Sunday, 5 August 2007

Evil deeds should be punished. But what of evil thoughts?

[...] It is recognised, at least by the Church of England, that there may exist celibate homosexuals. In their case, it is supposed to be their sexual practices, not their sexual orientation, that are to be judged. I do not defend this distinction, but I argue simply that, in the name of justice, it be made as well in the case of those who like little boys or little girls. Before one is found guilty, one must be shown to have done something wrong. The rule of law cannot be to run over our dreams and nightmares.

Yet it may be argued that the pictures have been taken of real children, suffering real abuse and unimaginable damage. And this has been done to gratify the tastes of people such as Langham. He is thus exploiting and abusing the children involved by buying the pictures, even if he never imitates the pictures in actions of his own. He is voluntarily creating the market without which these genuinely evil pictures would not be made. There is truth in this. But for the damage to real children to be the basis of an argument to show that looking at child pornography should be a punishable offence, it is necessary first to prove beyond doubt the extent to which the pictures are accurate, not faked. Modern technology is capable of creating a convincing account of something that never happened. Enjoying an obscene story may be deplorable, and show a sinister imagination, even one that is deranged, but it ought not to constitute a legal offence.

There is here a distinction be drawn between morality and law. It is difficult to avoid (nor should one try to avoid) moral condemnation of the attitude towards women and especially towards children manifested in the creation of pornography. And the more forcibly and more widely this condemnation is expressed, the better society will become. Moreover, the law must reflect this moral repugnance. But it must also apply fairly, drawing distinctions between those who have committed crimes and those who have been merely attracted towards them. A man must show guilty intent before he can be convicted and there is a difference between intention and fantasy. Read more

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