• MySTV

Scots charity demands crackdown on child sexual abuse images

Children 1st made the call in the wake of the murder in Wales of April Jones by paedophile Mark Bridger.

Social Media: Facebook celebrates 10th birthday

A Scottish children's charity has called for a review of how the justice system deals with people convicted of viewing online images of children being sexually abused.

Children 1st is writing to Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill as part of its demand for a consistent approach to the prosecution and sentencing of such offences across the country.

The charity is also calling for police and the courts to use the full range of powers available to them in cases involving sexual abuse images.

The demand is part of the charity's ongoing See.Hear.Speak.Act campaign on sexual abuse, and comes in the wake of the recent conviction of Mark Bridger for the murder of five-year-old April Jones in Wales last year.

Bridger had viewed images of children being sexually assaulted on his computer. In a separate case earlier this year, the Old Bailey heard how Stuart Hazell, jailed for murdering 12-year-old Tia Sharp, had searched for images of children being sexually abused on the internet.

The cases have prompted UK-wide calls for greater action to tackle the problem.

Kate Higgins, policy manager at Children 1st, said she believes there is currently too much inconsistency in the sentencing of those convicted of viewing child sexual abuse images in Scotland.

She said: "Our overall call is just for there to be a review of how we're handling these kind of offences to make sure that they are being prosecuted appropriately and that sentencing is consistent.

"That's a key way of sending a strong message to society about the seriousness of these offences."

The charity is demanding that the justice system uses the full range of powers already at its disposal to protect children, particularly Risk of Sexual Harm Orders (RSHOs) and Sexual Offence Prevention Orders (SOPOs).

Such measures allow restrictions to be placed on anyone behaving in a way that suggests they may be a risk to children. However, Children 1st said the most recently-available statistics indicate these powers are not being used enough as an effective preventative measure.

Ms Higgins said some legal experts have raised concerns about RSHOs in particular, because of how the legislation surrounding it is drafted.

"Our response is — if that's the case, that should be part of the review. If we have something that can't be used because it's faulty then we have to improve that.

"We're calling on the Justice Secretary to work out what's going on. We need to understand why they're not being used. If it's because, as lawyers have suggested, that the legislation is badly drafted, then that needs to be addressed.

"If it's simply because people are not sure how to use them and there's a need for training and awareness raising then let's do that.

"There's no point in the Government having created measures that they want in place to help protect children from sexual harm if the system is not then using them.

"Let's see where the weaknesses are and see what we can do to improve upon this."

Ms Higgins also said some sheriffs have claimed to feel hamstrung by the way some cases are brought to court.

She pointed to a case in Inverness where a sheriff reportedly criticised the fact she was only able to impose a maximum sentence of one year on a man who downloaded almost 500 child sex abuse images because the case was prosecuted at summary level.

"We just need to review it all because here are key ways in which we could be doing more to protect children," said Ms Higgins.

"In both the April Jones and Tia Sharp cases you had men who made the leap from viewing — albeit increasingly shocking — abusive images, to actually committing murder.

"There is clearly a role that the availability of abusive material is having to bear on abusers making that leap.

"We need to making sure we're using all the powers and measures we can to encourage people not to do it and not to think that it's acceptable to view abusive images of children."

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
Forgot password?
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This must be at least 6 characters long.
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long.
You must be over 16 to join STV.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
We need this to check that you live in an STV region.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid postcode
Would you like us to email you about our great shows and services from time to time?
We'll only send emails we think you'll like (see example) based on information you have supplied and shows you have watched on STV Player. For details on emails and advertising, see our STV & You page.
Would you like to receive emails from the Scottish Children's Lottery about draws, instant games and competitions?
We support the Scottish Children's Lottery (SCL), which is managed by our colleagues at STV ELM Ltd. You can find out more about the SCL on its website, including its Privacy Policy.

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, and understand our Privacy and Cookie Policies.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.


We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.


Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.


Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.



Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.