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Child porn must remain taboo

The true nature of Sharpe's "sketches" and "diary entries."


If you haven't heard about the case, here is a quick overview.  Robin Sharpe, of Vancouver, B.C., Canada, was convicted for possession of child porn.  He appealed the conviction in the B.C. Supreme Court and won (see transcript).  Another appeal was launched in the Supreme Court of Canada.  While the appeal was being heard, a year and more after the original conviction many cases of possession of child pornography were in limbo.

The appeal in the Supreme Court of Canada has since been heard — see summary in the CBC article The Supreme Court and child porn: Saving children or thought control?, by Martin O'Malley & Owen Wood, CBC News Online, January 2001, updated May 2002. The article contains a link to excerpts from the Supreme Court decision.

The Supreme Court of Canada then sent the Sharpe case back to the British Columbia Supreme Court for retrial in January 2002.

In March 2002, the [British Columbia Supreme ]Court found Sharpe not guilty of possessing written child pornography. He was found guilty on two counts of possessing pornographic pictures of children and later sentenced to four months of house arrest.

Justice Duncan Shaw [of the British Columbia Supreme Court] found Sharpe's stories did not advocate committing a sexual crime and had artistic merit, "irrespective of whether the work is considered pornographic."

I must warn you.  You'll not want the following article to get into the hands of your children, yet there's no way you can avoid shouldering the responsibility of somehow making your children aware of what may be in store for them if they fall prey to what is being described in it.

What is shown below is the full text of the article.  Sorry, I can't give you an Internet address for this article.  There isn't one.

Nevertheless, you judge for yourself the extent of the "artistic merits" that the top judicial brains in Canada saw in the material found in Robin Sharpe's possession.

--Walter H. Schneider  

Edmonton Journal, Sunday January 30, 2000, page A10

Child porn must remain taboo

Nothing progressive about equating abuse with freedom of speech

By Lorne Gunter

"A person should be allowed to possess anything, even if it's images of an eight-year-old being raped and cut up."

Those are the words of Robin Sharpe, the 66-year-old man whose claim of a constitutional right to possess kiddy porn was heard by the Supreme Court of Canada last week.  He spoke them last September 30 at a forum on freedom of speech held in Vancouver.

It's been a year since a B.C. judge first granted Sharpe the right to collect graphic pictures, drawings and stories of young boys engaging in sex and being tortured.  During that time, a number of commentators have taken Sharpe's side.  Those commentators have all claimed to be outraged by Sharpe's material.  No, no, they reassure, they are not endorsing the sexual abuse of children.  It's just that Canada's law against child pornography is over-broad.

They argue it amounts to the prosecution of "thought crime."  And none of us want the police to control what goes on in our heads, do we?

Donna Laframboise, a director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, assured readers of the National Post that "Mr. Sharpe has not been charged with molesting actual children.  Rather, he has been charged with being in possession of sexually oriented material involving persons under the age of 18.  If no real children were harmed by its production why should it be illegal?"

Jonathan Kay, a member of the Post's editorial board, trivialized the material in Sharpe's possession, perhaps to convince his readers the law is worse than the crime.  "A law that threatens to put a citizen in jail for sketches and fantasies that he writes in his own diary seems odd."  That's all. Nothing but a couple of pen-and-ink drawings and a few naughty bits in a private journal.  We may be repulsed by their content, but where's the crime?

Laframboise had made a similar point.  "Although it's perfectly legal for a 16-year-old girl to have sex with her 17-year-old boyfriend, if that girl sketches the two them in a sexual embrace, our law says she has just manufactured child pornography."

Unfortunately for Laframboise, citing the ludicrous extreme in the Sharpe case cannot justify the CCLA's defence of this detestable man or the material he collects.  Nor, in Kay's case, can pretending Sharpe's material is no more abhorrent than a collection of anatomically correct Beanie Babies change its true nature.

The material seized from Sharpe's home is far more than mere sketches and diaries.  I describe them here to give readers a sense of their truly evil nature, as well as a measure of the man at the centre of this controversy.

The stories fill several binders.  All are violent, describing children (all boys, except for a single girl in one story) being tortured in horrific and extreme ways.  Most depict the children deriving sexual pleasure from their abuse.  Almost none involve boys over 14. Some describe the sodomizing and beating of little boys of six.

On top of this, Sharpe had in his possession thousands of, not only drawings, but also pictures of naked, prepubescent boys.  There are close-ups of their erect genitals and of their bound genitals.  Boys as young as six or seven appear in some.  Others are of boys of about 12 to 14 fellating one another.  Many were taken in Sharpe's home, allegedly by Sharpe himself.

