Simon Bailey, who is the highest ranking child protection officer in the UK says that pedophiles shouldn’t be jailed for viewing child pornography.

Chief Constable Bailey of Norfolk Constabulary sparked outrage and shocked many people when he said that pedophiles who view pornographic images of children should not be criminally charged unless they pose a real physical threat to children.

Simon Bailey

Bailey justified his opinion by saying that the judicial system has reached ‘saturation point’ due to increasing reports of this behaviour.

“The police service has to deal with an unprecedented volume of reports of non-recent abuse, ongoing abuse, online abuse, peer-to-peer abuse. The numbers are continuing to rise. We have reached saturation point. The police service has responded to the threat but it has now reached that point whereby we have to try and turn the tide. We have to look at alternatives.” – Simon Bailey

Because the police are too busy and government cuts to police funding he considers the lower-level offenders should be merely dealt with through counselling and rehabilitation. That way the police can then concentrate their ‘limited resources’ on catching and arresting the most dangerous pedophiles who fund abuse and who have access to children.

“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 by 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?” – Simon Bailey

Operation Hydrant – the nationwide inquiry into historical child sexual abuse – said they are overwhelmed by the staggering number of abusers out there. Child abuse reports have risen by 78% in the last 4 years (2013-2016), an average of over 22 per day according to Barnardo’s. Every year the police received over 70,000 complaints regarding child sexual abuse and over 400 pedophiles are arrested. One can only imagine how many victims there have been that haven’t been reported.

Based on a German study The NSPCC (The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) estimates that 450,000 to 590,000 men in the UK may have viewed child sexual abuse images on the internet. Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “The sheer numbers of people viewing child sexual abuse images online must be addressed as a social emergency.”

An NSPCC spokesman said: “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.”

But, not everyone agrees with Bailey’s notion. “Any kind of message that gives potential abusers or abusers the opportunity to think they may get away with it is extremely unhelpful to child protection.” says Peter Saunders, founder and spokesman for the National Association for People Abused in Childhood.

Bailey acknowledged that many people would be quite nervous about his proposal, but he was “we have to find a balanced and proportional response” he said in an interview on BBC Radio 4 Today on February 28th.

“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.” – Simon Bailey.

He tweeted that we should judge him based on the facts, and made a series of tweets to defend his statements.

Do you think that people viewing child pornography should be arrested and charged, or are we better off focusing on ‘more serious’ crimes?