US & Canada

US author John Grisham 'sorry' for child porn comments

John Grisham seen in Washington on 22 May 2011 Image copyright AP
Image caption John Grisham has sold more than 275 million books in his 25-year career

Author John Grisham has apologised for criticising the US justice system's "harsh" punishment of those viewing indecent images of children.

He earlier said some of those jailed may have had too much to drink and should have faced lesser penalties.

But on Thursday, Mr Grisham argued "anyone who harms a child for profit or pleasure... should be punished to the fullest extent of the law".

His initial comments angered child abuse charities and legal experts.

The American author, 59, posted the apology on his website as he prepares for the publication of a new legal thriller.

"My comments... were in no way intended to show sympathy for those convicted of sex crimes, especially the sexual molestation of children," he wrote. "I can think of nothing more despicable."

Mr Grisham, who has sold more than 275 million books during a 25-year career, initially made the comments in an interview with the UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

He launched a wide-ranging attack on America's judicial system for sending "too many people" to prison, focusing his anger on the length of imprisonment imposed on offenders who download images of children being sexually abused.

Image copyright Press Association
Image caption He apologised on his website

Mr Grisham told the newspaper a "good buddy" of his had been imprisoned for three years for viewing child pornography on a website labelled "sixteen-year-old wannabe hookers" when his drinking was out of control.

"We have prisons now filled with guys my age. Sixty-year-old white men in prison who've never harmed anybody, would never touch a child," he told the Telegraph.

"But they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn."

US judges had "gone crazy" during the last 30 years, he added.

"I have no sympathy for real paedophiles. God, please lock those people up. But so many of these guys do not deserve harsh prison sentences, and that's what they're getting."

But campaigners criticised the writer for apparently offering an excuse for child abuse.

"Mr Grisham's comments send a dangerous message that 'just looking' at images online causes no harm," Jon Brown from the children's charity NSPCC told BBC News online.

"In fact, every image is a real child who has suffered and every time these images are clicked on or downloaded it creates demand that ultimately fuels more child abuse."

Meanwhile, London-based child abuse lawyer Dino Nocivelli urged the author to meet survivors of abuse "to educate himself and to truly understand the inappropriateness of his comments".

The US has the world's largest prison population, with about 2.2 million adults behind bars.

In 2012, close to 25% of the world's prisoners were held in American prisons despite the US accounting for just 5% of the world's population.

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