June 20 2013 Latest news:
By Matthew Stott
Monday, February 18, 2013
NEARLY 90 sex offenders have escaped with a slap on the wrist from Suffolk police instead of facing the courts.
New figures released to the East Anglian Daily Times under Freedom of Information laws showed officers issued cautions, reprimands and warnings to 89 sex offenders between 2010 and 2012.
The youngest offender was just 12 and the oldest 83 - the average age was 29. All evaded court proceedings.
Cath Elliott, volunteer co-ordinator at Suffolk Rape Crisis, said: “How can women feel justice is being done? It’s not justice at all.
“It’s not sending out a strong message. It’s sending out a wrong and weak message. Cautions are not strong – they’re just a slap on the wrist.
“It just tells women that sexual crimes committed against them are not regarded as serious. Women are not being listened to.”
In total 58 cautions were handed out to sex offenders between 2010 and 2012 – with an average age of 37 – while 10 reprimands and 21 warnings were issued.
The latest Government figures show 31 people were found guilty for rape from 2009-2011 in Suffolk but two escaped a prison sentence.
Ms Elliott said: “It’s difficult for victims to develop a sense of closure when the sentence doesn’t reflect the severity of the crime.”
A sex crime sees an offender placed on the sex offenders’ register, and while a caution is not a criminal conviction, it remains on the police record for five years.
Suffolk Rape Crisis, in Ipswich, helps survivors of sexual abuse to maintain control over their lives and raises awareness of sexual abuse.
Ms Elliott added: “I think there’s more awareness of sexual violence and the impact it has now, but Suffolk Police seem to be out on their own and not taking it serious as everyone else.
“It’s not fair that they are acting as judge and jury on these matters.
“I’ve had a few conversations with them and they have assured me they are treating it very seriously.”
Guidelines say police can issue cautions to offenders who admit their crimes where circumstances such as the age, welfare or mental state of the victim or criminal means it is not in the public interest to prosecute.
Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore said it was sometimes difficult to gather enough evidence to start court proceedings but insisted sex offenders should view the cautions as serious deterrents.
He said: “On some occasions a caution doesn’t involve going to court. You have to get the evidence in line and sometimes a case doesn’t quite reach the threshold. It can be difficult to prove beyond all doubt.
“But these cautions should serve as a very serious warning to people should anyone who commits this crime again, and we would hope they do not, that if caught their caution would be taken into account when sentencing happens in the future.
“There is a dedicated team at Suffolk Police which focuses just on sexual assaults, with some cases going back years, so we take this crime very seriously.”
A Suffolk Police spokesman said: “Suffolk Police take reports of sexual offences extremely seriously and they are all fully investigated.
“The sexual offences recording category includes a wide range of offences, ranging from the lower level to the more serious, such as rape.
“If appropriate the lower level offences may be concluded with a caution.
“However, as with any reported crime the concerns of the victim are always at the forefront of our policing and any investigations that are concluded with a caution are only done so after careful consideration, and if it is felt appropriate for all parties concerned.
“A caution is a valid means of disposal in any criminal investigation and should not be taken lightly.”