What is accessing child pornography?

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What is Accessing Child Pornography?

Accessing child pornography is a crime defined by section 163.1(4.2) of the Criminal Code as knowingly causing child pornography to be viewed by or transmitted to yourself. To be convicted of accessing child pornography, the crown prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the material is child pornography and that the accused either viewed or self-transmitted it, and that they did so knowingly.

Viewing child pornography is exactly what it sounds like: watching a child pornography video, looking at a child pornography photograph, or reading literature that is child pornography. Courts across Canada disagree about whether self-transmitting child pornography includes downloading it. Some courts have found that downloading child pornography is a form of self-transmission, while others have disagreed. However, the crime of accessing child pornography is often based on viewing the material, and the separate crime of possessing child pornography, which is usually committed by downloading the material to one's personal device, is often the focus of prosecution. The purpose of the crime of accessing child pornography is to punish people who view child pornography without storing it on a personal device; for example, by viewing it on a public library computer.

To be guilty of accessing child pornography, the accused must have acted "knowingly," which means that they were aware that they were viewing or self-transmitting something and knew what that something was. It is not necessary for the accused to know that the material meets the definition of child pornography in the Code, but they must have been aware of the content they were viewing. For example, if someone is asked to look at something on a co-worker's computer and expects to see work-related material but instead sees child pornography and immediately looks away, they have not committed the offence of viewing child pornography because they did not do so knowingly.

Committing any of the four offences under section 163.1 of the Criminal Code constitutes a child pornography crime.