A children’s charity has expressed concern that police are issuing too many cautions for possession of indecent images of children instead of prosecuting. Northumbria police revealed it issued cautions in respect of 94 offenders.

The figures were obtained by BBC Newcastle, who found police have issued more than 160 cautions to people for possession of indecent images of children over the past five years.

They asked five forces in the North East, Cumbria and North Yorkshire how many cautions they had given out since 2011.

In comparison to Northumbria’s 94 cautions, Durham Police issued 40 cautions, North Yorkshire 13, Cleveland 11 and Cumbria 10.

Northumbria Police, who gave out the cautions instead of prosecuting the offenders, said “appropriate action is taken on a case-by-case basis”.

But a charity which supports victims of abuse said the “high usage” of cautions was “concerning”.

Gabrielle Shaw from the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) which helps people recovering from childhood abuse, said: “Behind every indecent image of a child is a picture of a crime scene.

“The high usage of cautions shown by these figures is concerning.

“Generally a caution for downloading indecent images of children isn’t enough, particularly if you look at the public interest element.

Donald Findlater from the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which works with people worried about their sexual interest in children, however said there were situations in which a caution would be “the right response”.

He said: “For example, if the person that’s accessed sexual images of anyone perhaps 14 or 15 years of age is themselves 16, 17, 18, the police might decide a caution is an adequate response.

“It doesn’t happen that often though; the number of people given cautions for this type of behaviour is small compared to those who are charged for this kind of behaviour.”

Source: Sunderland Echo

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