Holland America Crew Member Arrested for Child Pornography to Remain in Custody

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Things are progressing slowly in the case of the Holland America cruise ship crew member who was arrested on child pornography charges. The latest reports explain the worker, who we now know is musician Sean Richard Bell, 36, will remain in custody until at least next week, but what happens next is still up in the air.

Bell, a Morden, Manitoba native, worked as an entertainer onboard the Veendam vessel, performing with the “Neptunes Trio.” He has been working for the cruise industry since 2006, but this is the first time he has been involved in an incident of this magnitude.

The suspect was originally arrested on June 3 in Halifax while the Veendam was docked in port. Canadian authorities boarded the vessel and performed a customary search of crew quarters when they discovered a slew of child pornography materials in Bell’s possession. The Canada Border Services Agency reported that an external hard drive containing several videos of boys engaging in sexual activity was found in Bell’s quarters, which was seized as evidence. Agents also confiscated Bell’s Apple computer, two iPads, an iPhone and a separate hard drive, which have been sent to labs for analysis.

There is still no word on whether any of the pornographic images and media were of children onboard the Veendam ship or if Bell took the images himself.

Bell has been in custody at Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Dartmouth since his arrest and appeared in court in Halifax briefly on Tuesday. His bail hearing has been postponed to June 21, so it will be a while before the sexual crime suspect has the chance to be released.

He is facing charges of possessing and importing child pornography, which are considered illegal and prohibited goods in Canada. Bell is being charged for violations of both Canada’s Criminal Code and Customs Act.

In Canada, child pornography charges can result in up to 20 years of prison time for those who are convicted. Not only does the country prohibit visual pornography of minors under the age of 18, but it also bans written depictions of children engaging in sexual activity, whether the individuals are fictional characters or real people.  In fact, Canada’s  law criminalizes and has prosecuted suspects for the possession of completely fictional sexual material – even in the absence of images – involving children or even if the material is of cartoon depictions committing sexual acts.

Like Bell, anyone found in possession of child pornography in Canada is subject to Criminal Code law violation penalties. The Code was amended in 1985 to include child pornography crimes under Part V: Sexual Offences, Public Morals and Disorderly Conduct: Offences Tending to Corrupt Morals.

Currently, the minimum penalty for child pornography charges in Canada is 14 days, but this would be only applicable to the mildest of crimes, such as a one-time access of pornographic material. Because Bell is facing not only Criminal Code charges but Customs Act violations as well, it may be years before he gets out of prison.

At least he was caught. There are far too many times in which sexual offenders on cruise lines get away with their crimes because the cruise company did nothing to stop them. Case in point, the recent revelation of a video tape that recorded a Disney cruise line employee molesting an 11-year-old girl. The crime occurred back in August, 2012, and Disney officials were notified of the incident, yet no one reported the crime to federal authorities upon hearing word of the incident so the crew member evaded any charges.

Sexual assault and rape are the number one crimes on cruise ships, so it’s important for all parties traveling with children to keep a close eye on them to prevent any unwanted sexual acts from taking place. Adults should also beware of offenders who try to isolate female cruise travelers and drug their drinks in order to take advantage of them.

In light of all these recent sexual crimes, cruise lines should devise better ways to screen both their passengers and crew and thereby improve passenger safety and prevent further sexual assaults on the high seas.