Blind man faces prosecution for listening to child porn

The case, which has legal experts scouring the statute books, could set a worldwide precedent in Internet law

A blind South African man may be the first person in the world to be prosecuted for accessing child pornography on the Internet without looking at it.

Legal experts are scouring the statute books to determine where South African law stands on listening to children being sexually abused. The blind suspect could be the first person in the world to receive a prison sentence for downloading sound files of children being tortured over the Internet.

A police superintendent in KwaZulu-Natal has contacted the country's Film and Publication Board to determine whether it is illegal to specifically listen to child pornography. Iyavar Chetty, senior executive and legal counsel for the board has said that the Film and Publications Act carries a sentence of five years for the use of child porn.

British legislation has historically treated child pornography as an image-based crime. The Protection of Children Act 1978 initially made it illegal to produce photos of children being sexually abused, whilst the Criminal Justice and Public Order Amendments in 1994 expanded this definition to deal with pseudo images of child pornography, as well as electronic data that can be reconstructed back into an indecent images.

Inspector Terry Jones at Greater Manchester's Obscene Publications Unit said that in order to convict a blind man in Britain for possessing child pornography, the prosecution would need to prove that the suspect was knowingly downloading indecent images. "The onus would be on law enforcement to prove that the suspect knew what he was doing," he concluded.

An Internet taskforce is currently investigating the issue of child protection online. It is also considering a paedophile protection order proposed by the former Home Secretary Jack Straw, intended to criminalise the online solicitation of children in Internet chatrooms.

See also: ZDNet UK's Net Crime News Section.

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