"Dutch police needs greater powers"

The Dutch police need greater powers when investigating paedophiles according to Hans Guijt, head of special projects at Terre des Hommes. The appeal is prompted by the closing down of a global child pornography network which resulted in an Australian and a Dutch national being sentenced.

World's biggest child porn site

In this case the police dismantled the world's biggest child porn website, with more than 45,000 members. More than 300 people have been arrested, and 106 victims traced. The convicted Australian was the main operator of the site; it was jointly operated by the Dutch citizen, who granted visitors access.

Pro-active approach

Hans Guijt points out that Terre des Hommes has unmasked a thousand paedophiles in a relatively short period using the young virtual girl 'Sweetie'; a number of these paedophiles have since been convicted. "The police are not permitted to adopt this method, even though we have shown that a pro-active approach works," says Guijt.

Increased presence on the internet

"The police need the power to do more in their detective work, for example by going undercover on the internet. They are currently not permitted to do that. They also need a greater presence on the internet. The internet is a public space, just like a park. Everyone thinks it's completely normal to see the police on the street, so why not in a chat room as well?"

Wide variation in penalties

The case also highlights the wide variation in the penalty imposed in each country. The Netherlands imposes relatively light penalties for child abuse, even though it is one of the most serious offences. The Dutch national received 18-month prison sentence and psychiatric treatment; the Australian who managed the network will spend 35 years behind bars. "That's a very big difference."

Problem is widespread

The story again demonstrates how widespread and international sexual exploitation is. Hans Guijt: "Terre des Hommes demonstrated with Sweetie: at any moment of the day, there are 750,000 men online looking for sex with under-age children. It is important that we don't just tackle the people who produce child pornography; we also need to get the people who watch and pay for it. The Australian police were able to hunt down this group; that can't happen in the Netherlands. That is ridiculous."

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