A new legal ruling makes talking to children online a possible criminal offence, with the crime of Internet luring no longer requiring any sexually explicit communication or even any intention of meeting the child for prosecution to proceed.
According to a judge with the Supreme Court of Canada, the law against “Internet luring” now “makes it a crime to communicate by computer with underage children or adolescents for the purpose of facilitating the commission of the offences,” an expansion of the previous interpretation which required some intent to actually meet the child.
“Facilitating” is interpreted as including any act which might in some way increase the chances of a child somewhere being exploited.
Anything which exploits a child’s “curiosity, immaturity or precocious sexuality” is also criminalised under the new law, and the judge emphasised that such criminal contact need not be sexual in nature.
The judge maintains that the decision will stop the plague of Internet child molesters dead:
“Those who use their computers to lure children for sexual purposes often groom them online by first gaining their trust through conversations about their home life, their personal interests or other innocuous topics.
This is in keeping with Parliament’s objective to close the cyberspace door before the predator gets in to prey.”
The new ruling was prompted by an earlier case of “Internet luring” in which the perpetrator engaged in sexually explicit chats with a 12-year-old girl, but managed to convince the courts that he had no intention of actually meeting the girl for sex, exploiting an apparent loophole and resulting in his acquittal.
The updated ruling overturns this acquittal on the grounds that the judge’s interpretation of the law was too narrow.
Campaigners for tougher laws “protecting” children are delighted at the prospect of finally being able to lock people up for having the temerity to talk to a child:
“There’s been a very clear message that in fact this is something that is an offence, and as a result, I would think that there will now be more arrests and prosecutions of adults committing these kind of crimes.
If you’re an adult and if you’re having conversations with a child on the Internet, be warned because even if your conversations aren’t sexual and even if your conversations are not for the purpose of meeting a child and committing an offence against a child, what you’re doing is potentially a crime.”