This is what strict liability offences do

A 12-year-old girl who was pressured by an online paedophile into sending topless photos of herself has been told she could now face criminal charges.
Despite by groomed by the online predator, the schoolgirl is now facing a police investigation for sending an indecent image.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be continually inventing new strict liability offences?

22 thoughts on “This is what strict liability offences do”

  1. “The girl’s horrified mother alerted police and child protection agencies after making the harrowing discovery.”

    I wonder if all concerned enthusiastically championed such legislation when it was proposed? I bet they did…

  2. Surely it’s not beyond the wit of Plod to decide not to proceed?

    They don’t seem to have any problem with failing to investigate burglaries for example.

  3. You’d think so, but Strict Liability = Guaranteed Conviction which does wonders for the figures. Doughnuts all round!

  4. But that means the prosecutors have to prove *intent* and that’s just sooooo HARD!

    Why do you have the prosecutors?

  5. ‘facing a police investigation for sending an indecent image’

    Uhh . . . she is the victim here.

    But ‘facing a police investigation’ doesn’t seem particularly onerous.

  6. The joy of strict liability offences.

    The same offence makes it illegal for two teenagers who are quite legally making the beast of two backs with each other sharing naked pictures of themselves with each other.

    Copies of pictures from Samantha Fox’s early portfolio are also banned under it.

  7. Clarissa: in Denmark the situation is more relaxed. You have to be 18 to appear in porn or to consent to your photos bejng widely shared but as the AOC is 15, teenage sex partners can share imagesof each other.

  8. I would assume the prosecutors would drop this under a public interest logic, but the police presumably have to do this as it is their job, and we don’t want the police chosing which part of their job they get to do or not (oh, they do already – shit…).

    So blame the idiots who don’t understand the concept of consequences who drew up this legislation. Which would be civil servants (because I doubt the bloody politicans even read it).

  9. @ Watchman
    The politicians probably read it *after* it was drafted any single one of them who dared point out that it was flawed was immediately subjected to a kangarro court by the SJWs.

  10. But the BFI allowed us to buy copies of Walkabout! I have been meaning to ask if anyone has been arrested for having back issues of the Sun!

    The law was written by idiots that failed to realise that young people make and share Porn on a regular basis thanks to the mobile phones with cameras.

  11. “So blame the idiots who don’t understand the concept of consequences who drew up this legislation.”

    I would assume the reason for the legislation being as it is is because of public outrage (Daily Mail style) over courts giving light sentences for sex crimes like child porn. So take the option away from them, and then they can’t show any sort of discretion and take such mitigating circumstances into account.

    The other problem, of course, is moral hazard. “Moral hazard is a situation in which one party gets involved in a risky event knowing that it is protected against the risk and the other party will incur the cost.”

    A child being pressured or blackmailed into abusing another child (as in Clarissa’s example, or this one) faces a choice – either defy the blackmailer/abuser and report them to the police, and immediately have your reputation or only financial support destroyed when it all goes public, or hope for the best and go along with it knowing that if you do get caught you have complete immunity against prosecution. On the other hand, given a choice between social embarrassment and 6 years in jail, you’re a lot more likely to make the right choice.

    If you’re in an abusive relationship, as this girl was, the right answer is to get out of it, not to use your boyfriend as an excuse for committing serious crimes. Being in such a relationship is a choice.

    And for the more psycho kids, it’s a “bully’s charter”. If you persuade get some fantasist weirdo on the internet to take the fall, you can carry out any atrocity your sick imagination can come up with on your usual bullying victims, and then shout “He made me do it!” and walk away scot-free. In fact, watching the cops take the paedo down too is an added bonus!

    So no, illegal acts need to remain illegal, even under duress.

    However, in Tim’s case of the child porn charge – it’s a bit more difficult. One position holds that it’s not the photos themselves that are the problem, but the harm done to children to produce them, and of course the girl in question wasn’t the one doing the harm, but its victim. However, you can also be prosecuted for merely passing them on, even if you didn’t take them and have never harmed a child yourself, the demand for them fuels supply, leading more kids to be abused. (Personally, I don’t think that’s a good argument, but whatever.) By providing the photos, even as the victim, it sends the message that the tactic works, leading more abusers to use it. Whereas if she had refused and reported him immediately, it would send the opposite message.

    So the (bad) argument for it being a crime still applies. However, I don’t think it’s at all reasonable to expect a 12-year old girl under extreme stress to make such fine moral distinctions, or to have the moral maturity to be able to sacrifice her own immediate well-being for the sake of all the other potential victims. There’s a reason children are considered to be below the age of legal responsibility.

