The National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (Nacro) report said that jailing sex abusers could make the plight of the child victims worse.
The prospect of prosecution and imprisonment could deter abusers from admitting their guilt, it claimed, forcing children to face the ordeal of a trial. And the report said that victims were less likely to report cases of abuse if they thought it might lead to their home breaking up.
The report noted that in Germany, Sweden, Italy and Belgium abusers were more likely to receive voluntary long-term therapy than imprisonment.
In the Netherlands, only a small proportion of child abusers were prosecuted - instead help was offered to the victim, perpetrator and family. The trend in Britain was to prosecute and imprison the offender.
The report said national and local strategies were needed to develop treatment programmes. 'This is important to provide the possibility of treatment as an alternative to prosecution, to provide the courts with a wider range of options for sentencing in sexual abuse cases, to ensure that prisoners who are not eligible for the prison service treatment programmes can be referred elsewhere, and to develop follow-up programmes for those who have taken part in the ones in prison,' it said.
The report accepted that prison was still the only answer for a minority of dangerous and disturbed offenders.Reuse content