FOUR in five paedophiles caught downloading child sex abuse images were spared jail last year.
A total of 2,967 perverts were convicted of having obscene videos and pictures relating to children but only 562 received prison sentences.
Killer Mark Bridger was obsessed with images of abuse[/caption]
Stuart Hazell, who was jailed for the murder of 12-year-old Tia Sharp, had searched online for abuse images[/caption]
A further 1,106 got a suspended jail sentence, 596 were given community punishments, 25 were fined and 28 got a conditional discharge.
Another 382 were let off with a caution — meaning they did not even have to attend court.
The remainder were “otherwise dealt with” by the Ministry of Justice, official figures show.
David Spencer of the Centre for Crime Prevention said: “Everyone will rightly be horrified that the Ministry of Justice has decided to go soft on paedophiles in this way.
“It is time for the MoJ to ensure everyone caught viewing child abuse images end up where they belong. In a prison.”
Sara Payne, whose eight-year-old daughter Sarah was murdered by paedophile Roy Whiting in 2000, said: “It’s an indefensible betrayal of our children.”
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Experts say viewing images can be a “gateway” crime that leads to attacks on children.
Mark Bridger, who killed April Jones, five in 2012, was obsessed with images of abuse.
In 2013 the trial of Stuart Hazell, jailed for the murder of 12-year-old Tia Sharp, heard he searched online for abuse images.
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