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Jump in prosecutions for viewing child sex images

Jump in prosecutions for viewing child sex images

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 7:00am 22nd June 2019.

The number of prosecutions in Devon and Cornwall for viewing indecent images of children has jumped in the last decade.

The campaign group Justice says a surge in sexual offence allegations has put increasing pressure on courts, and has called for first-time offenders who look at such material to attend educational programmes instead of being charged.

But the NSPCC warned that prison must remain an option for people who view “sick images”.

New Ministry of Justice data shows that 82 Devon and Cornwall Police cases related to the viewing of indecent images of children resulted in prosecutions last year.

It is more than the 59 cases that made it to court in 2008.


"We have sought to identify areas where greater efficiency can be achieved without in any way eroding fair trial.

"We found that there is substantial scope for alleviating the pressures upon the criminal justice system by improving our response to sexual offending and treatment of those it has harmed."

Former Old Bailey judge Peter Rook QC, who chairs the group’s working party

child sex images RADAR graph

The local trend is less pronounced than that across England and Wales, where the number of prosecutions almost doubled over the period. Last year, 4,708 cases went to court.

Justice has argued for offenders with no relevant criminal record to attend a five-session course to address their behaviour, with one follow-up session eight months later.

While the aim is to reduce pressure on courts, those who failed to complete the sessions would still face prosecution.

"Viewing such sick images is a crime and prison must remain an option to reflect the severity of it and to protect the public.

"But we know that prison alone cannot solve the situation and we must make prevention and rehabilitation a priority to avoid abuse happening in the first place."

NSPCC spokesperson

person on computer internet online

The number of prosecutions in Devon and Cornwall last year reflected a significant fall from 2017, when 170 were recorded.

Across England and Wales, they fell by 28%.

"Possessing indecent images of children is a serious offence and we will always seek to bring charges where there is enough evidence and it is in the public interest to do so."

Spokesperson for the Crown Prosecution Service

A Government spokesperson said offenders who view, but don’t create or share, indecent images of children can already be given cautions with tough conditions attached by the police, if prosecutors agree.

You can find all the source data here.

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