Sunderland domestic violence charity calls for tougher rape sentences

Mandatory Credit: Photo By Jennifer Jacquemart / Rex Features
Mandatory Credit: Photo By Jennifer Jacquemart / Rex Features
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THE head of a domestic violence charity today spoke of her concern after figures revealed one in seven rape convictions are committed by offenders who have previously been found guilty of sex crimes.

There were 1,200 rape convictions in 2012, of which the offender had previous convictions for rape in 43 cases and other sexual offences in 136 instances, according to figures released by the Ministry of Justice.

Elsewhere, the figures revealed that nearly half of rapists, 48 per cent, in 2012 were released from jail after serving half or less of their sentence, up from 43 per cent in 2011.

Today, Claire Phillipson, who runs Sunderland-based Wearside Women in Need, said more needed to be done to encourage victims to come forward, as well as punish offenders.

“Many victims fear they won’t be believed if they come forward or, if they do, they won’t be believed in court,” she said.

“Usually, their attacker is known to them and they are scared about coming forward because it could tear apart family and friendships.

“We need to give victims confidence in the system and that help is there for them.

“If this sex offender is not caught this time, they could go on to do the same again to someone else”.

Following the release of the data, ministers said the Government was committed to handing out “tougher” sentences to sex offenders, with mandatory life sentence for criminals convicted of a second very serious sexual or violent crime.

“Of course, it is good news that they are giving out tougher sentences, but before that happens the victims need to come forward and press charges,” said Ms Phillipson.

“Northumbria Police do amazing work in supporting victims through the whole legal process.

“But we need to make sure that victims are aware that the support is there for them and encourage them to come forward.”

Justice minister Jeremy Wright said “tough new sentences” are available for those who commit sex crimes.

“Under this Government sex offenders are more likely to go to prison and for longer,” he said.

“We recently introduced a new mandatory life sentence for people convicted of a second very serious sexual or violent crime and introduced a tough new extended determinate sentence which will ensure dangerous offenders spend long periods in prison and are supervised for long periods after their release.

“We are determined to drive down stubbornly high rates of reoffending - that’s why we are reforming the system to provide prisoners with the support and supervision they need on release to turn their backs on crime for good.”