FREED: Suspected scammers who threaten minors with releasing their naked images might delete the images or continue their threats if released on bail, a group said
By Lee I-chia / Staff reporter
Democratic Progressive Party （DPP） Legislator Lee Li-fen （李麗芬） and welfare groups yesterday urged courts to be strict when prosecuting child and adolescent pornography cases, and hold suspected offenders in custody to prevent further harm.
A Changhua County judge last month held a prosecutor in contempt of court and ordered her arrest after she was ruled to have made inappropriate comments in court after the judge rejected her request for a suspected sex offender, who allegedly had naked images of at least 52 teenage girls obtained through online scams, to be detained to prevent further danger to the public.
The suspect was released on NT$30,000 bail.
The case has attracted public attention and the groups yesterday cited the case and other similar cases of child and adolescent pornography scams to urge judges not to underestimate the harm such actions cause their victims.
Scammers, often posing as girls or modeling scouts, use social media to persuade teenage girls into sharing nude photographs, and later blackmail them by threatening to post the images online, Lee said, adding that the victims can be traumatized by the experience.
This type of crime often involves a large number of victims and the offenders often commit the crimes repeatedly, End Children Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes （ECPAT） secretary-general Chen Yi-ling （陳逸玲） said.
In some cases the girls even become victims of sexual assault after meeting with the scammer, Chen added.
A US study in 2016 showed that child or adolescent pornography scammers used to take time to get to know their victims before committing sex crimes, but the Internet has sped up the process, Chen said.
In 2016, ECPAT received 222 reports of such cases, but last year the number increased to 1,103, the organization said, adding that 15.38 percent of calls made to its support hotline were associated with threats involving sexually explicit images.
These cases highlight the attitude the judicial system has toward gender equality and whether different forms of sexual exploitation should be recognized and dealt with to better protect potential victims, Taiwan Coalition Against Violence （TCAV） secretary-general Liao Shu-wen （廖淑雯） said.
The Garden of Hope Foundation official Wang Shu-fen （王淑芬） said that several victims who have reached out to the group are afraid of being further blackmailed and many are unwilling to talk about their trauma.
Lee said suspected scammers can delete the images or continue to threaten the victims if they are freed on a small bail, but the images can spread rapidly on the Internet, causing long-term harm to victims.
The groups urge the courts to view such cases as a serious crime, Lee added.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lee Li-fen, second left, and civic group representatives in Taipei yesterday call for people charged with child pornography offenses to be held in custody pending trial. Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times