Not all paedophiles should be jailed, suggests Norfolk Chief Constable Simon Bailey
- Credit: Steve Adams
Norfolk's police chief has said there needs to be a 'balanced and proportional response' from the force nationally when dealing with people accused of child sexual abuse.
According to the Times newspaper, Chief Constable Simon Bailey said lower level offenders should be given counselling and rehabilitation and police should focus on the most dangerous paedophiles with access to children and those looking at the most serious images.
Chief Constable Bailey is the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for child protection and the comments come after he appeared on a BBC Crimewatch television programme on Monday, February 27, about tackling child abuse.
Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today show on Tuesday, February 28, Chief Constable Bailey defended his comments and stated that police can not cope with the amount of reports they are getting in relation to sexual abuse against children.
'We just can't cope with it so what I am proposing is, when you look at the totality and the scale of the abuse that we are looking at, we have to find a balanced and proportional response.
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'I have had conversations with colleagues across the justice system and of course there is some general nervousness. I can understand this is going to create and draw out some really difficult headlines but I think I would be failing in my duty if I didn't raise the fact that as a service we are doing more than we ever have done before.
'We are as I said arresting 400 men every month, and that is still only the tip of the iceberg.'
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He added that people found viewing indecent images of children would still become a registered sex offender.
'I believe that we are able to assess, very well, whether a paedophile who is viewing indecent imagery of children poses a threat of contact abuse and in the circumstances where that individual, as we assess, doesn't pose a threat of contact abuse they should still be arrested but we can then look at a different disposal other than going through the formal criminal justice system,' he said.
'They would still become a registered sex offender and that means they are still being managed and that gives us the capacity just to deal with the scale and the volume of referrals that we are now consistently getting.
'We could with the support of the director of public prosecution use a conditional caution and with a conditional caution terms would apply to that where by they would have to attend some form of rehabilitation course like that run by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation.'
He told the Times offenders who view online images should avoid jail only if they have been risk-assessed and shown to not have the potential to be in contact with children, he is reported to have told the newspaper.
The national newspaper quoted Chief Constable Bailey as acknowledging many people may be horrified at the stance but alternatives needed to be looked at as increasing reports of sexual abuse have pushed the situation to 'saturation point'.
He reportedly told the Times: 'Let's be really clear: somebody going online and using their credit card to direct the abuse of a child in the Philippines should be locked up, categorically.
'That individual who is not in contact with children and doesn't pose a threat to children and is looking at low-level images ... when you look at everything else that's going on, and the threat that's posed of contact abuse to children, we have to look at doing something different with those individuals.
'Do the Crown Prosecution Service, the courts and the police have the capacity to put them into the justice system?'
An NSPCC spokesman said: 'It is clear from these staggering levels of recorded child sex offences that police have a huge number of cases to investigate, often with limited resources.
'Prison sentences serve a vital purpose in reflecting the severity of the crime, protecting the public, acting as a deterrent, and helping a victim see their offender deservedly brought to justice.
'But we cannot arrest our way out of the situation - if we are to stem this tide and protect more children we must make prevention and rehabilitation a priority.
'With the right support we can prevent offenders from abusing and help those who do harm children change their behaviour.'