Monday, June 10, 2019

Paedophiles should not be prosecuted for watching child porn, but should be put on 'diversion courses' instead, new report says

Paedophiles caught viewing child s-x abuse images should not be prosecuted, a controversial report has recommended.

Under the plan, police would be told to let thousands of offenders who look at indecent photographs and films of youngsters online off the hook by sending them to workshops instead of being taken to court.

Offenders would be placed on 'diversion courses' – similar to drink-driving awareness programmes.

The proposal, backed by the new Victims' Commissioner Dame Vera Baird, is intended to ease the strain on the creaking criminal justice system.

Critics warn the process could be exploited and that many people require tougher treatment. The proposal is put forward by the think-tank Justice in a 132-page report overseen by retired judge Peter Rook.

There has been a surge in sexual offences, with a record 159,740 rapes and sex attacks last year. The figure was 52,166 in 2008. Victims are now more willing to report sex crimes, including historical ones, and police more likely to take complaints seriously.

But the increase has put pressure on resources, leading to the collapse of a series of rape trials after late disclosure of evidence to the defence, said the report.

Under Justice's plan, offenders with no convictions for sexual or violent crimes who view child sexual abuse online for the first time would be eligible for a so-called 'deferred prosecution scheme'.

To avoid prosecution, participants would attend educational meetings and agree good behaviour. They would be expected to complete five sessions of up to 90 minutes over four months, then one follow-up session eight months later. Failure to finish the scheme would mean prosecution.Those suspected of more serious offences would not qualify.

The report said: 'For some types of sexual offending, prosecution and prison can be ineffective. It is often the shock of the arrest and confirmation that what they are doing is wrong that causes these individuals to stop offending.'

The paper says the scheme would be 'just as effective as a post-conviction sentence, if not more, without the need to use court and prosecution resources'.