The Sexual Offences Act 2003 provides for a range of sexual offences which rightly carry robust penalties to deal with this serious offending – including some which carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Since 2010, the average length of a custodial sentence for sex offenders has increased by more than 25 per cent. Sentencing in individual cases is a matter for the independent judiciary, who take into account the full facts of each case. The courts are required to follow any guidelines produced by the independent Sentencing Council relevant to the case before them, including the definitive guideline on Sexual Offences.
For those who receive a life sentence, they must serve the minimum term in prison required by the sentencing court, following which they will only be released by the independent Parole Board if the Board is satisfied they no longer need to be detained for the protection of the public. Other sex offenders may receive an Extended Determinate Sentence (EDS) if the court considers they could pose an ongoing risk. In those cases, the offender must serve at least two-thirds of the custodial term in prison and will only be released before the end of the full custodial term if the Parole Board is satisfied it would be safe to do so
The Government has no current plans to abolish the possibility of parole for offenders serving these types of sentences. Offenders should rightly be punished for their offences, but once they have served their punishment they should only continue to be held in prison if their risk remains too high for them to be released.