Couple Sold 9-Year-Old Son to Pedophiles on Dark Web

Berrin T is led to the courtroom of the district court in Freiburg, southern Germany, on August 7. THOMAS KIENZLE/AFP/Getty Images

A German mother has been jailed for 12 and a half years for selling her nine-year-old son to pedophiles on the dark web over a period of two years.

The woman's partner was also involved, and was handed a 12-year sentence followed by preventative detention, Deutsche Welle reported.

The couple—named only as Berrin T. and Christian L.—were the linchpins of a pedophile ring operating in the town of Staufen, close to Freiburg in the southwest of Germany. The couple admitted to selling the young boy to a number of local and foreign pedophiles, as well as abusing the child themselves.

Defendants, Berrin T (L) and Christian L (R) wait with their lawyers for the pronouncement of sentence in the courtroom of the district court in Freiburg, Germany, on August 7, 2018. THOMAS KIENZLE/AFP/Getty Images

According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, the couple also abused a three-year-old mentally disabled girl, who was the daughter of one of Berrin's friends.

Berrin and Christian were charged with almost 60 offenses, including forced prostitution, verbal intimidation and abuse, extreme humiliation, physical bondage and rape. The court heard that the couple made thousands of euros over a two-year period, and they also sold videos of the crimes online. The judge ordered the couple to pay 42,500 euros ($49,250) in compensation to the two abused children.

Police broke up the ring in late 2017 after receiving an anonymous tip-off. Eight suspects, including Berrin and Christian, were detained. Five men—three Germans, one Swiss and a Spaniard—have thus far been sentenced to prison terms ranging from eight to 10 years for their part in the abuse.

Christian has two previous pedophilia convictions—one for posession of child pornography and another for sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl—and the judge said Berrin allowed the abuse to make sure Christian did not leave her.

Later, the judge said, the financial incentive took hold. Christian confessed he was "the driving force" behind the abuse, while psychiatrist Hartmut Pleines told the court Berrin had an underdeveloped capacity for compassion. Though the mother claimed to have been forced into the crimes, Pleines said this was unlikely.

Prosecuter Nikola Novak speaks to the media after the first session of the trial at the Landgericht Freiburg courthouse on June 11 in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images

The case has raised questions as to why the boy was not better protected, and why a convicted pedophile—who was given a child contact ban—was allowed to live in the same house as a nine-year-old.

A youth welfare organization took custody of the child in March 2017 when it found out Christian was living in the house, but Berrin went to court and won the right to have her son returned. The family court investigating failed to properly interview the child before he was sent home, meaning the abuse never came to light. The boy's school also reported concerns to a youth welfare office over possible abuse, but the office found the complaints too vague and did not take further action. In 2016, Christian requested his contact ban with children be lifted, but this was denied.

Wilhelm Rörig, the special representative for the sexual abuse of minors, told the SWR broadcaster the mistakes made must be "relentlessly scrutinized." He also suggested that all family judges should receive compulsory training in dealing with child abuse cases and that youth services funding should be increased.

The boy, now aged 10, is living with a foster family and "doing well, considering the circumstances," according to his lawyer.