John Grisham
John Grisham, best-selling author, lawyer and politician, said the law should go easier on men who download child pornography while drunkCreative Commons

Best-selling author John Grisham has launched a controversial defence of lighter sentences for people convicted of downloading child pornography.

In an interview with the Telegraph on Wednesday, Grisham said that the law needs to distinguish between "real paedophiles" and "60-year-old white men" who went online drunk and ended up downloading child pornography.

"We've got prisons now filled with guys my age, 60-year-old white men, in prison, who have never harmed anyone. [They] would never touch a child, but they got online one night, started surfing around, probably had too much to drink, whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, and went too far and went into child porn or whatever", he said.

"They haven't hurt anyone. They deserve some type of punishment, whatever. But 10 years in prison?"

Grisham, who is also a lawyer and politician in the US, went on to cite the case of a friend of his who had been sentenced to three years in prison after being caught in a child porn sting by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

"It happened to a lawyer friend of mine, a good buddy from law school", Grisham said.

"And there is so many of them now. There is so many sex offenders – that's what they're being called – that they put them in the same prison. Like they are a bunch of perverts or something. Thousands of them. We've gone nuts with this incarceration."

His words have attracted a stream of disgust on Twitter, who have branded the writer a "psycho", "deluded" and "distorted."