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  1. ITV Report

Rehabilitation for paedophiles: Is it the answer?

John - not his real name - was arrested in 2015 for possessing child abuse images Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Tackling online child sex abuse is a growing challenge for police, and there are conflicting views on how to deal with offenders who view indecent images of children, but go no further.

Increasingly, police are promoting the work of organisations that offer therapy or courses to so-called ‘low level’ paedophiles, in the hopes of preventing them from reoffending.

In 2015, John - not his real name - was caught downloading the highest grade of child abuse material.

"There was a loud knock at the door, which sometimes can be a courier", he told ITV Wales. "But a big part of me instantly knew what it was... I should have been terrified, absolutely terrified. But I wasn't, I was just numb".

After his arrest, he agreed to engage with a programme organised by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation - a charity that says it believes child sex abuse "is preventable".

“I was given a leaflet when I left the police station about Lucy Faithfull", he said. "There’s two and a half to three hour meetings once a week for about 10 or 12 weeks, where you’ll have a presentation and there’ll be a workshop in the class… but the majority of the work is the work you take away. And some of it is very difficult to complete. One of the most difficult exercises is you had to put yourself in the position of an abused child and write about it… it’s clearly designed to build empathy”.

Credit: PA Images

John was given a suspended sentence and placed on the Sex Offenders' Register.

But he says the training and support he received from Lucy Faithfull helped him to begin his “recovery”.

“Compared to the person I was, I’m much better… I ignore my triggers, and I know the impact, the damage it causes”, he said. "No one who commits this crime is of sound mind, no one".

It is little wonder police are open to different solutions. Last year, 3000 child sex offences were recorded in Wales - a 36% rise on the previous year. 1 in 3 of those offences contained an online element.

Sion Williams, a Detective Chief Inspector at North Wales Police, says the force is keen to “consider alternatives”.

“It’s not that North Wales Police have gone soft on this type of crime, that’s totally the opposite. We’re quite firm on that, and our main priorities are about safeguarding children in the community… what we’re saying is that those individuals who are out there now, if you’re sat at your desk, on your keyboard, or clicking on that mouse, that there are organisations out there who can help you stop what you are doing. And I think for me, the key message is that people need to stop what they are doing… because sooner or later they will have us knocking on that door”.

But some maintain that custodial sentences are the only way of preventing a peadophile from acting on their urges.

April Jones was murdered by paedophile Mark Bridger in 2012 Credit: Family photo

April Jones was 5-years-old when she was abducted and murdered by paedophile Mark Bridger. Just hours before, he had been looking at child abuse images on his computer.

April's mother, Coral, is now campaigning for tougher sentences for all sex offenders - and says she does not believe peadophiles can "recover".

"I couldn't believe it of someone who says they could recover", she told ITV Wales. "An alcoholic will always be an alcoholic. A sex offender will always be a sex offender. I don't believe they can be fixed".