John Grisham apologises for remarks on child pornography

Author says he did not intend to show sympathy for those guilty of sex crimes

Best-selling US author John Grisham apologised today for comments he made to a British newspaper that not all men who look at child pornography should be sent to prison and that sentences for such crimes were too harsh.

Grisham, who is about to publish his new legal thriller, made the comments to the Daily Telegraph in the context of a wide-ranging attack on the US judicial system and its high prison rates.

Parts of the interview were available on video on the Telegraph’s website today, and will be published in full on Saturday, the paper said.

Grisham also issued an apology on his own website:


“Anyone who harms a child for profit or pleasure, or who in any way participates in child pornography – online or otherwise – should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.

In the published interview, Grisham drew a distinction between those who viewed child pornography and paedophiles who physically abused children.

“There’s so many ‘sex offenders’ – that’s what they’re called – that they put them in the same prison. Like they’re a bunch of perverts, or something – thousands of them,” he said. “We’ve gone nuts with this incarceration.”

Grisham, who has sold more than 250 million books since A Time to Kill was published in 1988, says in another segment: “We have prisons now filled with guys my age, 60-year-old white men in prison who’ve never harmed anybody, would never touch a child . . . 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.

“I have no sympathy for real pedophiles,” he said. “God, please lock those people up. But so many of these guys do not deserve harsh prison sentences.”

Grisham said he regretted the comments and that they “were in no way intended to show sympathy for those convicted of sex crimes, especially the sexual molestation of children”.

The author, whose work includes popular legal thrillers such as The Firm and The Pelican Brief gave the interview ahead of the publication of his latest book Gray Mountain.

He recounted how a good friend had been jailed after visiting a site labelled as featuring “16-year-old wannabe hookers, or something like that” as part of a law-enforcement sting.

Advocates for child abuse victims were quick to criticise Grisham’s remarks to the Telegraph.

“John Grisham is reminding us why the world remains a dangerous place for so many children and vulnerable young people,” said Peter Saunders, chief executive at Britain’s National Association for People Abused in Childhood.

“The consequences of these vile crimes last a lifetime . . . we should acknowledge the enduring harm to victims and state that we should accept nothing less than zero tolerance,” Mr Saunders told the Evening Standard newspaper. – (Reuters)