Germany’s Cabinet approved new plans to reduce a one-year minimum sentence for spreading child sexual abuse images, according to reports.
The controversial move comes just three years after the rule was introduced, which officials say has proven too inflexible in practice.
At the time, German Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said she wanted to increase the minimum punishment of perpetrators.
“The terrible injustice of these acts must also be reflected by the level of penalties,” Lambrecht said in 2020.
However, all of that is about to change.
Currently, German law stipulates that a person who “disseminates child pornographic content or makes it available to the general public” is punished by a 1 – 10-year prison sentence.
Before Germany’s previous government reform in 2012, it provided for sentences ranging from three months to five years.
According to Justice Minister Marco Buschmann, the upper limit will stay in place, however, the new minimum sentence has resulted in “numerous problems in practice.”
“In particular, people who receive such material involuntarily — for example in the context of a WhatsApp parents’ group — risk a minimum sentence of one year,” Buschmann said in a statement.
“In the case of teachers who have discovered child pornographic material on students’ cellphones and have forwarded it to alert the affected parents.”
The new legislation will slash the minimum sentence back to six months.
Buschmann argues it will enable courts and prosecutors “to be able to react flexibly and proportionately to each individual case.”
He adds that investigators and courts have been pushing for such a change.
German law stipulates that offenses carrying a year or more sentence are counted as a felony.
Fox News reported:
The new legislation will restore authorities’ ability to close cases at the lower end of punishability. It states that the possibility to class offenses as misdemeanors is also necessary to deal with “the large proportion of young offenders with the necessary flexibility,” given that those culprits tend to act out of “inexperience, curiosity, thirst for adventure or striving to impress” rather than out of sexual motives.
In 2020, the German government planned to toughen penalties for the distribution of child pornography by individuals with a maximum prison sentence of up to 10 years from currently five years.
“The shocking sexual crimes that we uncovered in recent weeks have created unimaginable pain for the children,” Lambrecht said. “We have to send a clear signal that the protection of children is the highest priority and that the perpetrators will be prosecuted and punished with all consequences.”