Child pornography is a horrific crime. Every photo represents an incidence of abuse and every day millions of them are created, distributed and shared. In the US and UK today the police spend enormous amounts of money and time battling it and as public awareness has increased so has our vigilance.
But that doesn’t justify the nightmare scenario faced by Arizona couple Lisa and AJ Demaree when they were accused of being child pornographers. The family had recently returned from a vacation where they had taken lots of pictures of their children enjoying themselves, including a few in the bath. When they dropped the memory stick off at Walmart to have the photos developed they didn’t realise what was going to follow.
Within 24 hours the police were knocking on their door. An employee at the Walmart noticed the photos and flagged them up to the police. Afterwards child services were called, the Demaree’s had their children taken from them, and their names placed on the sex offenders list. Lisa Demaree was suspended from her job as a teacher, and the couples’ entire circle of friends and family called in and questioned.
They were accused of being child pornographers and the evidence were two photos of their infant children smiling in the bath.
Afterwards the charges were dropped when a judge took one look at the photos and recognised them for what they were. But the Demaree’s wanted justice for the bizarre treatment they were subjected to, and it took them ten long years to finally get what they wanted.
This month, they finally got it.
“The social workers did not have reasonable cause to believe the children were at risk of serious bodily harm or molestation,” ruled the three judges overlooking their appeal. “Therefore, viewing the record most favorably to the Demarees, the defendants acted unconstitutionally in taking the three children away from home without judicial authorization.”
“The risk identified by the defendants did not include taking photos of a nude child in an exploitative situation and distributing them, because there was no allegation or indication that A.J. and Lisa had distributed, or were likely in the future to distribute, nude pictures of their children to anyone. Nor did the identified risk include taking photos of a nude child engaging in sexual conduct, because there was no allegation A.J. and Lisa had ever taken, or were likely to take, photos of their children engaging in sexual conduct.
“And the risk was not that the Demarees would see their own children, ages five, four, and one-and-a-half, nude, including their genitalia,” they added, “as caring for children of those ages necessitates doing so.”
It was a long journey for the Demarees who had to argue that child services had acted irresponsibly but it took multiple appeals and multiple judges to finally see sense and agree with them. While Walmart and the arresting detective settled their issues with the Demarees out of court a year or two after the initial arrest Child Services doubled down and refused to admit responsibility.
It’s good to see that the judicial system saw sense and did not allow the people responsible to get away with it.