Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for child protection, has caused a storm of controversy this week by suggesting that people who view pornographic pictures of children on the net should not be prosecuted.
He wants to limit prosecutions to people who direct child sexual abuse on line and those seeking to groom young people on line so they can later rape them. As he says:
“There are tens of thousands of men seeking to exploit children on line with a view to meeting them with a view to then raping them and performing the most awful sexual abuse on them. That’s where we believe the focus has got to be, because they’re the individuals that pose the really significant threat.”
He wants people who just view child sexual abuse to be given a caution and put on the sex offenders register because he says the police haven’t the resources to prosecute them.
He told the Times : “We’re able to asses whether a paedophile viewing indecent images of children is posing a threat of contact abuse and in circumstances where that individual does not pose a threat of contact abuse they should still be arrested, but we can then look at different disposal orders than going through the formal criminal justice system.”
He described this group as the ” tip of the iceberg”.
Now what is shocking about this is the scale of the problem. We are now having the police say although they are prosecuting 400 people a month they cannot cope with the numbers who are committing this crime because it is so widespread. What does this say about the nation we now live in?
Yvette Cooper, chair of the home affairs select committee, has responded very robustly to this in a letter she released to Simon Bailey.
” This raises some very serious concerns about the scale of online child abuse, about the level of resourcing the police have available for it, about the systems the police has in place to deal with this new and increasing crime and also about the priority being given to it by police forces.”
“You also referred to there being a significant number of “very low-risk” paedophile offenders and you stated that the police have become very adept at assessing the risk to children in terms of which offenders will move on from viewing indecent images to committing contact abuse offences.
“This was certainly not the case a few years ago when the police indicated that making such assessments was very difficult. I would therefore be grateful if you could set out the evidence to support your statement, including the changes which have taken place in the last few years to bring about the improvements in risk assessment to which you refer.”
Finally she warns that will people who are not prosecuted still go on the Disclosure and Barring Service.
“Specifically, could you explain, under the current disclosure and barring rules, if a case was dealt with outside the criminal justice system, what information would then be available to organisations carrying out checks on people applying for voluntary or paid positions with children. “
He has until March 7 to reply. I hope he will be summoned to explain himself before Parliament.
His assessment seems to suggest we are turning into a nation of paedophile voyeurs because the offence is so widespread. This would suggest we are becoming a very sick nation indeed.