A top judge has joined forces with police commissioner Vera Baird in a bid to stop convicted sex offenders walking free.
Vera Baird believes there is a ‘loophole’ in sentencing laws which means offenders convicted of crimes such as downloading or making images of child abuse are sometimes given non-custodial sentences so that they can be put on Sex Offender Treatment Programmes quickly.
Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner said, under current guidelines, a custodial sentence of two years or more is needed for those convicted of such crimes to undergo an accredited 39-week sex offender treatment programme in prison.
And the situation is causing her concern. She said: “It’s an extremely unfortunate situation that judges are finding the public will be better-served if they sentence offenders, who should go to prison, to non-custodial sentences because the very sex offence courses that are so rare in prison are more readily available in the community. Not only does this mean that sex offenders are receiving over-lenient sentences, it also releases them into the community to start the course so, for a time, the public faces an undesirable and unnecessary risk before the offender completes their programme.”
Mrs Baird has now rallied support from one of the most senior judges in the country, The Rt Hon Lord Justice Gross, who shares her concerns and will join her in pressing the Government for change.
“I’m pleased Lord Justice Gross shares my concerns regarding the potential consequences for public protection and public confidence,” she said.
“He agrees the shortfall is a matter for Government but has pledged to keep it in mind for any future reforms of the judicial system.
“Reducing re-offending is a key aim of my Police and Crime Plan, as part of one of my primary objectives, cutting crime overall. Clearly the current situation will not support these objectives and I will continue to press the Government for this obvious loophole to be closed speedily, with the introduction of more readily available sex offender courses in prison.”