Commons Justice committee revealing the impact on prisons of the growing numbers of paedophiles and sex offenders being sent to jail.An extraordinary report was issued last week by MPs on the
The report – virtually unnoticed by the national media ( exceptions BBC and Yorkshire Post) -provides partly an answer to those who say the police aren’t doing their job catching them and the Crown Prosecution Service is not getting enough convictions. It also suggests society failed to acknowledge the scale of sex offences in the past.
What it reveals is that Britain’s jails are being engulfed by a tidal wave of elderly offenders – and a huge proportion are historic child abuse and sex offenders like Stuart Hall.
The figures are in fact staggering. At the end of March 2013 there were 6,639 prisoners in England and Wales who were aged between 50 and 59 and there were 3,381 over the age of 60, counting between them for 12 per cent of the prison population. Custodial Convictions have jumped by 45 per cent for the 50-59 age group and by 46 per cent for those over 60 between 2008 and 2012.
The report highlights historic sex abuse cases as one of the main causes. It says there has been a 45 per cent increase in convicted people sent to jail between 2002 and 2012. They account for a third of the elderly offenders in jail
Indeed the number of infirm elderly mean that two prisons – Dartmoor and the Isle of Wight – are now becoming vulnerable persons units, where prisoners have difficulty climbing stairs,washing, carrying their meal trays and getting into bunk beds.
Nor is this particularly a British phenomenon, American readers of this blog, might be familiar with a recent NBC report revealing a similar crisis in the US.
The British report points out that the problem is likely to grow rather than diminish – particularly given the present drive to prosecute historic child abusers through Operations Yewtree, Fernbridge, Fairbank,Torva and in North Wales and Northern Ireland.
The problem for politicians is that this group are the least loved offenders – some people would want to hang them – and there is little political capital and much outrage to be gained from being even remotely sympathetic.
The one sympathetic statement came from the Howard League for Penal Reform.
Frances Crook, Chief Executive said:
“The select committee is quite right to highlight the growing problem faced by older prisoners in our overcrowded jails. Political leadership is required to address the issue and provide prisons that were never designed to be penal care homes a clear strategy on how best to handle the needs of an increasingly elderly population.
“At the same time the issue of historic sex offences is a real challenge for society. If someone is sentenced many decades after they committed a crime and where they are so infirm as to pose no continuing danger, then the courts should explore other options than simply imprisonment.”
The only danger with this – and I am only taking this from the small number of investigations I have made in this area – is that unfortunately many of the elderly abusers are still sexually active.
But society is going to have to deal with this – or more of our jails will become compulsory old people’s homes at enormous cost to the state and taxpayer.