Thursday, 29 January 2004

Questions (53)

Joe Sherlock

Question:

44 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the contents of a television programme (details supplied) broadcast on 7 December 2003 which claimed there could be a far more extensive trade here for child pornographers swopping images than those who pay to download the images; the action the gardaí are taking to deal with this situation; if he has satisfied himself that there are sufficient resources available to the gardaí to combat this activity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2507/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I am aware of the television programme referred to by the Deputy which has been the subject of previous debate in this House. The paedophile investigation unit of the Garda Síochána is examining case details as alleged in the programme and any offences discovered will be fully investigated.

The paedophile investigation unit is located within the domestic violence and sexual assault unit which in turn forms part of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation. I am informed that the unit, which is augmented by additional personnel from mainstream units as required, co-ordinates Garda investigations of child pornography and investigates alleged breaches of the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 brought to its attention by the Internet Advisory Board hotline, concerned citizens, Interpol, Europol and external police forces. The unit is also proactive in its work. It monitors Internet chat rooms and strives to maintain best practise in the investigation of child pornography with an emphasis on Internet investigations. I understand from the Garda authorities that the unit currently has approximately 40 cases of alleged offences on hand. A small number of cases concerning the production and distribution of child pornographic images have been successfully prosecuted in this jurisdiction and a number of suspected cases are currently under investigation.

The Deputy will be familiar with Operation Amethyst which involved substantial Garda resources on a countrywide basis. The operation was directed and controlled by personnel from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Some cases detected during this operation have been successfully prosecuted while others are still being processed through the District and Circuit Courts.