Should it really be a crime to look at child pornography?

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Could I have told the police [if he watched child porn], and later the courts, that my motives were in the glorious traditions of Woodward and Bernstein, James Cameron and Donal MacIntyre - ie, serious campaigning investigative journalism? Would they have scoured the bedroom floor for incriminating evidence to disprove my plea of mitigation? And why, exactly, is it a plea of mitigation in the first place? Why is it any less exploitative of the unfortunate children concerned for me to download pictures of them and write about it, in a harrumphing fashion, for this newspaper? Does it hurt them any more or any less than if I had simply downloaded the pictures for my own gratification?

I would be, in my own fashion, gaining from the experience and - worse, you might argue - gaining remuneratively. And what about the police? They would have to look at the pictures, too. And the court officials and maybe the members of the jury, all united in their unbridled repulsion. What if, secretly, one of them, poring over the evidence and sweating slightly, rather enjoyed it? Does that matter, as far as the law, or society, is concerned?

The law prohibits, in theory, even an accidental visit to a child-porn website. But we are told that prosecution would be unlikely to occur if it could be proved that the visit was, indeed, accidental. How do you prove that? No, really, officer, it was all a ghastly mistake. Will that wash? [...]

How much police time is tied up in Operation Ore, the police investigation which has so far uncovered the names of 7,000 people who have visited child-porn websites? And how many children will be protected from abuse as a result of the prosecutions? No matter how vile we may consider the sexual predilections of paedophiles, we should not be in the business of putting people in prison for simply looking at things.

source: Article 'Should it really be a crime to look at child pornography?' by Rod Liddle;; The Guardian; 14 January 2003