§ Beverley Hughes
'Child Abuse' is not a specific offence but actions of this nature can be prosecuted under a number of offences. Recorded crime statistics show the categories of offence with the largest numbers of offences specifically against children are: cruelty or neglect to a child (2,558 offences in 2000–01) and gross indecency with a child (1,336 offences in 2000–01).
In the year 2000, 616 prisoners were received for the offence of gross indecency with a child. They had been given, on average, a sentence of 27.5 months. In the same year, 124 prisoners were received for the offence of cruelty to a child. They had been given, on average, a sentence of 16.4 months.
Other offenders imprisoned for actions against children would have been included in offence categories that do not separately identify children, eg rape, incest, homicide, etc. It is not possible to identify the sentence lengths given for these cases from central records, although all those convicted of murder would have received a mandatory life sentence.
Under the broad review of sentencing that began in July, the Government are looking at tougher determinate sentences for sex offenders that will ensure they stay in prison, up to the full term if necessary, so long as they continue to present a risk of harm to our communities and that they are subject to strict and extended supervision on release. The Government are also looking at a requirement that where a life sentence is an option judges should not shy away from using it if the professional evidence shows that there is a clear risk that the offender will commit further sex offences.