Barrister attacks 'failure' of justice system as Ministry of Justice figures show number of rapists who go on to re-offend

A top barrister has hit out at the justice system's failure to properly rehabilitate convicted rapists, saying that many are being released from prison only to re-offend.

Sunday, 2nd May 2021, 6:00 am
Updated Sunday, 2nd May 2021, 8:14 pm

Tony Wyatt, who works as a defence barrister and has prosecuted in rape trials, said how "overflowing prisons", combined with a lack of funding for rehabilitating offenders back into communities, made it "inevitable" that rapists would go on to strike again.

It comes as Ministry of Justice figures this week revealed that 263 rape attacks convicted in the courts over the last five years were carried out by offenders who had already served prison time for similar offences.

Campaigners have subsequently called for a "root and branch reform" when it comes to dealing with crimes against women and girls.

Some 263 rape attacks in the last five years were committed by offenders who had already served jail time for similar offences, data shows. Picture: Adobe Stock Images

"I think in terms of sex offences, there is no offence that requires real stringent and in-depth, focused rehabilitation more," Mr Wyatt told The Yorkshire Post.

"A sex offender is a very particular kind of offender, and to deal with it you've got to understand it. They need intensive rehabilitation and there is literally no funding for that at all. Prisons are absolutely overflowing and they're not being offered any of the courses they would be previously offered unless they've got access to a laptop or given some sort of paperwork in their cells.

"So the reality is, they're coming out of prison and haven't been rehabilitated. They sit in cells for doing nothing to address the reasons for their offending, and then they're coming out with no improvement in their skills, no improvement in their understanding, no improvement in anything.

"It's pretty much inevitable, if anything," the barrister with Ewing Law chambers added.

"We should be surprised the figures are as low as they are."

Data published by the Crime Survey of England and Wales have showed that rates sexual violence in Yorkshire last year were higher than the national average.

Mags Godderidge, Chief Executive of York-based charity Survive, which supports victims of sexual violence, said the fact that rapists were going on to re-offend was evidence of wider failures.

Mrs Godderidge said: "Survivors have told us that they are often encouraged by their friends, family and the police to report what has happened to them and are made to feel like it is somehow their responsibility to do so to prevent further attacks.

"Yet here we have evidence of survivors reporting the crime and going through the stress and trauma of a court case, only for the perpetrator to still go on and commit further sexual offences.

"More needs to be done to increase the prosecutions and convictions for sexual offences and clearly, from this evidence, more also needs to be done to ensure that those who are convicted, attend a sex offender treatment programme to address their offending behaviours with the aim of ultimately ensuring there are no more victims."

A spokesman for Ministry of Justice said that sex offenders were subject to strict conditions while on licence, and that their rehabilitation was a complex issue which has been undergoing constant evaluation and review since 2003.

The spokesman said: “Rapists are already spending far longer in prison than they were 10 years ago, and we are still toughening up sentences so they serve even more time behind bars.”

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