2021-July-23 21:31
World
2021-June-20  14:40

One Third of Convicted Sex Offenders Across England, Wales Avoid Prison

TEHRAN (FNA)- Ministers are facing demands to explain why thousands of convicted sexual offenders across England and Wales have avoided prison, according to a report.

An Observer investigation found that adults convicted of sexually assaulting children under 13, or of engaging in sexual activity with underage teenagers, are among those who have not been jailed.

An Observer analysis of thousands of convictions shows that between 2013 and 2020, 14,530 of the 44,721 adults sentenced for sexual offences were given suspended or community sentences – almost one in three. Just over 60% were immediately sent to prison, with the rest dealt with in other ways, such as conditional discharges and fines.

Jess Phillips, the shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, said the figures were “alarming”, adding, “They speak to a well known problem that sexual violence and the harm it causes continue to be minimised and girls’ and women’s experiences are being ignored. These figures, coupled with the failure to act on the years of warning about sexual abuse and harassment in our schools, and the tumbling number of rape cases being brought to charge, show us that the government needs to act rather than just keep apologising. Women’s and girls’ lives depend on it.”

The revelations come with the government already under pressure over the handling of rape convictions in the wake of a steep decline in prosecutions. Ministers apologised to victims last week, stating they were “deeply ashamed” that thousands of survivors had been failed. A long-awaited review backed sweeping reform to the handling of cases in England and Wales.

According to official data analysed by The Observer, nearly one in five adults sentenced for sexual assault of girls under 13 by touching, as opposed to penetration, received a suspended or community sentence – 371 of the 2,075 adults sentenced between 2013 and 2020.

Twenty percent of adults sentenced for penetrative sexual activity with girls aged 13-15 received suspended or community sentences – 493 people from 2013 to 2020. Meanwhile, 40% of adults sentenced for non-penetrative sexual activity with girls aged 13-15 were given suspended or community sentences in that time, with 55% given immediate custodial sentences.

Stella Creasy, the Labour MP, said the figures left major questions for ministers. “The government must urgently explain why under their watch thousands of serious sexual offenders who have abused children and young girls in particular are getting a slap on the wrist or a fine at most", adding, “We don’t need more consultations or strategies or heartfelt apologies, we need answers and actions now.”

Her views were echoed by Kate Ellis, a solicitor at the Centre for Women’s Justice.

“I think these figures are very concerning,” she said, adding, “It does seem hard to explain why so many offenders accused of serious sexual offences, including offences against children under 13, would not face an immediate custodial sentence.”

A spokesperson for the Sentencing Council, which issues guidance to courts, stated, “Sentencing guidelines are developed to ensure sentences are consistent, transparent and proportionate to the offence, following public consultation. Judges and magistrates will consider all the relevant facts in an individual case before passing sentence."

“Sentencing requires judges and magistrates to consider the culpability of the offender and the harm caused. This enables them to put the case into an appropriate category for which the guideline indicates a starting point, before considering any aggravating or mitigating factors specific to the case and the offender,” the spokesperson continued.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson noted, “Sexual offenders are spending longer in prison than they were 10 years ago and will serve even more time behind bars under our new legislation.”