When “Project Kiddy Porn Ring” Comes to Your Area
This leaflet contains information to help lesbian, gay, and bisexual groups cope with massive attacks on youth and men in their communities, conducted under the guise of enforcing child pornography laws.
Youth Pornography Projects
The significance of gay pornography for gay men is a complicated issue which serves as a divisive force both within and outside the lesbian, bisexual and gay communities. The resulting confusion provides a window of vulnerability through which forces wishing to maintain and strengthen the oppression of bisexual, lesbian, and gay people are able to weaken the cause of gay, lesbian, and bisexual liberation. For information about a similar campaign against our communities see the leaflet Washroom and Park Arrests.
In 1993 Parliament passed Bill C-128 (now Criminal Code section 163.1), ostensibly to protect children from exploitation through child pornography. As with most legislation promoting censorship of pornography, the first target for criminal charges is members of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual communities. Likewise, using child protection legislation to attack homosexuals reinforces the myth that we are a threat to children and draws attention away from the real threat to children and women, namely the system of patriarchy often referred to by the phrase “traditional family values.”
Not long after the legislation was passed, London, Ontario police “discovered” videotapes containing what they described as child pornography. The media were informed that this was part of a huge child pornography ring involving very young children and expanding beyond the limits of the city of London. To prove their point numerous arrests followed of men reported by the children identified in the videos. Furthermore, there were soon similar discoveries of tapes in British Columbia and Stratford, Ontario. With a subsequent discovery of more videotapes in London, the police asked for and were granted additional funding to pay for this investigation.
What the police neglected to say was that very few of their charges were for pornography and the vast majority of the “children” were over the legal age of consent, namely age 14. They allowed the impression to stand that the youths were both male and female, when in fact they were only male, and they did not bother to point out that none of the tapes confiscated in the subsequent discovery contained child pornography.
It is always dangerous to try to ascribe a motivation for the behaviour of the police. However, it can be noted that the police were able to get extra funding as a result of this action. Targeting of the gay community was evident from the fact that similar cases involving heterosexual charges were treated differently. Manipulation of the media was exposed by the fact that cases and tapes not involving child pornography were still noted in press releases under the heading “Child Pornography Investigation”. Career ambitions of police leaders became apparent from subsequent job applications. And this highly publicized investigation took place in the middle of a political push on the part of the lesbian and gay communities for equal rights and responsibilities.
Although the media had started to become more sensitive about publishing the names of men caught in washroom and park arrests, this was not the case with cases connected with child pornography. The guilt or innocence of the men charged, therefore, became irrelevant once their names were published in the newspaper and many were encouraged to plead guilty just to get it over, with as light a sentence as possible, and to save the “children” (actually usually teenage hustlers) the trauma of having to testify. The men were not told that some of the charges (notably the anal intercourse charges) to which they were pleading guilty were under constitutional review. Furthermore, charges dropped in plea bargaining were still considered by the judge in sentencing and were often the most damaging charges which the defendants were most prepared to fight as false charges.
The repercussions, therefore, were: men were tried and found guilty in the media before ever going to court; they were given unusually severe sentences despite plea bargaining; false credence was given to the mythology promoted by the police.
As well as making certain aspects of pornography illegal, the youth pornography legislation increases the ability of police to use surveillance, search and seizure tactics. The discovery of even a small amount of porn containing images of individuals appearing or pretending to be under the age of 18 unleashes the ability of the police to undertake a major campaign of harassment, particularly against gay men and youth. If they locate home-made images and are able to identify the participants, they are then able to intimidate those individuals, often teen hustlers, into identifying other adults with whom they have had contact. This opens up the possibility of laying charges unrelated to child pornography, such as attempting to obtain for a consideration the sexual services of a person under the age of 18.
Even when there is no home-made porn available, police are able to confiscate address books, photo albums, and diaries and use these to identify others who may be considered suspects because of their sexual orientation. Subsequent visits to the homes are incredibly intimidating even if no charges are laid and the fall-out of terror in the community drives people back into the oppressive closets. The police then widely publicize their findings and charges as part of a huge child porn ring in the area, creating sensational media coverage.
It is extremely important to alert the media that it is being manipulated by the police. A media release should be submitted outlining concerns of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual communities and containing the suggestions for media printed below.
If your group distributes a newsletter, an article containing information about the arrests and what to do if the police want to talk to members would be helpful.
Notify CLGRO about what is going on. If possible set up a courtwatch and support system for the people involved.
Suggestions for Media
On Handling Alleged Sex “Crime” Involving Youths and Men
These guidelines are adapted from a document prepared by The Boston/Boise Committee during the 1978 Boston sex scandal which “sought to mobilize prejudice against gay rights by depicting all gay men as child molesters and kiddie pornographers.”
The following media safeguards would protect defendant and witness rights:
- not publishing the names, addresses, or exact employment of the accused;
- not emphasizing personal data that has no proven relationship to the crime;
- not publishing photographs of the accused;
- not publishing police leaks or other unproven statements about impending arrests of unnamed men;
- recognizing “tip-of-the-iceberg” comments by police or crown attorneys as fear-mongering that affects the rights of all gay men, especially professionals involved legitimately with teenagers in their work or personal lives;
- not describing witnesses in any way by which they can be identified by their peers.
Suggested approaches to investigating, reporting, or publishing cases involving pornography and prostitution:
- asking direct and probing questions of police, lawyers, and elected officials involved in the case, remembering that these people sometimes depend on sensationalism (including charges later modified or dropped for unsubstantiated evidence) to get media coverage and public approval;
- asking the police how the witnesses were located, how their “complaints” were generated, whether the witnesses themselves have been charged or threatened with charges, and whether they have been provided with neutral legal counsel;
- not linking dissimilar crimes simply because they are announced as part of the same investigation, and perpetuating guilt by association;
- being sensitive to the tremendous fear of homosexuality in our society and not pandering to it any more than to racism or other prejudices;
- remembering that “communicating” and other prostitution-related offenses result in vigorous prosecutions of women, while their customers usually go free (and unnamed), whereas the opposite is often the case among men and boys, where the client is prosecuted and the prostitute is coerced into giving testimony;
- checking diverse sources (including court documents which provide precise charges against the accused) to verify charges have merit and contacting sources such as accused men or their lawyers for their reaction;
- giving equal space and prominence to stories that deal with alleged police harassment, mishandling of cases, and evidence of innocence;
- giving equal prominence to stories that reveal serious errors in previously reported investigations or when previously reported charges have been retracted.
Suggestions for Targeted Citizens
These guidelines are taken from the Right To Privacy Committee’s newsletter Action! vol. 3, no. 3.
When Talking to the Police
- Be polite.
- You have the right to remain silent. To avoid problems, we suggest giving name, address, and where you’re going, if asked.
- You don’t have to go anywhere with a police officer unless under arrest or for a breathalyser test.
- If you are the driver of a car, produce your driver’s licence, insurance ownership, and give details of any accident.
- Give your correct name. Don’t resist.
- The Charter of Rights requires the police to tell you promptly why you are under arrest.
- You have the right to call a lawyer.
- Remember: anything you say may be used against you in court – and probably will.
- Note names, badge numbers, licence numbers, car numbers of police officers and witnesses.
- Write out a complete account of the incident as soon as possible under the heading “For my lawyer only.”
- If you need assistance, or feel you have been treated inappropriately, contact your local gay/lesbian group.
Prepared by CLGRO, May 1998.