Stepdad Goes To Police With Stepdaughter's Sexts, Asks Them To Intervene, Is Prosecuted For Child Porn
from the great dept
Sexting continues to be a thing. And, as we have covered various stories revolving around people sending pictures of their naughty bits to one another, much of the consternation in the public tends to be around children partaking in sexting. And I can see their point. While I tend to laugh at prudishness in general, it would probably be best for all involved if underage youngsters weren't texting each other provocative pictures of themselves with reckless abandon.
So what is a parent to do if their children are found to be doing just that? One might think that going to both the child's school and authorities to ask for help in stopping this behavior would be in order, right? Well, for one parent in Australia, doing just that landed him a conviction for child pornography and sex offender registration, even as essentially the entire legal system acknowledged that he was just trying to be a good father.
A man who found out that his 15-year-old stepdaughter was sexting her boyfriend proceeded to download the evidence to bring it to the school and the police to ask them to intervene. Oh dear, readers. You know where this is heading. Intervene they did. Now the dad has been convicted on child pornography charges and placed on the sex offender registry. This, despite the judge understanding exactly why the man, Ashan Ortell, 57, held onto the images.
"There is no suggestion of any exploitation of them by anybody," ruled Judge Jane Patrick, over in Australia, which is becoming as daffy as the United States. "You made no attempt to conceal the images. In fact, you were so concerned that you contacted the authorities about the images."
And then the judge proceeded to levy the conviction for child pornography upon Ortell. Why? Well, because Ortell made copies of the images he'd found his stepdaughter sending around on a USB stick and brought them to the school and police. The police apparently warned him to delete the images or risk prosecution, before reportedly failing to do much at all to address the behavior about which Ortell was concerned. Because of that, he kept the images, ostensibly so that he could address the behavior with other parties that might help him intervene. And that's when he was prosecuted for child pornography.
Let's be clear here: everyone agrees that Ortell did not keep the images for lewd reasons. There is a complete consensus, up to and including the judge who convicted him, that Ortell is merely a concerned parent attempting to do the right thing. Yet here we are. Legal systems routinely take intention into account with regards to charges, prosecutions, and rulings. Yet that failed to happen here, because context and nuance go right out the window when it comes to certain topics that have been overhyped in the public discourse as some kind of impending doomsday. Sexting amongst children is one of those topics.
Need more proof? The local police department has reached out to parents as a result of this whole fiasco with advice that wouldn't have helped in this case.
The ridiculous advice the Victoria police are giving to parents in the wake of this case is: Talk to your children about sexting "and encourage them not to communicate with people they don't know."
Well, okay. How would that have helped? The girl was definitely communicating with someone she did know: her boyfriend. I'm also guessing that talking to your kids about sexting is like talking to them about abstinence. A few may pay heed, but many won't.
The fact that sexualized pictures of "children" (anyone under 18 qualifies in federal child porn statues) are rampant and often consensual should somehow be reflected in the laws. Instead, low-level sex offenses are becoming the low-level drug offenses of this century: Something we overreact to in a charade of concern and, in the process, turn decent people into criminals.
Child pornography is not an issue to be taken lightly, to be sure, but making a mockery of the public's concern by convicting a well-meaning parent isn't the answer to anything at all.