Dutch Rapporteur visits United States

Last week the oral argument was held in the potentially groundbreaking American case to which the Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children contributed as ‘friend of the court’. The case is crucial for ensuring adequate compensation to victims of child pornography. Besides attending the oral argument at the Supreme Court of the United States, Corinne Dettmeijer is also sharing her knowledge and experience at several prestigious universities.

Oral argument

An elaborate description of the case Paroline v. United States can be found in the news article published at the occasion of the filing of the amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) brief. During the oral argument on the 22nd of January the Supreme Court Justices repeatedly expressed their difficulties with this complex question. Do victims have a right to be fully compensated by persons convicted for possession of child pornography? While on the one hand this is seen as disproportionate, the Justices also think it is undesirable if victims cannot receive compensation from possessors.

The American government argued for a solution somewhere between those two extremes. According to the Solicitor General, judges in every single case should estimate a reasonable share of the total damage caused by the possessor. Victim Amy, supported among others by the amicus curiae brief of the Rapporteur, is of the opinion that the problem is best solved by the legal doctrine of joint and several liability: each perpetrator is liable for the total amount of damage and it is up to them to divide the burden among each other. Thereby the victim is spared from involvement in thousands of lawsuits in order to obtain compensation and this burden is placed on the offenders instead. In the Netherlands joint and several liability has been imposed on producer Robert M. and his husband Richard van O. for the damage caused by their possession of child pornography.

In June the Supreme Court is expected to give a decision in this case, which has received much attention in the American press. Below is a small selection of links to some prominent media. Also in the Netherlands several articles on this case have appeared in such major national news papers as Trouw and De Telegraaf.

Lectures at American universities

The Rapporteur continues her visit with a series of lectures. On the 22nd of January she spoke in Washington DC at Georgetown University and before staff members of US Congressmen. This week she travels to Boston to share her experience at Harvard Law School and Northeastern University. More lectures are planned next week in New York, at Columbia Law School and New York University.

Starting point for the lectures is her argumentation in the case Paroline v. United States. She will also address new developments such as sexting, online grooming, webcam child sex tourism and the recent case of a nineteen-year-old hacker from Rotterdam who produced child pornography by secretly switching on webcams with remote access tools. Through these lectures Dettmeijer aims to stimulate students to rise up to the continuous challenge to the law posed by new technologies. The aftermath of the Robert M.-case illustrates how the law is often inevitably lagging behind reality. Although there is no reason to assume that this will change any time soon, there is definitely no harm in detecting these new developments in a timely fashion and anticipating possible legal strategies.