Evening Telegraph

Expert on child sex criminals does not agree with jail for all offenders

An expert on child sex offenders says he does not believe in jailing every single one – but agrees judges need to be tough on those physically harming children.

Professor Alec Spencer, a retired prison governor and expert in the care and rehabilitation of offenders, says a blanket approach “wouldn’t be right”.

Professor Alec Spencer

Responding to our campaign to bring in mandatory prison sentences for predatory child sex offenders, Our Kids Need Justice, he said: “I don’t think it would be right to say all offenders should be treated in the exact same way. I’m a great believer in democracy and one of the foundations of that is the independence of the judiciary.

“We entrust our judiciary to get it right.”

Prof Spencer’s expertise has been called upon in the past by those involved in decision-making in justice at the highest of levels.

In 2006 he served as an adviser to a Scottish Parliament committee on child sex offences.

He said sex offences against children, while wrong as a whole, have varying levels of severity.

He added: “People who look at internet images certainly have something wrong with them and they are supporting the offending of others as well – but it doesn’t mean locking them up is the best thing to do.

“It’s important that people start helping offenders and they can start to understand their problems and become normal citizens that we can trust.

“Not to mention if we jailed every single one, it would cost a fortune.”

However, while he believes ‘lesser’ sexual offences such as looking at images can sometimes merit non-custodial sentences, Prof Spencer drew the line at any incident which leads to a child being physically assaulted.

“If (the courts) think somebody deserves a community disposal that may be right,” he said.

“I agree that we need to take sex offending very seriously but we need to see a proportionate response.

“We need a strong response if someone has been physically contacted.”