Law reform group suggests pilot for child sex abuse viewers to avoid prosecution

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Some viewers of indecent images of children should not face prosecution to cope with a surge in sex offences, a law reform group led by a former Old Bailey judge has suggested.

The Justice organisation is recommending a pre-charge pilot scheme for those who do not have a relevant criminal record which would focus on “improving life skills”.

The proposal, which states people who fail to complete the programme could still face prosecution, is outlined in a report, entitled Prosecuting Sexual Offences, published on Monday.

It also calls for bosses of internet companies to be held criminally liable if they fail to report what they are doing to stop sexual offending on their platforms to Companies House.

Some 57 recommendations are made to tackle the rise in sexual offence allegations and the disclosure scandal, which saw rape trials collapse after vital evidence came to light at the last minute.

The working party which prepared the report was chaired by Peter Rook QC, a former Old Bailey judge who presided over some of the UK’s most notorious sex cases, including those of prolific paedophile Richard Huckle and the Oxford child sex grooming ring.

He said: “We have sought to identify areas where greater efficiency can be achieved without in any way eroding fair trial.

“We found that there is substantial scope for alleviating the pressures upon the criminal justice system by improving our response to sexual offending and treatment of those it has harmed.”

The recommendations also include measures to improve the treatment of complainants and vulnerable witnesses, such as dedicated hearings to assess their needs and pre-recorded evidence for all sex cases.

Andrea Coomber (pictured), director of Justice, said: “At a time where sexual offence allegations are putting the criminal justice system under increased strain and causing distress to victims, it is particularly important to not only ensure that procedures are efficient but also to identify ways to stop sexual offending occurring in the first place.

“This report highlights the need for a holistic approach to sexual offences that encompasses education, prevention and effective rehabilitation.”

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