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Prevention by All Means? A Legal Comparison of the Criminalization of Online Grooming and its Enforcement

Author(s): Renée Kool

Journal: Utrecht Law Review
ISSN 1871-515X

Volume: 7;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 46;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: sexual abuse of minors | (online) grooming | precautionary criminal law | Treaty of Lanzarote | comparative legal analysis

The obligation to criminalise online grooming, recently prescribed by the Council of Europe in the Treaty of Lanzarote, illustrates modern citizens' fears of external dangers, especially towards the sexual abuse of minors. The authorities' image of online grooming being unclear, the penalisatiom tends to be of a symbolic nature, implying false prophecies of legal protection. Moreover, the penalisation of online grooming indicates a precautionary use of the criminal law, so its justification lies within the perpertrators' objectionable motive, the latter violating basic assumptions of criminal law. Next to theoretical objections, practical issues are to be foreseen, as the criminal investigation of online grooming indicates the use of undercover tactics, which has a bearing on the procedural risk, e.g. the entrapment defence. Nevertheless, the British authorities have been able to penalise online grooming rather successfully. The Netherlands having recently (in July 2010) introduced a similar provision, this calls for a comparative analysis. Does the penalisation of online grooming have any added value, especially in light of the tendency towards a precautionary use of the criminal law, and what features are apparent in the British success?
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