Best-selling author John Grisham has suggested people who watch child pornography are not “real paedophiles” and do not deserve harsh prison sentences.
The novelist, 59, said many people who look at child pornography “probably had too much to drink” as he revealed one of his “good buddies” had been caught in an FBI sting for downloading illegal images.
The writer made the controversial comments during an interview in which he blasted the American justice system and high number of serving convicts.
“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.”
Grisham said “too many people” are being locked up for crimes such as minor drugs charges, child porn offences and white collar crime.
He added that America’s judges had “gone crazy” during the last 30 years.
The author of legal thrillers such as The Firm and A Time To Kill, who has sold more than 275 million books during his 25-year career, added that his “good buddy from law school” was jailed for three years for viewing child porn in Canada.
He said the site was labelled “sixteen-year-old wannabe hookers” and that his friend’s drinking was “out of control” at the time.
Grisham said America has “gone nuts” on incarceration and criticised the number of people who are prosecuted as sex offenders.
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.”
Asked about the fact that viewing child porn fuels abuse of youngsters to create the images, Grisham replied that sentences should still be lower for people who only download the content.