§ Mr. Ronnie Campbell
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what measures are being taken to prevent the production and distribution of child pornography in Britain; and if he will make a statement;
(2) what measures are being taken to prevent the flow of child pornography into Northumbria;
(3) what representations he has received on the issue of child pornography in recent months.
§ Mr. Jack
The Government take the problem of child pornography extremely seriously, not least because we recognise that the production of such material often involves the commission of sexual offences against children. The criminal law already contains stringent provisions directed against those who seek to profit from this abhorrent trade. Thus, it is a criminal offence under the Protection of Children Act 1978 to take, distribute, show, advertise or possess with a view to distribution any indecent photograph, film or video recording of a child under the age of 16. The maximum penalty on conviction on indictment of these offences is a prison sentence of three years, an unlimited fine, or both.
In the Criminal Justice Act 1988, the law was further strengthened by the introduction of a new offence of possessing child pornography. For this offence, the maximum penalty on summary conviction is a level 5 fine—currently £5,000. The criminal law also contains severe penalties for those convicted of the sexual abuse of children, including life imprisonment for those convicted of rape or buggery.
The deployment of police resources in Northumbria against child pornography or any other unlawful activity is an operational matter for the chief constable, in the light of his assessment of the needs of his area. At present, however, we have no reason to believe that child pornography is a greater problem in Northumbria than elsewhere in the United Kingdom.
As I indicated in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Dr. Spink) on 5 February, Official Report, column 350, we are currently considering what improvements can be made in the enforcement of obscenity legislation. We have received a number of representations on this subject, including some which have been specifically concerned with child pornography, and we will announce our conclusions in due course.