Germany on course to toughen child abuse laws

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron (not pictured) after a bilateral meeting at Meseberg Castle, the federal government's guest house, in Meseberg, Germany

The German government said Wednesday it’s planning to toughen child sex abuse and child pornography laws, a move that comes after authorities uncovered a vast online child abuse network last year.

German Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said she wants to improve the protection of children by increasing the punishment of the perpetrators, making prosecution more efficient and improving prevention measures against pedophilia. The minister also wants to introduce special training for judges and prosecutors dealing with sexual violence against children.

According to the government plans, sexual violence against children will be punishable by up to 15 years in prison, up from the current maximum of 10 years. The government also plans to toughen penalties for the distribution of child pornography by individuals with a new maximum prison sentence of up to 10 years from currently five years. Distribution of child porn through networks can lead to prison sentences of up to 15 years.

Earlier this week, German investigators said they had evidence that tens of thousands of people may have been involved in an online child sex abuse network uncovered last year.

Authorities first stumbled across the network, which was centered on German-speaking countries, last October, after searching the premises of a suspect in Bergisch Gladbach, near the western city of Cologne.

Vast amounts of electronic evidence seized indicates members of the pedophile network exchanged tips on how to commit abuse and urged each other on. Some allegedly arranged to meet in order to abuse a child.

“The shocking sexual crimes that we uncovered in recent weeks, have created unimaginable pain for the children,” Lambrecht said. “We have to send a clear signal that the protection of children is the highest priority and that the perpetrators will be prosecuted and punished with all consequences.”

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