An article in a recent edition of a local Canberra paper, the City News, raises some troublesome questions about the treatment of criminals who ‘just’ watch child pornography. Of these people, columnist Robert Macklin asks, “Should lives be ruined for just watching?

Macklin suggests that, “But if their crime is only to watch, I suggest that is of a different order of criminality [compared to “active” paedophilia], one that does not deserve the effective ending of a life”.

Whilst we should all be supportive of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in law, there can be no excuse for those who participate in physical acts of paedophilia, and for those who equally engage in the act by viewing child abuse material.

The criminals who view the heinous images of child pornography fuel the demand for the production of such images. Without that demand, supply would ease, with fewer children abused to create those images. It is only right, therefore, that the very people who create the demand for child abuse material, the viewers, are punished to the fullest extent of the law.

As Macklin writes, “it is quite important in our society that the punishment fits the crime”. Agreed, and we should always ensure that the abuse of children is roundly condemned, whether this occurs directly or indirectly.