Perhaps, as Laframboise asserts, "no real children were harmed" during Sharpe's production of thousands of pages of what Kay calls "fantasies that he writes in his own diary."  But what about the photos?

I do not much care what consenting adults do in private with other consenting adults.  If you want to possess and distribute pornographic images and stories involving straight or gay sado-masochism, rape or group sex, provided all the participants are willing and able to give informed consent, I will defend your right to do so against the state.

Your actions may be a sin, but that is a matter between you and God, not between you and the minister of justice.  Provided you keep your actions private, I would oppose a law that forbade you doing as you choose.

But children?  Have our minds become so polluted, our moral compasses so bent we can no longer draw a clear, firm line between kiddy porn and freedom of expression?

Taking dirty pictures of children in and of itself constitutes abuse since children are incapable of understanding the consequences of such actions and thus incapable of giving consent.  If Sharpe took such pictures, he harmed real children, whether he intended to distribute the photos or "merely" use them for his own sick amusement.

The current law as it applies to 16- and 17-years-old is over-broad, and should be changed, but in Parliament, not the courts.

However, when if comes to deriving sexual gratification from the abuse of children, have we become so "progressive" we cannot see the need to maintain this taboo fully in law?
_____________________________
Edmonton Journal

The contents of this article may be used only for personal, non-commercial purposes. To make any use of this material you must first obtain the permission of the owner of the copyright.  For further information contact the Reader Response Line, (780) 429-5225

JOURNALEXTRA — Added information on the top stories of the day

 

From the B.C. Supreme Court hearing transcript in

R. v. Sharpe
Between Her Majesty the Queen, and John Robin Sharpe

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

3. There are four charges against Mr. Sharpe.

Count 1

He, on or about the 10th day of April, 1995, at or near Surrey, in the Province of British Columbia did have in his possession for the purpose of distribution or sale, child pornography: computer discs containing a text entitled [sic] Sam Paloc's Flogging, Fun and Fortitude - A Collection of Kiddiekink Classics, contrary to Section 163.1(3) of the Criminal Code.

Count 2

He, on or about the 10th day of April, 1995, at or near Surrey, in the Province of British Columbia did have in his possession child pornography: computer discs containing a text entitled [sic] Sam Paloc's Flogging, Fun and Fortitude — A Collection of Kiddiekink Classics, other writings and photographs, contrary to Section 163.1(4) of the Criminal Code.

Count 3

He, on or about the 13th day of May, 1996, at or near the City of Vancouver, in the Province of British Columbia did have in his possession, for the purpose of distribute or sale, child pornography: books, manuscripts and stories, contrary to Section 163.1(3) of the Criminal Code.

Count 4

He, on or about the 13th day of May, 1996, at or near the City of Vancouver, in the Province of British Columbia did have in his possession child pornography: books, manuscripts, stories and photographs, contrary to Section 163.1(4) of the Criminal Code.4    The evidence indicates that there were two seizures of materials from Mr. Sharpe. The first was by Canada Customs. That seizure was of computer discs containing a text entitled [sic] "Sam Paloc's Flogging, Fun and Fortitude, A Collection of Kiddie Kink Classics." As a result of that seizure Mr. Sharpe was charged with Counts 1 and 2. The second seizure was at Mr. Sharpe's home pursuant to a search warrant (the validity of which will be contested at a later point in this trial). That seizure was of a collection of books, manuscripts, stories and photographs said by the Crown to constitute child pornography. Many of the seized photographs are of nude boys displaying their genitals or anal regions.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

13. Dr. Collins offered several reasons why, in his view, child pornography is harmful to children. The first is that some pedophiles show children sexually explicit depictions of children with adults, or adults with other adults, in order to lower inhibitions and to make the depicted conduct appear to be normal. The second is that pornography excites some child molesters to commit offences. The third is that child pornography augments or reinforces the "cognitive distortions" of pedophiles. Dr. Collins explained that cognitive distortions are erroneous beliefs by which pedophiles justify their aberrant behaviour. Examples of cognitive distortions are that child-adult sex is natural and that it does no harm to children. The fourth reason offered by Dr. Collins is that children are abused in the making of pornography and that pornographic films or photographs are a record of their abuse.

[1999] B.C.J. No. 54
New Westminster Registry No. X050427
British Columbia Supreme Court New Westminster, British Columbia
Shaw J.
Heard: November 9, 10, 12, 20, and 24 to 26, 1998.
Judgment: filed January 13, 1999. (33 pp.)
Counsel: T.A. Schultes, for the Crown.
John Robin Sharpe, appeared in person.

Notes about the vulnerability of children