Sex offenders worker's dedication to stamping out evil crimes
THE last 17 years working with male sex offenders, many of them paedophiles, has been a difficult experience for probation officer Shirley James.
She has been exposed to the detail of some horrific crimes against children.
Amazingly, she loves her job and gets huge satisfaction from her work on the Thames Valley Sex Offenders rehabilitation programme.
The men-only course is winning rave reviews as a viable option to prison, where many sex offenders fail to address their issues and go on to re-offend.
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Shirley said that although images of child abuse are increasingly prevalent online, new Government steps to come down hard on websites and service providers are a step in the right direction.
Despite this, she harbours fears that tighter regulations could push paedophilia underground, making it harder to detect.
"Detection rates have increased as there is more awareness of sexual offending now," she said.
"It is not an illness, these men will not just get better. The programme aims to control their behaviour.
"There will never be a cure.
"It needs to come from their point of view to realise their level of responsibility.
"We need to assess their level of deviancy, and their level of risk to other children and the public.
"Men accessing online child abuse of images know it is wrong, but don't choose to accept it.
"It is more painful for them to realise the damage that is being done by viewing images of abuse.
"It is easy for them to say, 'I didn't create the image or know I was doing any harm'.
"We show that without them, there would not be a market for it.
"Throughout treatment, we inform them there is an industry that goes on behind the scenes.
"Some men openly show emotion, many are crying for themselves. Some have emotion for the victim once they realise what they have put them through.
"They need to understand the effect of their offending.
"Some men have never spoken of that before, it is then they realise what they have done."
Low level of deviancy sees offenders go through a four month programme.
A treatment-needs analysis will then identify the work needed to rehabilitate the offender.
Experts find out if he has low self-esteem, if his emotions are out of control or if he acts on impulse, does he have a high libido or look at pornography everyday.
The course will make them confront the issues that may trigger offending. The men are questioned if they lack intimacy with adults or prefer to be with children.
Failure to attend the course will see the men back in court and possibly prison.
"Google has a lot to answer for," said Shirley, who works at Twyver House in Bruton Way.
"But it is not that easy to access pure images of online child abuse.
"There is already an alert on there and people still have to put their credit card details in.
"File sharing is a problem and it is difficult to detect.
"There is a risk that with more legislation, it will push offenders underground and they will become more deviant and harder for us to detect.
"Contact offenders (child abusers) do not go round with a sign telling people what they are.
"We could be living next door to one all our lives and not know.
"It is better for them to live in society with protection and monitoring in place.
"That is something we can do with the police, rather than shut them away."