    I’d hope the CPS would drop it on the grounds that they’d be unlikely to get a conviction. But it’s a complicated enough moral issue that I can certainly understand the police booting it up the chain.

  12. the demand for them fuels supply, leading more kids to be abused. (Personally, I don’t think that’s a good argument, but whatever.)

    Neither do the ladies who invented the Copine scale. You are in good company,

  13. strict liability offences

    I’d never heard of these pre 1997. Are they another pernicious Blair era blight on UK?

  14. U.S. schools, too. Kid bites a cookie til it looks like a gun*, and gets expelled.

    *It looks like a COOKIE, YOU FVCKING IDIOTS!

  15. Dear Mr Worstall

    Strict liability is just another tool in the oppression kit of your average totalitarian state.

    It is an attempt to undermine the final say of the public in the form of a jury on matters lawful, namely the perverse verdict, i.e. the defendant is guilty, but the law is wrong.

    It is also an attempt to work around that a judge may not direct a jury to find a defendant guilty: instead the judge heavily emphasises to the jury that the matter is a strict liability one and the defendant is therefore guilty as charged, without actually saying so.

    Possession laws are a godsend for totalitarians, child pornography doubly so, because the possessor is immediately and irretrievably evil and therefore must be punished, even if he (or she) did not know the images were on his (or her) computer or in his/her loft, sock drawer or handbag, or they were made by and of him/herself with his/her boyfriend/girlfriend when both were under the age of 18, but hadn’t quite cleaned every single pic from their a/e/i/o/uPhones before their 18th birthdays. So no damaged children there, only damaged adults. And no damaged children when the ‘child’ is over 18 (merely looks 13 and a half), nor if the ‘child’ is a drawing or painting or sculpture. They still count.

    Possession of drugs used to be a favourite police stitch up. To that has been added possession of handguns, sawn off shotguns and other illegal weaponry, child pornography, and more recently, extreme pornography, presumably added because the powers that like to think they be realised that not everyone can be taken down by possession of child pornography without someone beginning to join the dots. Some other items will doubtless be added to widen the ‘possession’ trap in future.

    The digital age has made planting of evidence so much easier. There may come a time when your operating system of choice comes pre-loaded with all the incriminating evidence your beloved government™ can use against you, when it so wishes.

    When government decides to take an interest in us, we are all vulnerable.

    Hope this helps.


    PS Isn’t the law there to restrain government and protect us from it?

  16. “It is an attempt to undermine the final say of the public in the form of a jury on matters lawful, namely the perverse verdict, i.e. the defendant is guilty, but the law is wrong.”

    Not quite. So far as I know, it’s still possible for a jury nullification to take place, even with strict liability.

    Most serious crimes need both ‘actus reus’ (guilty act) and ‘mens rea’ (guilty mind) proven to be a crime. You have to have actually done something against the law, and you need to have been aware that what you did was wrong or illegal. Strict liability offences don’t need the ‘mens rea’ element – you don’t need to prove that they knew it was a crime, or even that they intended to do it, or negligent in allowing it to be done. All you need to do is prove they did it.

    So it’s perverse in a different sense – it offends against the intuitive principle that people can only be ‘guilty’ if they know what they’re doing is wrong.

    There’s a distinction sometimes made between strict liability and absolute liability – strict liability does have a defence if you make a “mistake of fact”: if you reasonably misunderstood some fact about the situation that negates an element of the crime. Thus, if you had reason to believe the email you was sending didn’t contain child porn, you could have a defence. (e.g. if a virus on your computer silently appended illegal porn to every email you sent.) Mere absence of knowledge is not enough – you need to have a good reason for thinking otherwise. This doesn’t apply to ignorance of the law – it’s held to be your responsibility to know the law, and to take comprehensive precautions to ensure you are following it. So you can’t escape by claiming you didn’t know the photo that you *knew* was in the email was illegal, or that you hadn’t checked all the attachments to the email you was forwarding.

    Strict liability laws were first introduced in the 19th century to enforce factory health and safety laws – the mere fact that you didn’t *intend* to injure your workers was no longer enough. It motivated owners to take every possible precaution to prevent injuries, because they’d be held liable whether they intended it or not.

    It arguably has its uses, where there are clear precautions you can take that provide a sufficient defence. But it’s probably overused for such a dangerous tool. I can’t say I like it.

    “PS Isn’t the law there to restrain government and protect us from it?”

    Voters get the government they deserve, good and hard.

    I think child porn laws are primarily by public demand. Blame the voters, not the government.

  17. @john77

    Yep, common in Europe. That’s why I asked about UK & the Blair creature – importing european law norms into UK.

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