Court's child-porn ruling upsets activists
Pornographer defiant after judge finds some literary merit in his stories.

March 28, 2002

Toronto Globe and Mail

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Saying his court case was fought for the "freedom of Canadians," child pornographer John Robin Sharpe, 67, was swaggering and defiant after a British Columbia Supreme Court judge ruled that his sex stories involving children have artistic merit and aren't criminal.

The decision, which child advocates say will encourage pedophiles to abuse children, was the latest ruling in a seesaw court battle involving the B.C. courts and the Supreme Court of Canada over whether Sharpe's widely vilified poems and stories are crimes or art.

Justice Duncan Shaw of the B.C. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Sharpe's story collections, contained in "Sam Paloc's Boyabuse: Flogging, Fun and Fortitude - A Collection of Kiddiekink Classics" and "Stand by America, 1953," are morally repugnant but have some literary merit, and he even likened them to the works of the Marquis de Sade.

The stories include tales of men having sex with boys ages 12 and younger; boys having sex with each other; children being flogged; torture, capture and confinement of boys; sexual slavery; and painful circumcision.

"In my opinion, 'Boyabuse' and 'Stand by America, 1953' have some artistic merit," Shaw said in a ruling released Tuesday. Shaw found Sharpe not guilty of two child- pornography charges related to the writings, but convicted the retired city planner of possession of child pornography related to hundreds of photographs seized at the Canada-U.S. border and at his Vancouver apartment after a trip abroad in 1995.

The ruling does not strike down the child-pornography law. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled previously that some material is allowable if it has some artistic merit.

Children's-rights advocates were appalled, saying the ruling legitimizes sexual violence against children and will encourage pedophiles to write and distribute material that encourages sexual exploitation of children.

Annabel Webb of Justice for Girls said Sharpe's stories are dangerous to children - not artistic.

"There is no doubt in my mind that if the public sat down with the material that Sharpe produced, that most people would be horrified and disgusted," Webb told reporters outside court. "What's happened is that it's become an abstract debate about literary merit and artistic merit."

Sharpe said he waged the public battle because Canada's child-pornography laws limit freedom of expression.

Asked if his stories encourage sexual abuse of children, Sharpe dodged the question: "I hope it encourages other people to stand up for their rights and to fight against pernicious laws," he replied.