BERLIN — A German court on Tuesday convicted a mother and her boyfriend, a known pedophile, of sexually abusing her son beginning when he was about 7, and of selling him to other pedophiles over the “dark web,” in a case that has shocked the country and raised questions about the government’s failure to protect the boy.
The court in Freiburg found the pair guilty of 40 charges of aggravated sexual assault, including rape, forced prostitution, distribution of child pornography and child endangerment. Both had admitted at the start of the 11-day trial to taking part in sexually abusing the woman’s son, now 10 years old, and to selling him on the dark web, an area of the internet that is not accessible to most people and is used for anonymity and criminal activity.
The man was also found guilty of sexually assaulting a 3-year-old girl.
The woman, 48, was sentenced to 12 and a half years in prison, and the man, 39, was sentenced to 12 years in jail and to preventive custody after his sentence ends. Several men who paid to assault the boy have also been convicted, and on Monday, a Spanish court gave one of them a 10-year prison sentence.
The abuse of the woman’s son began in May 2015, and continued until the couple’s arrest in September 2017, when he was taken into state care.
The court found that the man had assaulted the 3-year-old daughter of acquaintances who had visited the family for play dates. When the families’ relationship soured and the girl no longer visited, the man started his repeated assault of the woman’s son, the court said, with the woman’s full knowledge and participation.
The authorities identified the couple only as Christian L. and Berrin T., who lived in Staufen, a small community near the French border, in keeping with German privacy laws.
The man had previously been convicted of fraud, and had been found in possession of child pornography, so he was ordered to stay away from children.
Eventually, the couple started selling access to the woman’s son on the dark web, using explicit videos they had made to attract buyers. The mother always stayed close by during the assaults, to act as a calming influence, according to testimony heard in court.
Before the arrest, the family had been monitored by the youth services agency, which was aware that a man considered to be at risk of abusing children was frequently in the boy’s home. In early 2017, the agency’s concern was great enough to temporarily place the boy in a foster home, but he was returned to his mother, who was able to convince a court that she could protect him from her partner.
The chief of criminal police in Freiburg, Peter Egetemaier, said the crimes were discovered through an anonymous tip.