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Did Germany Decriminalize Child Porn Possession? | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey


A recent change to Germany’s Criminal Code has altered how its judicial system will treat people who are caught with images of child abuse.

The change comes after the country enacted tough laws in 2021 that made possession of such images a crime punishable by a minimum one-year sentence.

However, the latest change, which affected the classification of the offense and the punishment guidelines, led to a number of headlines that did not spell out all the facts.

Reports have suggested that Germany has decriminalized possession of child abuse images, but instead the legislative change affects the classification of the offense and the punishment guidelines.

Getty Images

The Claim

A Wednesday post on Reddit included a screen grab from an article headlined “Germany decriminalizes child porn possession.”

The post said: “Wtf Germany.”

A Tuesday post on X (formerly Twitter) by user @kenshirotism, which has been viewed 375,900 times, included a screen grab from an article headlined “‘Pro-Pedophile’ Activist Group Celebrates as Germany Decriminalizes Child Porn Possession.”

The post said: “Bake, wake up, the gates of Hell just opened.”

The Facts

The headlines and social media posts suggest that possession of child abuse images would not be a prosecutable offense in Germany. This is not correct.

As reported by German political journal Das Parlament, among others, the changes enacted by Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, did not decriminalize possession but reduced the minimum sentence for possession.

The new change to the Criminal Code means that the minimum penalty for possession has been reduced from one year to three months and changes possession to a misdemeanor. Distribution penalties will be punishable by a minimum of six months’ imprisonment. That still makes possession illegal but gives flexibility to judicial authorities to decide on cases judged to be at the “lower end of criminal liability.”

An introduction to this change, published on the Bundestag website, says it may be useful and appropriate in cases where someone accused of possession did not act out of sexual interest but may have done so to stop or prevent further distribution. Examples may be parents or teachers who found material belonging to youngsters and forwarded it to other parents or pastoral management to keep them informed.

A 2023 report by German media outlet Heise noted research quoted by Justice Minister Marion Gentges of the state of Baden-Württemberg that over 40 percent of investigations into possession were schoolyard cases, such as school-age children sending nude photos to one another.

Other examples mentioned by German ministers included failing to delete unwanted but abusive messages in a WhatsApp group.

A translation of an introduction of the draft bill on the Bundestag website says that the “proportionate design of the minimum sentence” is necessary for a “reaction in individual cases that is appropriate to the crime and guilt.”

The bill retains the maximum penalty for serious cases, up to 10 years, that may involve possession, among other crimes associated with the distribution of child abuse images.

The change did not receive cross-party support, with some arguing for keeping the minimal sentence and making parent-teacher clauses instead. But to suggest that this move effectively decriminalizes all possession offenses is misleading.

Newsweek has contacted a media representative at the Bundestag via email for comment.

The Ruling

Needs Context

Needs Context

Germany’s Criminal Code was altered recently, reducing the minimum sentence for possession of child abuse images from one year to three months and changing the classification of the crime to a misdemeanor.

The change is intended to deal with cases at the “lower end of criminal liability.” Ministers provided examples of “schoolyard cases” and distribution where the intent was to prevent further dissemination of abuse images.

Serious possession cases are still punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

FACT CHECK BY Newsweek’s Fact Check team