A leading police officer has said that paedophiles who view indecent images should not be charged and taken to court unless they pose a physical threat to children.
Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for child protection, said low level offenders should simply be placed on the sex offenders register and given counselling and rehabilitation instead.
He said that would free the police to deal with the core of dangerous paedophiles who are seeking out and exploiting children in order to rape and carry out “the most awful sexual abuse” against them.
Mr Bailey said he acknowledged that many people would be “nervous” about his proposals.
But he said it was time to look at alternatives to prosecution because reports of sexual abuse have reached "saturation point".
He said that although police were arresting over 400 men every month for viewing indecent images of children this was just “the tip of the iceberg” and that a new approach was needed.
“We’re able to asses whether a paedophile viewing indecent images of children is posing a threat of contact abuse and in circumstances where that individual does not pose a threat of contact abuse they should still be arrested, but we can then look at different disposal orders than going through the formal criminal justice system,” said Mr Bailey.