Select committee told a different story on porn conviction rate

It appears the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) misinformed the Government Administration Select Committee in its inquiry into the operation of the censorship legislation.

It appears the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) misinformed the Government Administration Select Committee in its inquiry into the operation of the censorship legislation.

The DIA acknowledged to Computerworld, in a reply to an Official Information Act request, that in some cases “insufficient evidence” had been collected to launch a prosecution. Although the inspector suspected the user of trading in objectionable material, the inspector was unable to induce him/her to send the inspector an offending file.

This category is absent from the department’s reply to the committee.

Asked in October last year by the committee: “why have 440 people been detected trading in objectionable material but only 100 of them prosecuted?” the department replied that:

  • some offenders have had charges laid and are awaiting trial,
  • some have been detected and are awaiting investigation,
  • some less serious offenders are issued with warnings [because of their youth or] the ‘small number of objectionable images they possess’,
  • some young offfenders [have been dealt with by other agencies including the Youth Court, Youth Aid or police diversion],
  • in some cases inspectors are unable to determine who has committed the offence when many people have access to a single computer,
  • internet service providers are sometimes unable to provide name and address details for offenders because their records are poor or because they keep no records, and
  • a very small number of offenders have fled overseas or committed suicide rather than face prosecution.
The reply of the general manager of the division, Keith Manch, to Computerworld’s OIA request, on October 30 added that “some investigations result in insufficient evidence to identify an offender, obtain a search warrant or lay charges”. The explanations relating to multiple access to the same computer and inability to provide an address are separately listed, so clearly do not form part of the "insufficient evidence" section.

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