Closed petition Mandatory life sentences for child sexual abuse

People who commit child sexual abuse should face life in prison.

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I personally believe that it should already be a law due to the amount of future emotional trauma caused by such acts, being sexually offended as a child must be a very traumatic thing to go through and can damage a person for life and so we should give them the acceptable punishment of life in prison.

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Government responded

This response was given on 1 October 2020

The Government is committed to ensuring that the worst offenders are kept behind bars to protect the public, and that the safety of our children is paramount when sentencing sex offenders.

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The Sexual Offences Act 2003 provides a clear, comprehensive framework of offences to deal with the scourge of sexual abuse and exploitation. These offences rightly carry robust penalties, including possible life imprisonment for specified offences. These sentences reflect the seriousness of this offending, and the harm that such offending causes to victims. The 2003 Act was designed to meet the 21st Century challenges of protecting children and addresses issues including internet pornography and grooming children for sexual abuse.

We recognise that child sexual abuse can have a devastating impact on many aspects of victims’ lives and are committed to ensuring that all victims and survivors, whether they are a child or an adult, can access the specialist support they need. We have significantly increased funding to both local and national charities which provide support to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. More broadly, the Ministry of Justice provides over £134.5m in funding for victim support services across the country to ensure victims of crime receive the support they need when they need it, to help them cope and recover in the aftermath of crime.

However, we need to keep up with the fast-evolving threat. This is why the government has committed to publishing a first of its kind national strategy by the end of the year on tackling all forms of child sexual abuse which will outline our long-term ambition to drive a whole-system response to this heinous crime.

With regard to serious offending more generally, we have already legislated to ensure that offenders who have committed a specified sexual offence, including child sexual offences, for which the maximum penalty is life and who receive a sentence of 7 years or more, serve a greater proportion of their sentence in prison. We are going further to introduce tougher sentencing for the worst offenders and end the automatic halfway release from prison for serious crimes. We are proposing to legislate to extend this to other sexual offenders who receive sentences of between 4 and 7 years, and for certain sexual offenders who receive a Sentence for Offenders of Particular Concern (SOPC), we will legislate to ensure the earliest point at which they can come before the Parole Board for consideration for release is two-thirds through their custodial term.

Sentencing in individual cases is entirely a matter for our independent courts based on the circumstances of the offence and the offender. Sentencing must be proportionate to the crime and it is for our independent judiciary to decide the length and type of sentence, taking into account such culpability and the particular circumstances in a case. Currently, a life sentence is only mandatory in cases of murder to reflect the ultimate seriousness of such offending. However, a number of sex offences, including those that specifically deal with the sexual abuse of children, have a life sentence as their maximum sentence. Judges can, and do, impose such sentences in cases of child sexual abuse where this is appropriate given the circumstances of the case. It is important that judges retain this flexibility in sentencing to be able to give the most appropriate penalty in each individual case. Mandatory life sentences for the very wide range of offending that child sexual abuse encompasses would not provide such important flexibility.

Ministry of Justice