A CHARITY combating child sex abuse has defended a judge’s decision to let a paedophile walk free for a second time because it may be the best way to prevent further abuse.

Hugh MacLean, 65, of Bergholt Road, Colchester, admitted downloading indecent and grotesque images of children, despite already being subject to a supervision order for the same offence.

While on a course to change his behaviour, he continued to view vile images, but was again allowed to keep his freedom.

A spokesman for the Lucy Faithful Foundation explained there were benefits to providing treatment rather than just punishment.

The spokesman said: “Changing offender behaviour is one of the best ways of protecting children and research shows treatment has a positive impact.

“More and more frequently we see judges making the decision to not jail someone for online offences, as the jail term would be so short they wouldn’t receive any treatment.

“There is a balance to be struck between punishing offenders and ensuring they receive the necessary treatment. As a child protection charity, concerned with preventing offending from happening in the first place or from happening again, we would want all offenders to receive treatment to help them be as safe as possible.”

Maclean admitted downloading 134 images.

He was sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court last week to continue on a sex offender course as part of a three year community order and will remain on the sex offenders’ register for five years.

In 2012, the former civil servant admitted three charges of possessing and downloading 4,253 images.

He was given a three-year supervision order and told to take the same course to run until 2015.