A dramatic surge in numbers of sex attackers being jailed – many for historic child abuse cases – has helped to drive the prison population to a record high, the Justice Secretary said yesterday.
Chris Grayling suggested that sex offenders including paedophiles accounted for almost half of the increase in people in jail over the last year.
Police and charities have said more victims are coming forward to report sex offences following the exposure of the abuse committed by Jimmy Savile and other high profile figures.
Mr Grayling said the trend had been reflected in English and Welsh prisons, whose population has jumped by about 1,600 in the last year.
He told the Commons justice select committee that 700 of the increase was accounted for by sex offenders.
He explained that there was a range of factors for the rising numbers behind bars, but added: “The most obvious change is there’s been quite a big increase in the number of sex offenders coming into our prisons, many of them historic sex abuse cases.
“I think it is something like 700 new people in our prisons in that category.”
The most recent police figures show a 17 per cent rise in numbers of reports of sex offences between 2012 and 2013. The upward trend is in contrast to falls for nearly every other category of crime.
Video: Grayling: offenders will go to jail 'in greater numbers'
Police recorded 13,090 sexual offences involving a child under the age of 13, the highest total for a decade, and a 32 per cent rise on the previous 12 months. They include a 54 per cent increase in rapes and sexual assaults on boys aged under 13 and a 25 per cent increase in sexual attacks on girls aged under 13.
Statisticians said the increases were believed to be linked to the publicity surrounding the Savile case, whose prolific offending was first exposed in the autumn of 2012, as well as other celebrities.
Groups working with victims of abuse now feel more confident about speaking out.
The NSPCC said numbers of people ringing its helpline leapt by 60 per cent after Savile’s crimes were revealed in a television documentary nearly two years ago. It said around 40 per cent were passed to police or social services for further investigation.