Child Abuse Watchers Should Avoid Prosecution, Report Advises
People under arrest for watching offensive images of children who do not have a criminal record should undertake “life skills” courses rather than face prosecution, according to a report.
The reference comes from campaign group Justice, and is planned to help cope with a surge in sex offences.
Justice said it was important to “find ways to stop sexual offending occurring in the first place”.
The group’s director, Andrea Coomber, called for a “holistic approach”.
That approach, she said, should include “education, deterrence and real reintegration”.
Justice’s suggested life skills scheme for first time offenders, or those without a criminal record, would include five sessions over four months, and one follow-up session eight months later.
The sessions – planned to “teach and support” rather than “shame and punish” – would include advice on “policies to manage impulses” and “safe internet behavior”.
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But a government spokeswoman said that it was already the case that some watchers of indecent material escaped prosecution.
“Those who vision but don’t make or share, such images and so pose a low risk to children can already be assumed cautions with tough conditions attached by the police, if prosecutors agree,” she said.
The working party that ready the report was led by Peter Rook QC, a former Old Bailey judge who presided over some of the UK’s most notorious sex cases, including those of prolific pedophile Richard Huckle and the Oxford child sex grooming ring.
Mr. Peter Rook said that, “We have wanted to find areas there are better proficiency and we can be reached without in any eroding fair trial way.
“We found that there is significant scope for alleviating the pressures upon the criminal justice system by improving our response to sexual offending and treatment of those it has harmed.”
The references also include measures to improve the behavior of complainants and vulnerable witnesses, such as dedicated hearings to assess their needs and pre-recorded evidence for all sex cases.