News of April Jones’ murderer, Mark Bridger’s life sentence and emerging details on the case have sparked conversation this morning about the need to prevent access to the kinds of images Bridger viewed in the run-up to and directly before assaulting and murdering Jones; images believed now to have been the cause for Bridger’s violent and devastating acts. Bridger viewed child porn and had folders on his computer full of images of children being sexually assaulted and raped, as well as having viewed material depicting the murder and beheading of children.
I have been interviewed a couple of times this morning about the ‘danger of pornography’ – but if you’ve spent time on this blog, you’re well-versed in this already. As a reminder, because pornography is both strongly addictive and progressively desensitising, I believe it can lead to harmful behaviour. You can read last year’s series on pornography here.
In his comments on the case, Phil Noyes, chief executive of the NSPCC, has also highlighted the link between child & ‘extreme’ porn and committing serious sexual assaults.
On the basis that the viewing of such material can lead to criminal behaviour, the conversation has turned to looking at ways in which it could be made harder to access violent images.
5 points to consider as we go forward (and there are more: what are your thoughts?):
1. Certain buzz words and search terms must be blocked. John Carr, from the Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety, says that it must simply be made harder to find an image of a child being sexually assaulted online.
2. A ‘panic button’ on pornographic websites would be useful to viewers of ‘adult porn’ who came across illicit content: this would allow them anonymously play a part in combatting child porn. The Internet Watch Foundation already encourages this and demonstrated the effectiveness of the approach in Darren Leggett’s case.
3. More resource must be spent on banning websites internally: ISPs need to pay staff to ‘surf’ and take down websites in a more vigorous and regular manner.
4. Until this issue has been properly handled, more monitoring must be done by governmental agencies as well as employers in each sector. A reporter suggested to me this morning that seizing and checking computers of random or targeted individuals might be a solution. This is perhaps unnecessary, were we to utilize the tools we already have. Indeed, according to Jim Sheridan from the Commons Culture Committee, we have the “political will and technology”, and “if you can do it, we should be doing it.”
5. The making and viewing of child porn must be known to be both illegal AND a real risk to those partaking in these crimes. Law enforcement must become stronger in this sphere. Just this week, End Violence Against Women expressed concern with regards to a legal loophole that allows some simulated images of porn, and called for a ‘tidying-up’ of the legislation surrounding pornography.
Bridger is the second person in the UK this month to have been jailed for assault and murder following an engagement in child and violent pornography. There is no doubt that we must act, with wisdom and with rapidity. Will we?