State may examine laws on children accessing porn, after Ana Kriegel trial

Leo Varadkar says Government may review effectiveness of UK online safety measures

 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said ‘It is a concern that pornography is so accessible to young people.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said ‘It is a concern that pornography is so accessible to young people.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan plans to hold discussions with his British counterpart in relation to new laws introduced in the UK which aim to block children from having access to online pornography.

“I am very keen to look at international best practice to be best informed,” he told The Irish Times, adding that he will pursue the matter with the UK home and justice secretaries.

Under plans due to come into force in the UK next month, an age block will require commercial pornography sites to show that they are taking sufficient steps to verify their users are over 18. These incude uploading a passport or a driving licence.

Mr Flanagan’s comments came after two 14-year-old boys were found guilty on Tuesday of murdering schoolgirl Ana Kriégel. The trial heard that gardaí found thousands of images of pornography on the phone of Boy A, some of which depicted sexual violence. There had also been internet searches for “child porn” and “animal porn” on the phone.

In the Dáil, Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin referenced the murder and the new laws due to come into force in the UK.

“It is up to professionals to assess the impact of such material on impressionable children but we can clearly and unambiguously say that this material should not be accessible to children.”

‘Effective’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said a review could take place in time to see whether the new UK law is effective.

“The UK law is relatively new and we do not yet know whether it will be effective,” he said. “We should learn from other jurisdictions and (Mr Howlin’s) suggestion is appropriate in that regard.”

Mr Varadkar said it was a concern that pornography “is so accessible to young people. And indeed so many young people learn about sex through pornography which is not an accurate representation of what is healthy in life”.

The Taoiseach pointed out that Minister for Communications Richard Bruton is, separately, bringing forward an Online Safety Bill as part a plan to protect children online.

“It will put new requirements, including an online safety code, on online platforms and prohibit cyberbullying of minors and harmful material such as that which promotes suicide, self-harm, bulimia or anorexia,” he said.

“There will also be an online safety commissioner, who will certify that the codes are fit for purpose and who may have the power to order take-down in certain circumstances.”

A public consultation is currently underway in relation to that Bill and after this process, legislation will be brought to the Oireachtas Committee on Communications.