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Baroness Walmsley: I rise to express my general support for the amendments. They are sensible and it is absolutely vital that the law keeps up with new technology. If the provisions place a small extra burden on those with Internet businesses, I really do not care, as long as the law protects children. Given the technology now available, every effort should be made to keep such material away from young people.
I agree absolutely with Amendment No. 59. As the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, pointed out, cartoons can be just as distressing and damaging as studio photographs. I hope that the Minister will feel able to accept the amendments.
Baroness Blatch: I, too, rise to support the amendments. They go a long way towards protecting children from what might be called 21st century technology. I shall pick up on a point made by my noble friend: the subtlety with which some people operate is astonishing. We know that they are some of the most manipulative people in the world. They are extremely clever and will resort to new techniques to bring awful material before children.
I wish to make a further point, one which I make given my experience of serving on the Government Front Bench. When departments produce a Bill and lay it before Parliament, they are loath to see it tampered with in any way whatever. They will go to enormous lengths not to accept amendments. However, I think that the amendments before the Committee are unarguable. While it is possible for the Minister to say that, while he agrees with them, the wording is not right in every sense and so government amendments will be brought forward to make them technically correct, there is no argument for rejecting them. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will fight the corner in his department to ensure that this change is made. Indeed, I think that it would also be welcomed in another place.
One matter that does not divide Members of any party in either House is the belief that we should do everything we can to protect children, without being overly burdensome or bureaucratic. These amendments go a long way to achieving that.
Lord Skelmersdale: I certainly go along with all that has been said. However, this clause does not cover only the Internet and access through that medium to these particularly pernicious pictures and pseudo-picturesor whatever they are called nowadaysbut also material left lying around at home, in an uncle's home or in the home of the babysitter. I should like to ask the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, whether the term "other visual depiction" includes videos and compact discs. If it does not, it jolly well should do.
As drafted, the offence covers any situation where an adult intentionally, for his own sexual gratification, causes a child to watch a third person engage in a sexual act, whether that act is live or recorded and whether that recorded act is a still or moving image. Since the provision refers to pseudo-photographs, it also covers the situation where the adult causes the child to look at pornographic material which does not involve a real person.
Amendment No. 55, proposed by my noble friend Lady Thornton, would make it an offence for someone to cause a child to watch a sexual act "for gain". The purpose of the provision as presently drafted is to criminalise the actions of anyone who makes a child watch a sexual act because doing so gives him, the defendant, sexual pleasure. This is deviant behaviour of a personal and intimate kind that merits being treated as a sexual crime and in relation to which it is right that the perpetrator should be regarded as a sex offender.
The "for gain" element, which I assume the noble Baroness suggests is an alternative motivation, would suggest that we should criminalise, for example, the film company that uses an image of a naked couple in a sexual embrace in order to advertise the film and to encourage people to pay to see it, or even the publication of a newspaper that includes photographs of models in various stages of undress. Plainly that would be going too far.
Equally the amendment would cover a teacher who is paid to deliver sex education and who distributes perfectly appropriate illustrated material or shows videos as a part of the lessons that he is providing.
Baroness Thornton: I thank my noble and learned friend for allowing me to intervene. The point of the amendment is that if someone uses as a defence the fact that they were being paid or doing this for gain, at the moment it appears that that will not be covered by the Bill.
If the acts were committed for sexual gratification, possibly and probably they would be caught by the legislation, but what if a defendant says, "Well, actually I wasn't doing it for sexual gratification. I was being paid to do it"?
Baroness Blatch: Perhaps I, too, may intervene at this point. Where teachers are doing the decent thing by children, of course they will not be caught by the amendment. Furthermore, I do not believe that that is what the noble Baroness intends in her proposal. However, under an amendment tabled by the noble and learned Lord that we shall discuss later in our proceedings, a whole raft of people are to be given immunity from prosecution simply because they will be able to claim that they did something for educational reasons. It is possible that some people will take advantage of that.
I have on file for the purposes of our discussions on this Bill some horrendous material, including videos, to which children have been exposed for so-called educational purposes. People who do that cannot be allowed to claim immunity from prosecution simply because they say in defence that what they were doing was only for educational reasons.
Baroness Thornton: It is quite possible that the wording may not be correct. Perhaps the Minister has another form of words to express the matter. However, as it stands I do not think that the Bill covers all eventualities; that is, it does not cover all the reasons why people may depict sexual acts to children.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I think that there may be a fundamental point here. What both noble Baronesses are proposing is that, while we all agree that the motive of sexual gratification is covered, we should also cover circumstances where it is done only for money. Thus, when a person sells a magazine or a film which depicts a sexual act in order to make money, and to some extent the material could be targeted at children, that would become a crime. Is that what is intended? If that is the case, I respectfully submit that that would be going much too far. Some limit needs to be put on what the words "for gain" are intended to cover.
I am not remotely unsympathetic to the point, but if my noble friend has in mind some form of limitation, I invite her to help us to identify how to define it precisely. I say that because I do not think that the House would thank the Committee if we sought to make the Radio Times or a perfectly legitimate children's magazine depicting a sexual act guilty of doing something criminal.
Baroness Walmsley: In supporting the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, perhaps I may call the noble and learned Lord's attention to line 38 on page 5. It refers to a person committing an offence if, for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification,
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Let me deal with that important point. A film specifically aimed at and sold to children could contain the depiction of people kissing. We certainly do not want to criminalise that, but that appears to be the consequence of including the words "or for gain". Can the noble Baroness give me an example of what she wants? That is really what I am after.
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