Accused, Kenneth Harrisson ,aged 51(left) in court Monday with his lawyer Bob Buckingham.

Accused, Kenneth Harrisson ,aged 51(left) in court Monday with his lawyer Bob Buckingham.
Photo Credit: Glenn Payette/CBC)

Sex dolls and Canadian child porn case

The case is arousing legal questions over what legally constitutes  pornography, paedophilia, freedom of expression, privacy and more.

It began four years ago when a man in Newfoundland allegedly ordered a life-like sex doll from a Japanese company.

The package was intercepted in Toronto by Canada Post who advised the Canada Border Services Agency. In turn they examined the package and later advised the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary of its contents.  The doll apparently resembled a girl wearing what might be understood to be a school uniform for someone under the age of 18. The police determined it constituted child porn under the law and arranged a “controlled delivery” to the address of the St John’s man in March of 2013.

He was subsequently charged with smuggling a sex doll, using the mail for an indecent purpose, and possession of child porn.

The accused has pleaded not guilty.

“In free society, we don’t ban things because somebody finds it icky… only if there’s actual potential harm on the line.Dr Cantor

The box police say contains the doll in question sent from Japan and intercepted by autorities as contravening Canada’s child porn laws.
The box police say contains the doll in question sent from Japan and intercepted by autorities as contravening Canada’s child porn laws. © Glenn Payette/CBC

An American reporter now covering the case notes that in the age of the internet it is now easy to order things that are legal in one country but illegal in another. She adds that under US law, the man would not be charged as no actual child was harmed or involved.

The case which has dragged on for years, raises questions as to what constitutes paedophilia, child porn, as well as privacy issues. Under Canada’s current laws the doll would fall into the child pornography category, but appears to be the first case, at least in Atlantic Canada, that involves a 3-D object and that has gone beyond photos, literature, or audiovisual representations.

A mailing label shows the address of a Japanese company that allegedly sent the doll to Harrisson in St. John’s.
A mailing label shows the address of a Japanese company that allegedly sent the doll to Harrisson in St. John’s. Their website shows a variety of life-like dolls. © Glenn Payette/CBC

Dr. James Cantor is a paedophilia expert and University of Toronto-based researcher who specializes in the neuroscience of sex.

He thinks the law may be too wide in this case. Quoted in an article in Vice, he said, “In the instance of written fiction, drawings, or artistic works, computer renderings, or in this specific case—a three-dimensional depiction—there is no victim, there is no person being harmed. It’s just the idea that someone would find a picture of a child sexually arousing that’s disturbing to people,” said Cantor. “In free society, we don’t ban things because somebody finds it icky. We only ban it if there’s actual potential harm on the line.”

The trial  was to resume Monday but the court wanted to ban the public and media from the room when they unveiled the doll and that caused further delay regarding other questions about freedom of access to the courts.

The case was set to resume today as that issue is discussed.

Definition of “child pornography”

  • 163.1 (1) In this section, “child pornography” means
  • (a) a photographic, film, video or other visual representation, whether or not it was made by electronic or mechanical means,
  • (i) that shows a person who is or is depicted as being under the age of eighteen years and is engaged in or is depicted as engaged in explicit sexual activity, or
  • (ii) the dominant characteristic of which is the depiction, for a sexual purpose, of a sexual organ or the anal region of a person under the age of eighteen years;
  • (b) any written material, visual representation or audio recording that advocates or counsels sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act;
  • (c) any written material whose dominant characteristic is the description, for a sexual purpose, of sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act; or
  • (d) any audio recording that has as its dominant characteristic the description, presentation or representation, for a sexual purpose, of sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act.

 

Additional information – sources

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