Customs Act changes aimed at digital porn

Proposed changes to the Customs and Excise Act should allow for the prosecution of importers of 'objectionable material' even if the material is introduced in a digital form.

Proposed changes to the Customs and Excise Act should allow for the prosecution of importers of "objectionable material" even if the material is introduced in a digital form.

“Currently if we seize such material at the border we would then obtain a search warrant to search the person’s house for evidence that they were the importer,” says Customs' manager of objectionable material, Phil Chitty.

Officers have been able to seize a suspect’s PC to look for evidence of the purchase of objectionable material and discover downloaded pictures on the hard drive. But because of the wording of the act, the officers are unable to prosecute for any material found on the drive.

“The changes to the law are very simple — we would add the words 'and publications' to one section of the act, allowing us to include this electronic material,” says Chitty.

The department recently successfully prosecuted a Hamilton man for importing an “obscene pornographic video” but could do nothing about the objectionable material found on his hard drive. Passing the information on to the police to prosecute under another act is also not possible because of the way search warrants are issued.

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