Soft-touch judges are letting thousands of child sex offenders off with just a slap on the wrist.
Out of almost 7,000 paedophiles found guilty of sexual activity with children, a shocking 2,862 avoided prison – more than 40 per cent.
Most were given community sentences while 605 received suspended sentences and 41 got only a FINE. Another 1,700 sex offenders got away with police cautions last year, according to Government figures.
Those given cautions are more likely to face jail in future after guidelines to give victims the right to challenge police decisions through the courts were unveiled last week. But the muddled system was attacked by Peter Saunders, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood.
He said: “A lot of the judiciary don’t understand the catastrophic nature of the crime and the damage it does. If more of them understood, they would say, ‘If you commit this crime you are going to jail for a long time.’”
The figures, uncovered by investigations agency OpenWorld News, show child sex prosecutions in England and Wales between 2005 and 2011.
Almost 6,941 defendants were sentenced for offences defined as sexual activity with a child under 13, with a child under 16, or gross indecency with a child. The numbers could be the tip of the iceberg as they don’t take into account offenders sentenced for other child sex crimes including porn, grooming and sexual assault, plus rape.
Alarmingly, more than 1,000 of those found guilty in crown and magistrates courts – one in seven – already had at least one conviction or a caution for a previous sex crime.
A total 429 of these had three or more previous convictions and cautions for sex offences.
Magistrates let the vast majority walk free with fines and suspended or community sentences.
Out of 844 sentenced only 80 were sent straight to prison – fewer than one in 10. Of the 6,097 offenders sentenced at crown court, more than a third avoided immediate custody.
Mr Saunders, himself a survivor of abuse, added: “A child sex offence is the most vile thing an adult can do to a child – we have to tackle it with the full force of the law.”
Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said: “The toughest sentences are available to the courts for those who commit the most serious offences.
“Alongside that the Government is working closely with the police and other criminal justice agencies to review the use of cautions.
Judge Nicholas Coleman (left) let serial paedophile Roger Martin (right) walk free in 2009 after a guilty plea to sexually abusing a girl of 11.
The judge was persuaded that Martin, then 71, wouldn’t be able to cope with a spell behind bars because of his age and ill-health. Instead Martin, who had a 30-year history of abuse, was told at Peterborough Crown Court to attend a sex offenders’ treatment programme and stop taking Viagra. He was also banned from having contact with children indefinitely.
Scout troop leader Ryan Jameson (right) was let off without a jail sentence even though he took pictures of children he had blindfolded and tied up which he then uploaded on to his computer.
The 21-year-old also admitted downloading sadistic child porn. But Judge Patrick O’Brien (left) decided Jameson needed help and gave him a three-year supervision order at Ipswich Crown Court in 2011. The judge told him: “You have got to find healthier activities.”
Uproar erupted when Judge Nigel Peters (left) and prosecutor Robert Colover (right) described a 13-year-old girl sex victim as “predatory”.
Her abuser Neil Wilson walked free from Snaresbrook Crown Court, London, with an eight-month suspended sentence. The judge hauled Wilson, 41, back to court last week to increase the sentence. But it was only because of a technical error in the first one and it remains suspended.