08:11 GMT18 February 2020
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    The arrest of a Canadian man for purchasing a child sex doll has sparked a debate between law enforcement and psychiatrists over whether or not the doll constitutes child pornography.

    In 2013, Kenneth Harrisson, a 51-year-old electrician from St. John's, ordered the doll from a Japanese sex doll manufacturer. The doll was flagged by Canada Border Services Agency, who informed the police. They arrested Harrisson and charged him with possession of child pornography, delivering something obscene through the mail, attempting to smuggle contraband into Canada, and possession of contraband. Harrisson's trial began January 2017.

    The doll has not been taken out of the box it was shipped in. According to Newfoundland police, the box contains "a prepubescent female doll, made of a foam-like consistency, that stands at 130 cm, approximately four-foot-two. It comes with clothes and other optional accessories. Some of those accessories could be and can be used for sexual gratification purposes."

    Harrisson, who has never been charged before, made a brief statement regarding his arrest. "I do not condone child abuse in any way, shape or form. Any child abuse should be reported immediately to the proper authorities," he wrote. He has pled not guilty to the charges. 

    Retired Canadian police officer Bill Malone, who worked countless child pornography cases in his career, believes that the doll consists of child pornography. Peter Collins, a University of Toronto forensic psychiatrist who was summoned as an expert witness at the trial, concurs.

    "If [Harrisson] ordered the sex doll… in my expert professional opinion, he likely has an erotic attraction to prepubescent children," Collins wrote in a letter that was read to the court.

    Collins continued to write that pedophiles who are at-risk-offenders "can become incited by the imagery, satiated by the imagery or act out when they are experiencing stress in their life. For this reason, "the possession of a sex doll is just another form depicting a child for a sexual purpose and therefore would meet the criteria of child pornography."

    Dr. James Cantor, a clinical psychologist out of Toronto, does not believe that the dummy constitutes child pornography. 

    Cantor emphasizes that pedophilia is a mental disorder, not a crime. Only acting upon those urges constitutes criminal activity. While possession of a sexual photograph depicting a child would constitute a crime, that is because photographing the child likely caused them harm.

    Since a drawing or story about a child in a sexual situation would not be illegal, Cantor argues, neither should be a mannequin. "There is no actual person. It is a piece of latex. So, if there is no victim where is there, exactly, a harm being committed?"

    The obvious argument would be that the dummy could normalize children as sexual beings in the minds of pedophiles, making them more likely to target an actual child. Cantor, who has extensively studied pedophiles, says there is no evidence of such a link.

    In fact, he claims the opposite- that the doll could help a pedophile control their urges. If the doll can help "keep their sex drive under control, and avoiding long kinds of therapy, lifelong use of medications… then that is a basic social benefit."

    "We want these people to come in and get therapy. We want to help these people, but by stigmatizing them so strongly, we've just driven them underground," said Cantor. "We just have pedophiles out in society completely unsupervised and completely unsupported by anybody. If anything, we might be making the situation worse."

    In Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, similar arrests for possession of a child sex doll have been made recently. Most countries have purposefully vague wording for their laws of what constitutes child pornography. The Canadian Criminal Code defines pornography as being a "depiction, for a sexual purpose, of a sexual organ or the anal region of a person under the age of eighteen years."

    Harrisson's trial will continue into March. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to as many as seven years in prison.

    arrest, Child Pornography, pedophilia, Canadian Border Service Agency, Newfoundland, Canada
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