March 10, 2009 - 12:09PM
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The lawyer representing an Australian charged for republishing, on a video-sharing site, a video of a man swinging a baby around like a rag doll says that if the case proceeds every Australian who surfs the net could be vulnerable to police prosecution.
Chelsea Emery, of Ryan and Bosscher Lawyers in Maroochydore, represents Chris Illingworth, who was charged with accessing and uploading child abuse material.
Illingworth, 61, published the three-minute clip on Liveleak, a site similar to YouTube but focused on news and current events.
Illingworth has uploaded hundreds of videos to the website. The one he was charged over, thought to have been created by a Russian circus performer, had already been published widely across the internet and shown on US TV news shows.
The clip can still be found online and has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
Emery said the case was a unique test of Australia's laws regarding internet use and the implications of the charges were enormous for every user of the internet.
Illingworth faces a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment for each charge.
Queensland Police's brief of evidence, handed to the defence last month and seen by this website, centres on a witness statement from Susan Cadzow, specialist pediatrician at Royal Brisbane Children's Hospital.
The footage, viewed by Cadzow, shows an adult male vigorously swinging a baby by the arms but at the end of the clip the baby is shown laughing and smiling. Cadzow thought it represented child abuse.
"The child's demeanour at the end of the video would seemingly suggest that no significant injury has occurred. However, it does not exclude the presence of a [hidden] injury," Cadzow said in her statement.
Illingworth, a father of four, had no involvement in the creation of the video. He says he has been admitted to hospital several times since being charged and claims the stress of the case has exacerbated his health problems.
"This charge could impact on every Australian who surfs the net, downloads a file and shares it with others," Emery said.
"In theory this could extend to people who just pass on amusing emails and email images which seem to criss-cross work computers every day.
"Some of these emails contain images which poke fun or belittle certain people. Does this mean any depicting children, even in a humorous way, could be deemed abuse?"
The arresting officer, Detective Senior Constable Richard Libke, said in his witness statement that a forensic search of Illingworth's home and work computers found no items or images of interest.
Illingworth has no criminal or traffic history. He is next scheduled to appear in Maroochydore Magistrates Court on March 19.
He said he posted a disclaimer under the clip on Liveleak warning people of potential injuries resulting from copying the behaviour depicted and asked anyone with information on the origins of the video to contact Liveleak.
Illingworth, an administrator of Liveleak, said information he had given to overseas police relating to other videos on the site had resulted in arrests, such as the case of US teens who published a video showing them abusing a cat.
Emery questioned the prosecution policies of Queensland Police's Task Force Argos, which investigates online predators and child abusers.
"Who made the decision to prosecute a man with child abuse-related charges for sharing a file he did not create, of images not filmed in Australia, taken from a foreign website?"
Queensland Police said it was a crime "to participate in the exploitation and abuse of children by seeking to view, possess, make or distribute child-abuse or child exploitation material".
It provided a definition of "child-abuse material", which was any material that shows a person under the age of 18 who "is, or appears to be, a victim of torture, cruelty or physical abuse".
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