A range of penalties – prison sentences, alternative sanctions, fines, etc. – can be imposed on offenders.
In the past the authorities were more concerned with punishing the perpetrators of crime. In recent years, government policy has shifted towards improving the position of victims as well as punishing offenders. Victims now receive more information about criminal proceedings and receive more help in coming to terms with their experiences. Compensation is also better regulated.
The production, distribution, exhibition, importation, forwarding, exportation and possession of child pornography are criminal offences in the Netherlands. Dutch nationals and people with a fixed address in the Netherlands who engage in the sexual abuse or exploitation of children abroad can be prosecuted in the Netherlands.
National and European child pornography policy
The Netherlands conducts policy to combat child pornography at both national and European level. The Ministry of Security and Justice is drafting laws to make sexual abuse and exploitation criminal offences. Some of these laws are based on European conventions.
Prohibition on access to child pornography
The Netherlands has laws against the possession, distribution and production of child pornography (article 240b of the Criminal Code). Since 1 January 2010 ‘providing access to child pornography’ has also been prohibited in the Netherlands. It does not matter whether the viewer possesses the child pornography. Anyone providing internet access to child pornography, even without the viewer having to download it, faces a prison sentence of up to four years.
As well as the prohibition on providing access to child pornography, ratification of the Lanzarote Convention (a Council of Europe convention on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse) led to two further changes in the Criminal Code as of 1 January 2010.
- The criminal justice authorities have had more power to combat grooming. An adult who approaches minors online in order to sexually abuse them risks a prison sentence of up to two years. If a ‘groomer’ proposes to meet a child and makes preparations to do so, the criminal justice authorities can prosecute that person. It does not matter in terms of criminal liability whether internet contact between the perpetrator and the child led to physical contact or sexual activities by and/or with the child or not.
- It is an offence to deliberately make a child view sexual abuse or sexual activity for sexual purposes. It does not matter whether the child actively participates in the sexual activity that he or she witnesses. The penalty is a custodial sentence of up to two years.
Improved cooperation between the parties
The criminal justice authorities take producers, distributors and downloaders of chid pornography to court. If they cannot, they do all they can to obstruct access to images of child pornography.
They can do so in two ways:
Notice and TakedownNotice and Takedown (NTD) is a procedure to remove illegal or undesirable content, such as child pornography, from the internet. At the request of a third party, providers of a public internet service in the Netherlands, such as Internet Service Providers (ISPs), remove content from the internet. The content is removed voluntarily or on the order of the public prosecutor.
Filtering and blockingFiltering and blocking child pornography on the internet and in other media is another issue being addressed by the criminal justice authorities. In collaboration with the ISPs, the government has established an ‘internet child pornography filtering platform’. It comprises representatives of the private sector and civil society organisations. Furthermore, the Child Pornography Reporting Office keeps a blacklist of child pornography websites. In the future, the ISPs participating in the platform will use the list to block access to the websites. At present, there are still a number of technical complications but the list is expected to be in use later this year.
European Financial Coalition (EFC) and cooperation with the Dutch Banking Association
The criminal justice authorities will work with financial institutions to stop people buying and selling child pornography. The Netherlands helped establish the European Financial Coalition against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (EFC), which was formally launched in 2009. It brings together major stakeholders (including the police and ISPs) to disrupt the trade in child abuse images and eventually confiscate the proceeds of such crime.
The criminal justice authorities are also holding talks with the Dutch Banking Association (NVB) to exchange information on payment flows and the techniques used to provide services on or via the internet. Priority is being given to child pornography. The NVB is willing to help combat the distribution of child pornography on the internet.
Tougher measures against human trafficking and child abusers
The European Union (EU) wants to make it compulsory for member states to take tougher measures against human traffickers and child abusers. It also wants to make compulsory optional measures, such as those proposed in the Lanzarote Convention.
To this end, the EU is preparing a directive to protect children against sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and child pornography. The directive must also ensure that European regulations on child pornography implement the Lanzarote Convention wherever possible. The directive will replace current EU legislation.