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Newspaper in bid to stop sex offenders dodging jail

A campaign to stop sex offenders dodging a prison sentence by claiming the right rehab isn’t available behind bars has been launched by a regional daily.

The Northern Echo’s Keep Our Kids Safe campaign was the brainchild of crime correspondent Neil Hunter, who became incensed at the number of convicted sex criminals – often paedophiles – walking free because of the legal loophole.

Within a day of Neil proposing the campaign, Echo editor Peter Barron had given it the nod and the paper splashed on it the following morning.

It has already drawn the support of senior campaigners.

In a blog about the campaign, Peter said: “Every week, Neil reports on sex criminals (often those who have obtained indecent images of children) who do not go to jail, even though judges believe they deserve to.

“That is because in order to get sex offender treatment in prison, you have to serve at least two years and custodial sentences are routinely being suspended because of this anomaly.

“Defence lawyers are using the same argument every time – ‘he needs help, wouldn’t get it in jail, so let him walk’.

“Surely, it cannot be right for sex offenders to dodge justice in this way.”

The campaign will call for tougher sentences for people convicted of downloading or creating images of abuse, as well as changes in the system to allow for rehabilitation of those sentenced to shorter spells in prison.

The chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC), Pete Saunders has praised the campaign, saying almost 50 people from the region had contacted the group in the wake of the campaign.

He said: “Thanks and well done to The Echo. It was a great move to highlight this problem. We have already taken 25 calls from the North-East and a further 20 from North Yorkshire.”