Expert Witness Sees 'Misconception' in Common Wisdom on Child Porn

By Jessica Smith
The Metro
January 4, 2012

Dr. John Bradford is seen outside of the Ottawa courthouse in Dec. 2011.

The key witness in Raymond Lahey's sentencing is working on research he believes will show that sexual deviants who consume child pornography are less likely to abuse children now that child porn has gone online.

Dr. John Bradford, Head of the Division of Forensic Psychiatry of the University of Ottawa, has testified as expert in numerous criminal trials and recently testified as a defence witness at former Bishop Raymond Lahey's sentencing hearing in December.

His conclusion that Lahey was not a risk to children and, in fact, not a pedophile, despite possessing images and videos of children and teens, was a key part of the defence argument for a lesser sentence.

There are common misconceptions about child pornography, Bradford said in an exclusive interview with Metro shortly after the sentencing hearing.

Bradford is unequivocal that child pornography is extremely harmful to the children who are abused in it, but says the assumption that sexual deviants who look at child porn usually also molest children isn't true—which he testified about in the Lahey case.

"If you look at the majority of people who are arrested for child pornography, the majority of them have never touched a child," said Bradford. "They may fall into this category of people who are sexually deviant, where erotica or pornography provides an outlet where they don't victimize anybody."

"If they have, on the Internet, exposure to graphic sexual material where they can self-gratify themselves, the theory would be that they therefore would not go out and seek a child or would not expose themselves to the public, or don't commit the deviant sexual acts," he said.

Before the Internet, many pedophiles would turn to photos of children in underwear in common department store catalogues for a sexual "outlet" and never harm anyone, he said. "In some ways, what's happened, in my opinion, is that this has moved over to the Internet."

However, the most aggressive pedophiles would go to great lengths to obtain or import explicit child pornography, which is now available online. A study that Bradford co-authored showed that, prior to the Internet, the use of pornography was associated with an increased likelihood to re-offend.

Bradford is now working on an updated study that he believes is likely to show the connection is between viewing child pornography and sexual recidivism is weaker, now that all kinds of pornography are easier to obtain.

The field of research is controversial and the topics have debates on many sides, said Bradford.

For example, other researchers have found links between the consumption of pornography and aggressive behaviour in general as well as with negative attitudes and beliefs that support violence towards women.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.