Nearly half of child molesters don't go to prison; sentences must be clearer: official

A massive 43 percent of adults convicted of sexually abusing a child get no prison sentence, according to a report by National Rapporteur on Human Trafficking and Sexual Violence against Children Corinne Dettmeijer. She calls on courts and judges to be clearer in their sentencing.

For the report, Dettmeijer analysed 182 child sex abuse convictions in 2012 and 2013, the Telegraaf reports. Only one in five perpetrators are sent to prison for more than a year, while the maximum penalty for these types of crimes is between six and 16 years. According to Dettmeijer, judges hardly ever impose a profession ban, while 10 percent of sexually abused kids were abused at the hands of someone who work with kids, like a teacher, a ports coach, a childminder or a nanny.

She calls on judges to clearly explain how they came to their punishment in child sex abuse cases. It is important for both victims and perpetrators to understand where the punishment came from.

Every year the Dutch courts convict more than 300 offenders for committing so-called "hands-on sexual abuse" - sexual abuse where there is physical contact between offender and child without violence or coercion used. Courts look at many factors for the punishment motivation, but the report shows that they often don't explain how these factors play a role in sentencing.

"Sometimes a perpetrator not motivated for therapy still gets treatment imposed. Another time not", Dettmeijer said. "Sometimes the age of the perpetrator is a reason for a lower sentence, sometimes not. This makes the consequences of abuse unclear for victims and perpetrators."

According to the report, factors that play a statistically significant roll on the length of a child sex abuser's prison sentence include the Public Prosecutor demanding a longer sentence, at least one victim being younger than 12 years old, penetration happened during the abuse, and if the victim is a boy. Dettmeijer points out that judges don't penalize abuse of girls less. "You see that the Prosecution generally demands a higher penalty in abuse of girls than abuse of boys. They are more quickly seen as victims. The court seems to counteract this effect by imposing a higher penalty if one or more boys were abused."

Important factors that don't seem to play a role in the punishment include the number of victims, the duration of the abuse, a criminal record and family relation. "If the offender was previously convicted of a sex offense, then you would expect this to yield a longer sentence. Also, you would expect a longer sentence if the culprit is, for example, a parent. Because the victim is entrusted to his or her care."

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