After a two-month trial, a court in Freiburg, southern Germany has imposed lengthy custodial sentences on a couple who sold their young son to paedophiles online.
The boy's unemployed mother and stepfather — Berrin T, 48, and Christian L, 39 — also repeatedly sexually abused the young boy, who was nine-years-old when proceedings began as June.
They were found guilty of rape, aggravated sexual assault of children, forced prostitution and distribution of child pornography. Their sentences fell somewhat short of what prosecutors demanded — 14 years and six months for his mother, 13 years and six months for his stepfather — but they must also pay US$49,200 (€42,500) in damages to the boy, and a mentally handicapped three-year-old girl they also abused.
A Spanish paedophile who sexually abused the child repeatedly was also jailed for 10 years — five others have also been prosecuted in connection with the abuse.
The shocking case came to light following an anonymous tip-off to authorities last September, intelligence which led to the arrest of eight members of an darknet paedophile ring.
Over the course of the ensuing investigation, it became clear the boy's parents would charge members of the group several thousand dollars to abuse the boy, film the acts, then post them on the darknet for more paying customers. The abuse conspiracy endured from May 2015 and August 2017 — had authorities not busted the ring, it may well have continued a great while longer.
While Christian L made serious accusations against the child's mother in court, in his verdict the judge ruled she initially went along with the abuse to please her partner, and later for "financial motives" — indicating he believed Christian was the instigator.
Whatever the truth of the matter, child welfare authorities in the state of Baden-Württemberg have been heavily criticised by local media for failing to stop the couple's abuse. Christian had a previous conviction for child abuse, was considered to pose a high risk to children upon release, and barred from having contact with children or youths as a result — but while in March 2017 the local youth welfare office stepped in and took custody of the boy after a police tip-off, her son was sent back home within weeks.
The boy is now safely ensconced in foster care — his lawyer says he's doing well "under the circumstances".
While a disquieting case, the child's ordeal is seemingly a relatively common one in Germany. In 2017, an independent commission investigating paedophilia in Germany found the majority of child sex abuse cases in the country occurred within a family or close social circles, and were typically carried out by victims' fathers. The highest number of reported cases occurred in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, followed by the southern state of Bavaria.
Moreover, the commission found children often received no help because mothers failed to intervene, due to not believing their child, fearing they would also become the subject of abuse, or would lose their partner or their whole family.