Today the US Supreme Court issued it’s long awaited decision in United States v. Paroline concerning the rights of victims of child pornography offenses to restitution. The Court recognized that the horrific harm inflicted by these crimes is in addition to the harm of the original abuse. The Court also held that each defendant convicted of such an offense should pay restitution to his or her victims. The troubling question is how much should each pay for what is an indivisible harm. The Court leaves to each individual judge who is sentencing a child porn defendant the task of discerning the appropriate amount of restitution.
Our client, who filed one of the fourteen amicus briefs in the case, has this reaction:
“I appreciate the Supreme Court’s recognition of the pain and loss suffered by victims and the need for mandatory restitution. This upholds both the victim’s need for compensation and helping the offender realize they have hurt an actual person. The difficult part of this decision is the immense amount of time and work investment that will be required by the victim to collect restitution, without the guarantee that they will ever collect the full amount to be made whole again. With each case in which the victim seeks restitution from someone who has possessed and/or distributed their images, there is an emotional cost just for being involved in the case. It brings up the painful reality of the victim’s situation of never-ending humilation and puts it right in the victim’s face once again. This decision places on the victim the huge burden of several years of litigation without any promise of closure. This is a dismal prospect because it leaves victims like Amy and myself with the choice between not pursuing restitution (which would not provide us with the help we desperately need to heal) or continuing to have this painful part of our lives in our face on a regular basis for several more years, if not decades. Without any guidelines as to how the district courts will calculate restitution from each offender, I worry that the emotional toll may not be adequately compensated for in the end. I sincerely hope that Congress will take the time to create some guidelines for restitution for victims of child pornography possession and distribution that will protect the victim and enable them to receive full compensation.”
We share Vicky’s concerns about the impact of this decision and will be working with others who are interested in this emerging issue to fashion a more certain remedy for victims.