A judge suggested that sentences for people who commit sex offences against children are “simply not robust enough”.

Cahlii Smith, 30, was jailed for 11 years last week after blackmailing two teenage girls into producing and sending him child pornography.

It was the first blackmail case in Bermuda to involve child sexual abuse.

In his judgment, Assistant Justice Mark Pettingill said: “The level of manipulation and methodology used in committing the offences against the young girls in this case is deeply concerning to the court and the sentences must reflect the abject revulsion of society in addition to the need to send a clear and unequivocal message that our children must be protected and that these types of crimes will attract the appropriate maximum sentences allowed by the law as it currently stands.

“In that regard, many right-thinking people may well consider that the current legislated penalties are simply not robust enough.”

Sentence range

Making of child pornography: 10 years

Distributing child pornography: 10 years

Accessing child pornography: 5 years

He was backed by child-protection advocacy charity Saving Children and Revealing Secrets, which said that convicted offenders should have proper treatment and be released only if the Parole Board finds that they have completed the most effective programmes available, with reports to reflect risk reduction.

Debi Ray-Rivers, the executive director of Scars, added that strict conditions must also be put in place for those who are released back into the community.

“For example, for child porn offences, the offender, upon release and after receiving the most effective treatment, should be prohibited from using applications that delete browsers and restricted from having a device with a camera function,” she said.

“He should never be found with child porn again, and if he does not comply with the risk management team’s requirements, he should be automatically recalled back to Westgate.”

Ms Ray-Rivers said that people who want to commit sexual offences against children will groom and manipulate their victims.

“They will go to any length to lure them to do sexual acts that provides the offender with sexual gratification and power,” she said.

“The greatest challenge on social media is that child sex offenders can pose that they are 12, but behind the screen they could be 32.”

She also urged all adults to undergo Scars certification so that they can educate themselves about prevention of child sexual abuse.

Ms Ray-Rivers added: “We encourage parents to build not only trust with their child, but also build their child’s self-confidence and worth.

“No conversation should be off-limits.

“Parents with small children should familiarise themselves with sites such as www.netsmartzkids.org and reading material such as Sex, Likes and Social Media: Talking to Your Teens in the Digital Age.

“All of us adults have a part to play in making sure children are safe and protected from predators. This includes parents and guardians, family members, youth-serving organisations, lawmakers, the media, social media sites, etc.”

The court heard that the girls said that someone contacted both of them over Facebook and claimed to be a hacker who had stolen intimate photographs of them.

They said that the man demanded they send pornographic images and videos of themselves to him or else he would leak the images he had.

The victims said that they caved to his demands but cut communication with him after several months, only to have the content leaked on social media.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Pettingill said that “social media used in this regard is a troubling thing”.

He said: “This is truly disconcerting to the public and is reflective of the dangers of the unsupervised use of social media by children and the ability of criminals to use false accounts and pseudonyms to hide from detection.”

The Government was asked for comment last week after the judgment was delivered but none was received by the time of publication.

Mr Justice Pettingill’s remarks were made as the heads of major social-media companies were questioned by US senators in a sometimes fiery hearing on Wednesday.

A BBC report said that Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg apologised to families who said their children were harmed by social media.

According to the report, Mr Zuckerberg — who runs Instagram and Facebook — turned to them and said “no one should go through” what they had.

He and the bosses of TikTok, Snap, X and Discord were questioned for almost four hours by senators from both parties as the lawmakers wanted to know what was being done to protect children online.

Legislation going through Congress aims to hold social media companies to account for material posted on their platforms.

Mr Zuckerberg and TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew voluntarily agreed to testify — but the heads of Snap, X (formerly Twitter) and messaging platform Discord initially refused and were sent government-issued subpoenas.

Behind the five tech bosses sat families who said their children had self-harmed or killed themselves as a result of social-media content.

They made their feelings known throughout, hissing when the CEOs entered and applauding when lawmakers asked tough questions.

Royal Gazette