Proposed Expansion Of Police Powers Causes Disagreement

16.1.2013
Words by Paul Fontaine
A proposal to expand police powers to purposefully bait child sexual predators on the internet has drawn its share of supporters and critics.

The recent high profile arrest of Karl Vignir Þorsteinsson, who on hidden camera admitted to sexually abusing scores of children over a period of decades, has brought greater attention to the finding, prosecution, and supervision of sex predators in Iceland. Former MP Ágúst Ólafur Ágústsson, who leads a focus group researching the legal response to the sexual abuse of children in Iceland, has proposed among other things that police be permitted to bait sexual predators. For example, a police officer could enter a chatroom pretending to be a minor in the hopes of attracting one.

Vísir now reports that while parliamentary meetings are currently being held over the idea, not everyone is in agreement over how the power, if granted, should be used, or even if it should be granted at all.

One of the strongest supporters of the proposal is Reykjavik Metropolitan Police Commissioner Stefán Eiríksson. He has told members of parliament that the internet is becoming the new stalking ground for those who prey on children, and that the police lack the necessary tools to find and arrest potential offenders. As it is, police do have some powers to bait criminals, but they do not have the power to invent a fictional person, let alone one who could entice someone into committing a crime.

State prosecutor Sigríður Friðjónsdóttir, along with experts in the field of human rights, sexual abuse and child protective services, have voiced worries over such a police power being given. They point out that such a power might lure someone into committing a crime they might not otherwise have committed. Sigríður called the proposal a "tremendous interventionist power", although she would not rule out its use entirely.

Björgvin G. Sigurðsson, chairperson of the Judicial Affairs and Education Committee, told reporters that he believes "it is necessary to take the step towards" giving the police this power, "although it does bring with it some controversial details."

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