation to the reference in the amendment to,


    "youth justice services as defined in section 38(4)",

my understanding is that the Youth Justice Board was set up under that Act. That is why the reference is there and why the board is mentioned. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 102 and 103 not moved.]

Clause 34 agreed to.

Clauses 35 and 36 agreed to.

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 104:


    After Clause 36, insert the following new clause--

INDECENT PHOTOGRAPHS OF CHILDREN: INCREASE OF MAXIMUM PENALTIES

(" .--(1) In section 6(2) of the Protection of Children Act 1978 (punishments), for "three" there is substituted "ten".
(2) In Article 3(4)(a) of the Protection of Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 (indecent photographs of children), for "three" there is substituted "ten".
(3) In section 160 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (summary offence of possession of indecent photograph of child)--
(a) after subsection (2) there is inserted--
"(2A) A person shall be liable on conviction on indictment of an offence under this section to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or a fine, or both."
(b) for the sidenote there is substituted "Possession of indecent photograph of child".
(4) In Article 15 of the Criminal Justice (Evidence, etc.) (Northern Ireland) Order 1988 (summary offence of possession of indecent photograph of child)--
(a) after paragraph (2) there is inserted--
"(2A) A person shall be liable on conviction on indictment of an offence under paragraph (1) to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or a fine, or both."
(b) for the heading there is substituted "Possession of indecent photograph of child".").

The noble Lord said: In moving government Amendment No. 104 I shall also speak to Amendment No. 105 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch.

This new clause and the amendment of the noble Baroness deal with the same issue and in dealing with the one I shall necessarily deal with the other. However, I hope to demonstrate that, on this occasion, our amendment is superior for two reasons and to persuade the noble Baroness not to move her amendment.

This was an area discussed at length in another place following amendments tabled by honourable Members. As the Government made clear at that time, we were grateful that the issue of penalties for child pornography offences was raised by honourable Members. That was an area that we had been considering and we were pleased to be able to agree to bring before this Committee the amendments tabled

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for discussion today. Of course, the issue of child pornography, even the offence of possession on its own, is a serious one.

Both the government and opposition amendments will increase the maximum sentence under the Protection of Children Act 1978 for the offences of taking, making, distributing, showing and possessing, with a view to distribution, indecent photographs of children under 16 on conviction on indictment from three years imprisonment, or a fine or both, to a term not exceeding 10 years, or a fine or both.

In addition, our amendment also makes the simple possession of indecent images of children under 16 an either way offence and increases the maximum penalty available under Section 160 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 from a maximum of six months imprisonment, or a fine or both, to a term not exceeding five years imprisonment, or a fine or both.

Amendments Nos. 104 and 105 demonstrate that all noble Lords fully share public abhorrence of such crimes. We need to ensure that the maximum penalties available for this type of offence reflect the seriousness with which society regards them. We agree that child pornography is not to be tolerated in any form and regard offences relating to the production and distribution of such material as very serious indeed. No one in this House will forget that pictures of child pornography are, in effect, pictures of child abuse.

We understand that misuse of the Internet has unfortunately led to an increase in the number of offences committed under the Protection of Children Act 1978. We are all aware that public concern about the circulation of this material has grown. While the sexual offences review did not look at pornography offences in themselves, we believe that there is a clear read-across to the offences under the Protection of Children Act 1978. In light of our concern that the law delivers protection for children and of the work of the review which has the protection of children as a central aim, as well as our wider concerns over the increased incidence of child pornography offences, we feel that the time is now right--we hope we have a consensus for this--to enhance the maximum penalties for these offences.

I said that we felt that our amendment had two advantages. The first is that it refers to the other offence--that of simple possession of indecent images--and deals with the rising and maximum sentence for that offence. The second is that the new clause will apply to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In due course I shall move an amendment to Clause 72 to ensure that that is achieved. Colleagues in Scotland will of course consider the implications for their own legislation. As presently drafted Amendment No. 105 would not go as far as bringing Northern Ireland into the ambit of this offence. I therefore invite the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, not to move Amendment No. 105. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch: I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation. I have admitted my weakness before in understanding legalese and it was helpful to have

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that explanation. Certainly on the face of it I accept the Government's amendment. It was in good faith promised in another place and it is here, and it does appear to go further than my amendment. However, I should like to reflect on the relative merits of the amendments between now and the next stage.

The noble Lord, Lord Bach, from his experience in court and the experience of his colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, in the Home Office, will know the sheer corrupting and degrading effects of taking, making or distributing child pornography, not to mention, as the noble Lord said, the horrific consequences for children who are physically abused for the purpose. For every pornographic picture involving children there is a child abused. That is a point worth bearing in mind when this amendment is being considered.

I am grateful for what the noble Lord said. On the face of it I accept that Amendment No. 104 is a better amendment than mine. My other point relates to something said by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne; that is, the thorny issue still arises of a definition of pornography and pornographic pictures. It will be important to resolve that before the next stage of the Bill.

Lord Northbourne: This gives me the opportunity of raising once again the question of what is meant by indecent photographs, which got rather lost in the toing and froing over Amendment No. 82.

I have had the opportunity to look at Schedule 4 and also to visit in the Library the guidelines to which the Minister referred. Neither has any definition of indecent photographs. The noble Lord, in moving Amendment No. 104, referred repeatedly to child pornography. Is he saying that an indecent photograph is the same as child pornography? I am not clear. I remember when the police put on a show of pornography and associated issues by Westminster Hall. There were pictures not of children being sexually abused, but simply pictures of naked children.

We have to be extremely careful that we get this right. In the first place we would make ourselves look absurd and discredit the cause of trying to defeat child pornography if we did not; secondly, it is wrong to give children or anyone else the idea that nakedness in itself is an evil.


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