Germany: Online child abuse investigators to get more powers
Members of the Bundestag parliament on Friday approved new measures designed to law enforcement agencies to take the fight to sexual abuse of children online and on the darknet.
The proposals received broad cross party support, albeit with some criticisms that they did not go far enough.
What are the main changes?
The core of the proposals can be found in two changes to the law.
- Under strict conditions, investigators will be permitted to use computer-generated material resembling sexual abuse of children on online chat rooms as part of their work.
- Attempted “cyber grooming” of operatives in sting operations will also be punishable by law in future. Previously, if people tried to groom an investigator or parent who they believed to be a child, it was not a criminal offense.
What is the legal justification for the changes?
The draft law says posting such material was often required in order to gain entry to child sex abuse chat rooms on the darknet. Operatives wishing to do this will require a judge’s approval, and will have undergone special training beforehand. No real people are allowed to appear in the footage.
Reactions and comments
Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht, a Social Democrat, told the chamber: “We can never forget that abusive crimes against children lie behind every image of child pornography.” The government wanted to give investigators every possible power to ensure that perpetrators — including organizers and operators of abusive websites — could be investigated and convicted swiftly.
She also defended the change to the law making it an offense for people to engage in chats with people they believed to be children, on which some opposition politicians had abstained in Friday’s vote. “The perpetrators are acting with the same terrible intention, namely to win children’s trust with a view to a later act of abuse,” Lambrecht said.
The German Childrens’ Fund charity (Deutscher Kinderhilfswerk) welcomed the measures as a good first step but said further changes were needed.
“Besides these changes to the laws, more investigators for the police and the prosecution services are required to better protect children from cyber grooming online,” the charity’s vice president Anne Lütkes said. Lütkes also lobbied for greater efforts to educate children about the dangers online and how to avoid them.