Amount of men with interest in child sex abuse is horrifying’
CHIEF CONSTABLE CALLS FOR DEBATE OVER COUNSELLING
Seeing prosecution as an answer to this is not going to be the answer on its own. I am staggered by what I see in terms of the operations the force carries out. CHIEF CONSTABLE DAVE THOMPSON
THE West Midlands’ most senior police officer has called for a debate on whether some people who look at child sex abuse images online should be offered counselling instead of facing prosecution.
Dave Thompson, who became Chief Constable in January last year, says there needs to be “a big conversation” about whether the problem can be solved by simply punishing every offender.
“The amount of men in this country who appear to show an active interest in this area is horrifying,” he said.
“The scale of it takes my breath away.”
But he warned: “There is a really big discussion, I think, as a society about how you deal with this, that’s much broader than law enforcement.
“Of course it makes us all deeply uncomfortable to think that people who have that view and engage in those activities should in any shape or form escape punishment.
“But the scale of it is absolutely huge.”
Mr Thompson was speaking to MPs on the Commons Home Affairs Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the future of policing.
He was asked whether he agreed with Simon Bailey, the Chief Constable of Norfolk Police and the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for child protection, who has suggested that paedophiles who view indecent images should not be charged or taken to court unless they pose a physical threat to children.
Some who view the images should instead be offered counselling and rehabilitation, said Mr Bailey. Mr Thompson told MPs: “There is a big conversation needs to be had about that. Seeing prosecution as an answer to this is not going to be the answer on its own.
“I am staggered by what I see in terms of the operations the force carries out,” he added. “The area of online activity is just breathtaking.
“Everything, as a police officer and a parent, says that we need to do something urgently to deter people in this area.
“I think if people are in denial that they’ve got a problem, then we need to be really careful that treatment might not work.
“But I think the broader issue that’s being raised is that this is a massive challenge, I think, that goes far beyond policing.”
Chief Constable Dave Thompson