Contains extracts of a story first published in November 2020
I’ve been Truro Crown Court’s resident court reporter for quite some years now and I like to think I’ve seen it all, from the grotesque, to the disturbing, to the shocking, to the at time humorous. I try to stay away from our comment sections, but I appreciate everyone has an opinion and a right to air it on Facebook or elsewhere online – unless proceedings are active of course.
But that said, sometimes I do venture into the comments section and it’s fair to say nothing winds me up quite like some of the comments regarding sex offenders – particularly when sex offenders are compared to other types of defendants.
Let’s get this straight from the start, this is not a defence of anyone who has downloaded or viewed indecent images of children on the Internet. It’s absolutely vile and even when contact offences haven’t been committed, downloading and creating a demand for such vile material leads in turn to children being raped and abused. In short, if people didn’t download child abuse images then far fewer kids would be abused.
When I report on drug dealers being jailed, or someone sent down for an act of extreme violence, the response is often ‘well paedos get let off’. First of all, they don’t. Secondly, how we deal with people who view indecent images of children is a huge question.
In my years as a court reporter I genuinely could not even begin to hazard a guess of how many people I’ve seen sentenced for the possession of indecent images of children. “Kill them”, “behead them”, “hang them high”. Within ten minutes of any CornwallLive story relating to paedophiles caught with indecent images being published, you can bet your bottom dollar that these replies will be posted in the comments section underneath the story.
At times it’s been difficult to listen to the abuse the children had to endure. These are real children going through undeserved pain and emotional hell because there is a perverted demand to view such material on hidden parts of the internet.
What drives people to commit these offences and get off by looking at such filth? It is an illness, an ingrained perversion, an escalation of a porn addiction or a gateway to committing contact offences?
Of course every case is different but what is a fact is that the majority of first time offenders in indecent images cases are not sent to prison.
This causes outrage each and every time, but why do judges so often decide this is the best course of action?
Well, most of the time defendants are given either a suspended sentence or community order with a requirement that they carry out a rehabilitative course to address their perversions.
It is often said that short prison sentences don’t allow for defendants to carry out rehabilitative courses, so is society actually better served by these people being spared jail and treated? Judges and legal teams seem to think so and it seems that the statistics prove this to be correct. A short jail sentence may be a shock to the offender but ultimately they re-emerge into society with the same issues untreated. Once the shock of jail wears off, it is likely the offender will at some point at least entertain the idea of once again resorting to such sick sexual gratification. It is also worth noting that judges are bound by sentencing guidelines designed to ensure consistent justice throughout the land so can’t just throw anybody into prison and throw away the key.