A judge hearing an unusual child pornography trial says his verdict will hinge on whether a Newfoundland man knew the sex doll he ordered online was designed to resemble a child.
Judge Mark Pike heard closing arguments Tuesday in what’s believed to be the first trial in Canada dealing with child pornography charges involving a sex doll. It’s poised to set a precedent around what constitutes child pornography if no real child is involved.
Fifty-four-year-old Kenneth Harrisson faces charges of possessing child pornography, mailing obscene matter, and two charges under the federal Customs Act of smuggling and possession of prohibited goods.
Crown lawyers argued that the doll is a three-dimensional form of child pornography and questioned Harrisson’s testimony that he did not order it to have sex with.
Harrisson’s lawyer cast doubt on the reliability of the Japanese website Harrisson ordered the product from, and argued there’s no way to know what size of doll his client meant to order.
Pike zeroed in Tuesday on the question of Harrisson’s knowledge as essential to proving his guilt.
“For your case to succeed you have to satisfy me beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew what he was ordering and he knew what he getting, and that it was child pornography,” the provincial court judge told the prosecution team.
Harrisson had testified Monday that he did not intend to have sex with the doll and that he had ordered it for companionship to replace his son, who died as an infant.
He ordered the doll from Japan in 2013, but it was intercepted on its way to his St. John’s home.
Harrisson said he did a Google search of the term “sex doll” and said he chose the photo that showed the most “male-like” face to resemble his son who would have been around 25 in 2013.
The prosecution team disputed Harrisson’s testimony, saying the intercepted doll and the price Harrisson said he paid best resembled dolls marketed as children on the website, and those products fit the definition of child pornography.
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Canada’s Criminal Code defines child pornography as “a photographic, film, video or other visual representation, whether or not it was made by electronic or mechanical means” that shows a person who is, or depicted as being, under 18 years old engaged in explicit sexual activity.
Crown prosecutor Dana Sullivan argued Harrisson ordered a deluxe set with makeup and other accessories, suggesting intent to have sex with it.
Prosecutor Bill Howse pointed out that Harrisson only testified that the child he lost was a boy when Howse directly asked him.
Harrisson had said he chose to buy a sex doll for its lifelike qualities and said he intended to dress the doll in male clothing.
Harrisson’s lawyer, Bob Buckingham, highlighted the unprecedented, sensitive nature of the case before disputing the testimony of a Crown expert witness.
He accused forensic psychiatrist Peter Collins of improper, biased research, calling him a “hired gun” for the police and Crown who only sought information that supported his beliefs about Harrisson’s motivations.
Collins testified that the doll seized by the Canada Border Services Agency was the size of a child. He said it met the definition of child pornography and that such items appeal to a “pedophiliac subculture.”
Buckingham took issue with the fact that the intercepted sex doll was never fully assembled, casting doubt over whether Harrisson had really ordered a child-sized doll.
He said the web page Harrisson ordered it from would have changed by the time it was viewed by investigators, arguing this makes the website unreliable evidence.
He also pointed to Harrisson’s testimony that he reached the page through Google and thought he was buying an adult doll marketed as “Carol.”
Pike set May 21 as the date for his decision.
Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Const. Terry Follett said outside court Tuesday that in the six years since charges were laid against Harrisson, he’s heard from police forces in B.C., New Brunswick and Ontario who have intercepted similar items.
He said other Canadian jurisdictions are keenly eyeing the development of the file and may decide to move forward on their own files based on Pike’s decision.