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Teens top child porn viewers

14 January 2005, By Oskar Alley
National Newsstory [New Zealand]

Teenagers are the biggest viewers of child pornography, with a study warning of stronger evidence that offenders who download the material may be more likely to commit sex crimes against young people.

Nearly half of the 185 convicted porn users profiled in an Internal Affairs study had regular access to children, and those caught included teachers and caregivers. The youngest offender was 14.

Young people aged 15 to 20 were the single biggest demographic group, accounting for one-quarter of all child porn users tracked and caught by investigators. One-third of the 185 criminals gave their occupations as students, of which 60 per cent were studying at tertiary level.

The study warns that students and IT professionals have both greater access to computers and possess "more advanced computer skills", which could be used to mask their offending.

The study's findings follow warnings from Customs that last year saw a "massive growth" in the number and seriousness of horrific child porn intercepted by officials.

Internal Affairs assessed the backgrounds of the 185 criminals in an attempt to identify offenders and their habits. The study notes concerns at the young age of offenders and the relationship between viewing child porn and sexual offending.

"The department is concerned at the number of offenders who have placed themselves in situations where they have access to the subjects of the objectionable material they collect," it says. "This type of behaviour appears common among those with a sexual interest in children."

Internal Affairs senior policy analyst David Wilson said the study's findings suggested an "association" between viewing child porn and offending against children.

Of the 185 offenders, 30 had previous convictions, including 16 for sex offences. More than 40 per cent of them were having regular contact with children or young people.

Internet Safety Group director Liz Butterfield said some teens viewing and trading child porn had been lured via the Internet by adults "grooming them" with the material.

It was imperative that anyone caught with child porn undergo sex offender treatment at an approved centre.

"When we've caught these people then there's the chance to intervene effectively and it's essential that sex offender treatment is provided, for all ages but especially for the younger ones," she said.

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