By Mark Duell for MailOnline08:51, 08 Aug 2016, updated 11:04, 08 Aug 2016
Gavin Thomas wants a rethink on the approach to some sexual offences
Says police won’t be able to monitor criminals on sex offenders register
Wants some paedophiles who download images to be sent for treatment
There are so many paedophiles in England and Wales that they cannot all be jailed, a police chief warned today.
Gavin Thomas, president of the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales, is calling for more debate on a softer approach at the lower levels of sexual offences.
The chief superintendent warns the sex offenders register is growing so quickly that police will not have the ability to monitor the criminals as hoped.
Married father-of-two Mr Thomas wants some paedophiles who download child abuse images but do not commit offences involving contact to be sent for treatment rather than to prison.
Speaking to The Times crime editor Fiona Hamilton, he said: ‘One of the major concerns from our members is managing the register already, and it’s growing. For offenders at the highest level there are visits to be made [and] monitoring access to the internet.’
Mr Thomas added that those who view lower level child abuse images could go down a ‘health route’, and said he is seeking ‘alternative thinking´ on the issue.
An NSPCC spokesman told MailOnline today: ‘Viewing child abuse images is not some innocent pastime. The pictures are actually crime scenes and every one shows a young victim who has been abused and whose suffering is compounded every time that image is passed around by paedophiles.
‘Treatment for these sex offenders is essential to minimise the risk of them harming children in the future which is why these programmes need to be more widely available in the prison system.
‘Sentencing needs to reflect the seriousness of the crime, and whilst community based treatment programmes can be considered, a lack of prison places should not mean offenders whose crimes warrant a custodial sentence get off with a lighter penalty.
‘We also have to understand that the proliferation of these appalling images is a major – and growing – problem which needs industry, government and law enforcement to tackle in unison.’