Thousands of British people suspected of viewing child pornography online will escape justice according to the head of the National Crime Agency (NCA). Keith Bristow’s team has identified that around 50,000 British people regularly view illegal pornography but believe this figure is too big to deal with through the courts.
Whilst the NCA Director General conceded he was “uncomfortable” with the high number of offenders, he said it was the NCA’s duty to focus on the most dangerous individuals. The NCA has already tracked down 660 online paedophiles, after they deemed them to pose the biggest risk to children. They included those with access to young people, such as teachers and doctors.
Acccording to the Daily Telegraph Bristow said: “I don’t think I can be more candid than say, if there are 50,000 people involved in this particularly horrible type of criminality, I don’t believe that all 50,000 will end up in the criminal justice system being brought to justice. Our responsibility is to focus on the greatest risk and tackle those people.
“But the wider responsibility that falls to all of us is to stop people getting involved in this activity, to help young people protect themselves and to work hard to understand the totality of the problem so where we are arresting people and bringing them to justice that’s mitigating as much risk to young people as possible.
“That’s uncomfortable. But these are the uncomfortable conversations we need to have… But the reality is everyone who accesses an indecent image of a child, the idea that every single one of them is going to go into the criminal justice process, is not realistic.
“As abhorrent as even the lower risk part of this is, and it’s still abhorrent and it’s still horrible, particularly when seen alongside other things like acquisitive crime, we’re going to have to start thinking differently about not just how we pursue these people but how we prevent people perpetrating this particular form of horribleness.”
He added: “What we can’t do is start at number one and work through to 50,000. What we have to do is apply a logic based on law enforcement experience, and academic support, to work through and try and find the highest risk that sits within that and our contention is the highest risk are those people who go on or have the propensity to commit contact abuse, which is right at the high end. And that’s the challenge we’ve got.”
Experts are divided on how much of a danger online paedophiles pose to children, but most of the public want to see them all prosecuted. In many respects the NCA are a victim of their own success because they have uncovered much more offending than the courts could ever deal with.