The Netherlands gets tough on child pornography

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Recent major child sex abuse cases have focused the attention of Dutch politicians, police and justice officials. A national police unit is being formed to tackle child pornography. The number of officers investigating child sex abuse has doubled from 75 to 150. The aim is a 25-percent increase in child abuse and pornography arrests by 2014.

by Erik Klooster and Johan van der Tol

Dozens of children suffered abuse in the recent Amsterdam case involving Robert Mikelsons whose computer was full of images of child porn. The former crèche worker and child minder has so far admitted abusing 87 young children. The number of men – it’s almost always men – who were involved in the case is still not clear.[related-articles]

Police Commissioner Peter Reijnders is in charge of the programme to improve the method of tackling child pornography. Discoveries made in the course of investigations lead him to suspect that a worrying trend is developing:

“The material varies in terms of volume and seriousness. We are seeing though that the material is becoming increasingly more serious. The abuse of young children is unfortunately no longer unusual.”

Judging from what’s been confiscated, Mr Reijnders believes that very many men download child pornography. The police discover enormous amounts of pornographic photos and films of children on the internet.

Psychologist Nel Wanders has worked as a therapist with hundreds of men convicted of child pornography and abuse offences and ordered to undergo treatment. The therapy she offers has “to a large extent” been successful.

“If these men get to understand what they are responsible for, through the images they are using to excite themselves, if they look carefully at the pictures and we make them see the fear in the children’s eyes, then they can no longer look at those images without noticing this sort of thing as well.”

Other adults
Ms Wanders says most of the men have always had paedophile feelings or have had no sexual experience. They perhaps have had sexual contact with an adult once or twice in their lives and at the age of 50 have had no proper relationships. They are often people who find it difficult to make contact with other adults.

She thinks the police should keep up checks on men who have completed their treatment:

“I think it’s important that random checks are made on men who have been arrested to see whether they have this sort of stuff on their computers. You don’t need to visit every offender. But if the rest hear through the grapevine that this can happen and that someone has been raided, then they will take care not to do the same.”


On Tuesday, the prosecution called for a four-year sentence to be handed down to Ad van den Berg, the chairman of Martijn, the Dutch group that champions the interests of paedophiles. It is alleged that he had 150,000 photos and 7,500 films in his computer child pornography collection. His defence is that the images were not for his own use but for research. The prosecutor rejects the argument. “Society expects me to demand a lengthy prison sentence,” she says.