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Commissioner wins influential support in battle over sex offender loophole
2:34pm Thursday 19th September 2013 in News
A POLICE boss who has pledged to continue fighting to ensure sex offenders are jailed for their crimes has enlisted the support of a senior judge.
Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird, a former QC, is backing The Northern Echo’s Keep Kids Safe campaign.
The campaign was launched in July to try to undo the “loophole’’ by which some offenders are given community sentences instead of being jailed.
This happens because they will only get sex offender treatment inside if their sentence is for two or more years.
Ms Baird now has the support of one of the most senior judges in the country, The Rt Hon Lord Justice Gross.
Offenders guilty of crimes such as downloading or making images of child abuse are sometimes given non-custodial sentences as the only apparent route to get them into sex offender treatment programmes quickly.
Ms Baird believes it is “inevitable” that prisons will prioritise the highest risk offenders for the the 39-week treatment programmes.
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."
She added: “I’m pleased Lord Justice Gross shares my concerns regarding the potential consequences for public protection and public confidence.
“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 reoffending 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.”
The Northern Echo launched the campaign after reporting on several court cases in which sex offenders escaped a prison sentence thanks to the loophole.
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