British Advocacy Group Calls For Child Porn Amnesty

Jeff Berg
LONDON — A British child protection organization is pushing to end automatic prosecutions of Internet Child pornography possessors, claiming that the threat of imminent prosecution stops low-level offenders from seeking treatment.

Officials from the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Services group, a cross-denominational charity that is the leading advisor on child protection issues for British churches, said that the shame of a public court appearance and the threat of jail terms stops individuals who realize they have a problem from actively trying to solve it.

“This is a genuine initiative to try to encourage people to come forward who are prepared to admit that they have a problem with this area,” said David Pearson, direct of CCPAS, on BBC Radio this morning. “”They would come forward on the basis of handing in their computer to the police, facing the issue, being independently assessed, [with] treatment being provided.”

Currently, hundreds of child pornography investigations are ongoing in the United Kingdom, with the largest, code-named “Operation Ore,” offering up almost 7,000 suspects.

Ore has so far resulted in about 1,800 arrests and 1,400 convictions.

Law enforcement groups said that they are opposed to the amnesty, though, and that people connected to child pornography should not be mollycoddled.

“All this is trying to do is set in motion a way of reducing the culpability of offenders at time when they need to be held accountable for the offences they have committed,” said Assistant Chief Constable Stuart Hyde. “These are pictures of children who have been abused, who have been sexually tortured for the gratification of these people – if that trade continues, then more and more children will be abused.”

Pearson believes that the amnesty would not be an “easy out” for offenders.

“It wouldn’t be a soft option,” Pearson said. “This is a genuine attempt, in order to protect children, to prevent people from continuing down a road which might lead in some cases to directly abusing children.”

Joan Irvine, executive director of child protection advocacy group ASACP, said that the initiative may help solve the British child pornography problem by taking some of the weight off the shoulders of law enforcement officials and helping potential offenders stop themselves before they engage in any illegal activities.

“These criminals will not be rehabilitated by just serving jail time and it would be great if these mentally ill pedophiles could be helped by someone,” Irvine said. “With over 1,400 people convicted in the U.K. just as a result of Operation Ore, obviously this is a wide-spread problem, and it will be difficult for the penal system to handle this many people. It will take the cooperation of many to be effective.”

Both critics and proponents of the amnesty deal should not lose sight of the ultimate goal, Irvine warned also.

“The real question is, ‘Will it help the children?’,” Irvine said. “Since this program will be conducted by the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Services, at least people know that there will be a concern and focus on the children who were abused by these people or the people who produced these images.”