COMMENT: Prosecutions are not the whole answer to this problem

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On the one hand it is both disturbing and depressing that more people are being prosecuted for viewing indecent images of children.

But on the other it is reassuring to know that the work of police and child protection agencies to keep children safe is increasingly successful.

New Ministry of Justice data shows that 237 Hampshire Constabulary cases related to the viewing of indecent images of children resulted in prosecutions last year, significantly more than the 143 cases that made it to court in 2008.

It is one of the worrying ills the dark underbelly of the internet brings such sickening and dangerous content within reach of the perverted or the merely curious.

The fact that more people are being detected when accessing such vile material is testament to the increasingly sophisticated technical abilities of our law enforcement agencies.

But the campaign group Justice draws attention to the increasing pressure on courts resulting from this worrying surge in sexual offence allegations.

It is calling for first-time offenders who look at such material to be sent on educational programmes rather than being prosecuted.

The NSPCC, not surprisingly, says prison must remain an option as punishment for viewing indecent images.

What nobody appears to be talking about, certainly in the context of these latest, statistics, is clamping down on the prevalance and easy availability of such material in the first place.

But we all know that the internet is like a Pandora’s box that, aside from its many wonders and benefits, can also be a repository of so much that is repulsive.

While the treatment or punishment of offenders will remain a moot point, unlike Pandora’s box, the internet cannot be closed.