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Brits Launch Child Porn Amnesty

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Dec 9, 2003 12:00 AM PST    Text size: 
UNITED KINGDOM – As Britain continues to be a leading force in the fight against child porn, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) is reviewing a proposal to launch an amnesty program for sex offenders.

While the program is not yet formalized, ACPO is considering a program through which confirmed sex offenders can surrender their hard drives to investigators. The hard drives would either be destroyed or wiped clean, according to the BBC. Those who step forward would also be asked to undergo a counseling regime and would be placed on the national sex offenders registry.

Donald Findlater, deputy director of child protection charity the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, is the brain behind the idea. Findlater was also the director of the Wolvercote Clinic for pedophiles, according to the BBC.

"Exposure to child pornography increases the likelihood of people becoming riskier around children," he told the BBC. "It is likely to reinforce images, attitudes and disposition and leak out into the way they conduct themselves in real time.

Findlater has been quoted as saying that he thinks the amnesty program could "nip child abuse in the bud for many offenders." And while he does not believe pedophiles can be cured in every situation, he believes that the excess of child pornography over the Internet has given way to a significant increase in sexual predators.

The idea behind the amnesty program is to offer child sex offenders a chance to surrender their illegal child porn content while at the same time sparing themselves the humiliation of a court appearance and a formal prosecution, says the BBC.

Subjects of the amnesty program would also be evaluated by a psychiatrist and determined whether they are a risk to children.

Some critics of the program feel that it would only be effective for "low grade pedophiles, but that the program will need some very careful structuring.

A spokesperson for ACPO told the BBC that the amnesty program will be firmed up in the first part of 2004, although it has not yet gotten a green light from police administrators.

Child porn task forces, including Operation Ore, have been swamped by the number of pending child porn cases that resulted from a massive investigation in the United States several years ago. But according to the BBC, British police forces have only been able to graze the tip of the iceberg in terms of arresting suspects.

The BBC reports that various police units are considering launching their own pilot versions of the program and that it is also being viewed as an opportunity for police to deepen their investigations into child porn rings.

"I don't believe that criminal law is the best way of resolving these major social problems," Findlater told the BBC. "Three quarters of child sex abuse is never reported anyway."

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