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February 06, 2005

Paedophiles must face jail sentences, police chiefs urge

February 6, 2005 [The Scotsman News] By John Innes

SCOTLAND’S leading police officers believe child sex offenders should face mandatory jail sentences, it emerged yesterday.

The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) is concerned that a number of paedophiles have been dealt with too leniently by the courts.

Bob Ovens, ACPOS spokesman on child protection, said it was time for a tougher approach to be adopted.

Mr Ovens, who is Deputy Chief Constable of Dumfries and Galloway Police, said in an interview with Scotland on Sunday: "Our position on this is quite clear.

"Where any individual is undertaking paedophile activity, and we include downloading child porn, grooming children on the internet or by any other means, right up to the sexual abuse of children, that is a serious offence.

"We have a duty to protect the most vulnerable people in society and send a clear message to those who ruin children’s lives and destroy their innocence that they will be punished severely," he added.

"It seems clear that the only sentence that achieves the dual purpose is a custodial sentence, combined with registration as a sex offender and some programme of rehabilitation."

Tina Woolnough, of the pressure group Parents in Partnership, said a radical overhaul of the current method of dealing with paedophiles was required.

"The system needs to be a lot more robust, and simply ordering community service for crimes such as these is unacceptable," she insisted.

However the SNP’s justice spokesman, Kenny MacAskill, gave a cautious reaction to the idea. "I would be very wary of mandatory sentencing," he said.

"It should always be left to the judiciary to impose a firm prison sentence where necessary, but alternatives where appropriate."

The Scottish Executive said the Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill was currently going through parliament but declined to comment in detail on Mr Ovens’ remarks.

An Executive spokeswoman said: "Protection of children is a priority.

"The bill provides an extra tool for dealing with those who take advantage of children.

"We believe the bill forms the right package and strikes the correct balance for the justice committee to take forward and debate."

Posted by Nancy at February 6, 2005 06:33 PM

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