BERLIN, GERMANY – On 6 July, a court in Berlin, Germany sentenced Dennis S., 38, to five years in prison for sexually abusing his son beginning when the boy was only two years old.
Dennis S. was also convicted and sentenced for producing and possessing child sexual exploitation materials (CSEM). On his computer, German authorities found photos and videos showing Dennis sexually abusing his son, who was rescued in October last year.
International law enforcement collaboration
The arrest of Dennis S. and the rescue of his son on 9 October 2019 came through a case referral from the Australian Federal Police (AFP).
The Philippine National Police’s Women and Children Protection Center – Visayas Field Unit (WCPC-VFU) had rescued three victims aged 2, 6 and 7 and arrested another German sex offender in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, in July 2019.
Inspection of the electronic devices owned by the offender arrested in Cebu revealed that he and another offender in Germany, later identified as Dennis S., exchanged CSEM. This discovery led to coordination between WCPC-VFU and BKA, resulting in the arrest of Dennis S.
Investigation by the Federal Criminal Police Germany (German: Bundeskriminalamt, BKA) revealed that the sex offender’s son was born via surrogacy in Cyprus in 2016 when Dennis S. paid the surrogate mother 60,000 euros.
“This conviction underscores the necessity of global law enforcement collaboration in ending online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC), which is a growing, borderless crime,” said IJM Global OSEC Hub Vice President Samson Inocencio, Jr.
“In this case, we saw law enforcement agencies from three countries sharing information with one another, leading to the rescue of four victims, the arrest of an offender in the Philippines and another one in Germany in a span of three months,” he continued. “OSEC requires a robust, committed, and effective global criminal justice system to end it.”
In the Philippines, IJM supports local authorities to rescue victims, prosecute suspects, provide victim aftercare and drive justice systems toward long-term, sustainable solutions.
In Australia, IJM has advocated for stronger penalties for cybersex trafficking offences, including reforms included in the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Crimes Against Children and Community Protection Measures) Act passed by Federal Parliament in June 2020.
Law reform required
IJM END OSEC Center Director John Tanagho congratulated the law enforcement agencies for their active coordination that made possible the rescue of victims in Philippines and Germany, the arrest of two offenders, and the eventual conviction of one of them.
He pointed out, however, that low sentences for child sex offenders such as Dennis S. undermine the gravity of serious sex crimes, messaging to victims that their harms are not seen, their voices not heard, and their abusers not adequately punished.
Dennis S. is even eligible for parole after serving two-thirds of his sentence, or after spending three years in prison.
The increased penalties provided for in recent amendments to Australian law, including mandatory minimum sentences, would impose a tougher sentence for similar offences.
“While we celebrate this latest conviction of an OSEC offender, we call for Germany and other governments to hold child sex offenders accountable through appropriately strong sentences. Low sentences fail to provide justice to survivors, while sending the message to offenders that child sexual abuse and CSEM offences are not regarded as seriously as other crimes,” Tanagho said.
In September 2017, Dennis S. was sentenced to 10 months imprisonment for possession of CSEM. He was, however, released on probation.
“What is even more disturbing is that Dennis S. was already known to the German justice system as a convicted child sex offender for having possessed and viewed CSEM. His later contact offending on a two-year-old boy should come as no surprise considering the clear evidence that those who view CSEM often commit in-person contact abuse,” Tanagho explained.
“Clearly his prior 10-month sentence and release on probation were insufficient to restrain him, and Germany should review its sentencing and offender management policies to protect children in Germany and globally from violent sex offences, whether perpetrated online or in person,” he added.
Of relevance, the WePROTECT Global Alliance Model National Response includes that the “[j]udiciary understand the risk posed by child sexual offenders and the gravity of the crime and sentence accordingly . . .” (see Capability 5). Sentences of 10 months or even five years for a repeat offender fail to appreciate the severe risk posed to children or the gravity of these crimes.
IJM Germany Executive Director Dietmar Roller said: “We are deeply disturbed by the sexual crimes against children perpetrated by German offenders. This latest sentencing of an offender comes on the heels of alarming discoveries by German authorities of online child sexual abuse cases and a large online paedophile network. In the latter, we’re talking about 30,000 leads uncovered, which could very well involve thousands of suspected child sex offenders exchanging abuse materials and looking for new photos, videos or even livestreams of children being sexually abused. We call on German legislators to take action by ensuring that sentencing against this grisly crime adequately disrupts, restrains, and deters offenders.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic coinciding with increases in child sexual abuse and exploitation in person and online, now is a perfect opportunity for governments like Germany to address weak sentencing for sex offenders. The need to adequately disrupt, restrain, and deter sex offenders has never been greater.
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