It's not acceptable for police to treat sex offenders like thieves
It can NEVER be acceptable for police to treat deplorable sex offenders the same as bike thieves, writes JULIE BINDEL, after 1,000 escaped criminal records just by saying sorry to their victims
After years of devastating headlines, I had come to imagine that my visceral anger at women’s treatment at the hands of the police and the criminal justice system could not be stoked any further.
I was wrong.
Just days after the publication of Baroness Casey’s damning report into the Metropolitan Police and their manifold failings to protect victims of crime among others, yesterday we learn of another sickening way women are betrayed by a system that is meant to protect them.
How else to describe the revelation by the Mail that more than 1,000 sex offenders have escaped any kind of formal sanction for their crimes by instead offering little more than an ‘apology’ to their victims?
This includes rapists — and among them child abusers — walking away from their actions with the judicial equivalent of a handshake.
As someone who has spent most of her adult life campaigning to highlight the blight of violence against women, I have rarely been more furious (file image)
First-time offenders guilty of ‘less serious’ crimes and who accept ‘responsibility’ can avoid the judicial system by issuing an apology and, in some cases, paying compensation (file image)
It’s called a ‘community resolution’ — although something that leaves offenders with no real sanction is not a ‘resolution’ of any kind. It’s a heinous sell-out of the victims of sex offences.
So yes, I am angry. As someone who has spent most of her adult life campaigning to highlight the blight of violence against women, I have rarely been more furious.
Sadly, though, I cannot say I am shocked.
This is the way that our criminal justice system has been for the past 20 years.
To cut processing backlogs and save money, there has been a steady move towards ‘restorative justice’.
First-time offenders guilty of ‘less serious’ crimes and who accept ‘responsibility’ can avoid the judicial system by issuing an apology and, in some cases, paying compensation.
When it’s deployed correctly, I’m all in favour of it. For low-level crime, it can sometimes be better for both victim and offender: the former spared the ordeal of a court case, the latter given a second chance without undergoing a sometimes brutalising and corrupting stint behind bars.
But since when did sex offences get lumped into the same category as a vandalised shed or a stolen bike?
We already know that rape convictions nationally stand at less than one per cent of those reported.
And Baroness Casey’s report — commissioned, lest we forget, in the wake of the brutal murder of Sarah Everard by serving officer Wayne Couzens two years ago — exposed the horrific shortcomings of the Metropolitan Police in dealing with sexual offences.
Rampant culture of sexism aside, the promised focus on tackling violence against women and girls after Sarah’s death never materialised.
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In fact, it was taken less seriously than other crimes in terms of prioritisation.
As one officer, in a startling admission, told Casey’s review, in London rape has effectively been decriminalised. Now we have more evidence to prove how sexual violence, and its impact on victims, is systematically being downplayed by our criminal justice system.
In the past year, the number of ‘community resolutions’ given out to sex offenders has doubled, with 1,064 such cases in 2021 and 2022.
Among them are several instances where the penalty has been handed out for child rape, including one involving a girl aged under 13.
Can anyone believe that a community resolution could be appropriate for such a horrendous crime?
But then such measures underline an all-too-common philosophy, particularly when the victim and perpetrator of a sexual crime are known to each other, that it is ‘easier’ for all concerned to deal with the issue outside a courtroom. It is a deeply flawed strategy.
Research shows that those who commit sexual crimes, particularly in a domestic setting against a partner, have high reoffending rates.
Such crimes are undertaken by men who know that it is very unlikely they will ever be reported for it, let alone charged.
These are men who — aside from the minuscule number convicted for rape each year — are unlikely to be behind bars for long, even if they find themselves subject to a guilty verdict by a jury.
The conventional system of justice is, then, hardly a deterrent. Yet instead of facing the judicial process, some offenders are being given the option to ‘accept responsibility’ and ‘say sorry’. One can only imagine the message it sends to those predisposed to prey on vulnerable women.
Naturally, police have been quick to defend this policy, pointing out that the penalty is normally used only in relation to sexual offences if the victim is content for the crime to be dealt with that way.
But this is no justification at all, and it is hard not to see this as a convenient fallback which does not remotely consider the often complex dynamics of victims and offenders, particularly set amid a domestic backdrop.
Is it any surprise that some female victims — many of whom struggle to take their complaint to the police in the first place — might feel enticed by an option in which the prospect of appearing in court as a witness is replaced by this ‘neat’ solution?
Women may not be forced into accepting a community resolution, but a traumatised woman might feel that she should accept it.
The consequences resonate for all of us. Unlike cautions or convictions, community resolutions do not constitute a criminal record and are not recorded on the Police National Computer. It means thousands of sexual offenders are walking free.
The consummate irony behind this charade, meanwhile, is that community resolutions can be meted out only if an offender has admitted to their crime — in part, at least.
So why not take advantage of that by supporting victims to take their case through the court system?
Police have been quick to defend this policy, pointing out that the penalty is normally used only in relation to sexual offences if the victim is content for the crime to be dealt with that way (Sir Mark Rowley, Met Commissioner)
I am calling for a blanket ban on community resolutions when it comes to sex crime — with one notable exception. In instances where two consenting teenagers have had sex while underage, it may not be appropriate to criminalise one or both
The answer, of course, is that it is easier and cheaper not to. And so, once again, we find women’s safety sacrificed on the altar of crime numbers and political expediency.
Every time another sex-abuse scandal breaks, politicians and police chiefs extol the need for lessons to be learned — just as they did last week in the wake of Baroness Casey’s searing report. It’s staggering and deplorable.
Which is why I am calling for a blanket ban on community resolutions when it comes to sex crime — with one notable exception. In instances where two consenting teenagers have had sex while underage, it may not be appropriate to criminalise one or both.
In all other circumstances, the police must move to prosecute. That means gathering evidence — even if it seems to be of the ‘her word against his’ variety — which the Crown Prosecution Service should then assess and, where appropriate, take to court.
Will this result in a 100 per cent conviction rate? No. But it will certainly be higher than the one we have; and it would send a strong message that sexual violence of any sort will be taken seriously.
Of course, in the short term this will be more time-consuming and expensive. But continuing as we are will inflict an altogether more grave cost on Britain’s most vulnerable women.
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