The number of prosecutions brought against people in Lancashire for viewing indecent images of children rose last year.
The campaign group Justice says a surge in sexual offence allegations has put increasing pressure on courts, and called for some first-time offenders to attend educational programmes instead of being charged.
But the NSPCC warned that prison must remain an option for people who view “sick images”.
New Ministry of Justice data shows that 175 Lancashire Constabulary cases related to the viewing of indecent images of children resulted in prosecutions last year.It is higher than the 142 cases that went to court in 2017.
The local trend is in contrast to that across England and Wales, where prosecutions fell by 28 per cent over the period. Last year, 4,708 cases went to court.
Despite this, the number recorded in 2018 was almost double that in 2008.
Justice has argued for offenders with no relevant criminal record to attend a five-session course to address their behaviour, with one follow-up session eight months later.
While the aim is to reduce pressure on courts, those who failed to complete the sessions would still face prosecution.
Former Old Bailey judge Peter Rook QC, who chairs the group’s working party, said: “We have sought to identify areas where greater efficiency can be achieved without in any way eroding fair trial.
“We found that there is substantial scope for alleviating the pressures upon the criminal justice system by improving our response to sexual offending and treatment of those it has harmed.”
In response to Justice’s proposal, an NSPCC spokesperson said: “Viewing such sick images is a crime and prison must remain an option to reflect the severity of it and to protect the public.
“But we know that prison alone cannot solve the situation and we must make prevention and rehabilitation a priority to avoid abuse happening in the first place.”
Commenting on the national figures, a spokesperson for the Crown Prosecution Service said: “Possessing indecent images of children is a serious offence and we will always seek to bring charges where there is enough evidence and it is in the public interest to do so.”
A Government spokesperson said offenders who view, but don’t create or share, indecent images of children can already be given cautions with tough conditions attached by the police, if prosecutors agree.