One of the most senior police officers in the UK has called for greater debate about treating paedophiles rather than sending them to prison, amid concerns there is not enough space in prisons to jail them all.
Chief Superintendent Gavin Thomas, president of the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales issued the warning and called for a “rethink” on current approaches to sex offenders, The Times reports.
Currently, there are close to 45,000 names on the sex offenders’ register. The list contains details of people convicted of sexual offences and is used to monitor offenders following their release from prison. It has been steadily increasing since it was established in 1997.
Mr Thomas said: “One of the major concerns from our members is managing the register already, and it’s growing. For offenders at the highest level there are visits to be made [and] monitoring access to the internet.”
He added that there is not enough room in prisons to jail all child sex offenders and called for discussion of alternatives: “Should we be going down the criminal justice route or, based on a proper assessment, should we be going down the health route? At the moment I am not seeing alternative thinking on how we deal with this issue as it grows and grows and grows.”
The number of people being convicted of sexual offences has soared in recent times, partly due to high profile cases such as Jimmy Savile encouraging other abuse survivors to come forward. Last year, more than 6,400 people were convicted of such offences in England and Wales, amounting to a 3 per cent increase on the previous year.
In addition to record conviction rates, the length of sentences for sex offenders has never been higher, with sentences averaging a record high of five years and three months according to Ministry of Justice statistics.
Of 86,200 people who are currently in jail, around 11,500 have been convicted of a sexual offence.
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