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Scotland: Child sex offence convictions one in 50

Publish Date: 16 Nov 2004

Source: The Scotsman

Only one in 50 child sex offences results in conviction, says report

PAEDOPHILES are escaping justice, with only one in 50 child sex offences ending in conviction, an alarming new report has revealed.

Researchers warned that there had been "little or no progress" in punishing sex offenders for their crimes, or in providing adequate help for young victims, despite high profile murders such as those of Sarah Payne and the Soham schoolgirls.

The report, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation charity, highlighted particular concerns over the protection of vulnerable groups, including disabled children and youngsters in prison.

Marian Stuart, the co-author of the report, said: "The incidence of sexual abuse of children is greater than realised, yet the number of convictions remains worryingly low.

"Experts estimate that fewer than one in 50 sexual offences results in a criminal conviction.

"If this problem continues to go unchecked, there will be an inexorable rise in the numbers of children subjected to sexual abuse, with all the damaging effects that can follow. A radical rethink is essential."

On the issue of vetting people who work with children, the report warned against over reliance on police checks. Since only a small proportion of abusers have previous convictions, rigorous checking of other information such as life histories and references was said to be crucial.

Researchers also endorsed calls from the Bichard Inquiry, which followed the Soham murder case, for better recording, handling and sharing of information.

They said: "There has been no improvement in bringing to justice those who sexually abuse children. This is undermining efforts to prevent potential abusers from working with children."

Last night, victims’ groups attacked the Scottish Executive’s failure to provide specific figures on the number of paedophiles convicted north of the Border, in the light of the Rowntree report.

Sandy Brindley, the national development worker for Rape Crisis Scotland, said the authorities lumped together all sexual offences, regardless of whether the victim was an adult or a child.

"In Scotland, sexual offences are not classified between women and children," she said. "How can you deal with the problem, unless you have clear data? It’s so frustrating and something they definitely need to address."

Earlier this year, women’s groups rounded on ministers for failing to tackle an alarming rise in the number of sexual crimes in Scotland.

Cases of rape and attempted rape increased by 8 per cent, from 913 to 988, last year - the highest number that has ever been recorded.

Again, the figures failed to demonstrate how many of the sexual offences were against children.

Rape convictions in Scotland have hit an all-time low, raising fears that hundreds of women and children are being betrayed by our legal system.

The conviction rate of 4 per cent is one of the lowest in Europe and compares with a rate of 33 per cent in France.

© 2004