US thriller giant John Grisham has made widespread headlines by telling the UK press that prison sentences for some people convicted of viewing indecent images of children are “harsh”.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Grisham said he had “no sympathy for real paedophiles – God, please lock those people up” but said many of those in jail who had looked at indecent images of children “probably had too much to drink” and “went too far and went into child porn or whatever”, and that “so many of these guys do not deserve harsh prison sentences”.
He said: "We've got prisons now filled with guys my age, 60-year-old white men, in prison, who have never harmed anyone. Who would never touch a child, but they got online one night, started surfing around, probably had too much to drink whatever and pushed the wrong buttons, and went too far and went into child porn or whatever.”
Grisham, best known for his legal thrillers, cited the case of a lawyer friend of his who was jailed for three years after being caught in a child porn sting. He said: "His drinking was out of control, and he went to a website. It was labelled '16-year-old wannabe hookers' or something like that. And it said '16-year-old girls'. So he went there. Downloaded some stuff - it was 16 year old girls who looked 30."
"He shouldn't ’a done it. It was stupid, but it wasn't 10-year-old boys. He didn't touch anything. And God, a week later there was a knock on the door: ‘FBI!’ and it was sting set up by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to catch people - sex offenders - and he went to prison for three years."
Grisham added: "We've gone nuts with this incarceration."
The author did the interview, which has been widely reported elsewhere in the media this morning (16th), ahead of the release of his new book Gray Mountain (Hodder & Stoughton) next week.