A leading criminal psychologist has warned that Internet paedophiles may move to Scotland to take advantage of weaker sentencing guidelines on the downloading of child pornography.
The sex crime expert Ray Wyre has condemned the lack of consistency between English and Scottish child pornography law as "crazy". He is adamant that the more lenient penalties for downloading or distributing indecent images of children over the Internet in Scotland will push offenders north of the border.
"If (the paedophile) wanted to carry on accessing this material, it would seem wise for them to move across the border," said Ray Wyre. "Especially when England is moving towards sentences of ten years."
Scotland's Appeal Court ruled on Thursday that Internet paedophiles should not face more than a one-year prison sentence for downloading child pornography. The decision followed the appeal of the international weightlifter Alan Ogilvie, whose sentence was reduced from two years to six months for downloading 22,000 obscene images of young boys from the Internet.
The three appeal court judges rejected the view that child pornography is a "victimless crime", but advised that the downloading of indecent photos for "personal gratification" should not necessitate a jail sentence of more than nine to 12 months -- except in "the most exceptional circumstances".
The controversial ruling creates massive inconsistencies between English and Scottish sentencing guidelines for child pornography offences. In England, the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act was updated on 11 January to increase the maximum sentence for downloading child pornography to five years, and the maximum sentence for distributing obscene images to ten years.
"There is no doubt that sentencing does have an effect -- I wasn't calling for longer prison sentences, but consistent sentencing across the UK," said Wyre. "For some people downloading child pornography, giving them a three or four month sentence seems crazy."
Wyre is in favour of harsher penalties for Internet paedophiles across the whole of the UK, and is concerned that Scottish legislators are ignoring important questions about child pornography.
"If people know that they are likely to be found out, and there is the possibility of a ten year sentence in England, this may make people think twice."
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