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Monday, November 8, 1999 Published at 17:39 GMT


UK

12-year-old sex offender sentenced

Children can be both victims and perpetrators of abuse

A 12-year-old girl who became the youngest girl in Britain to be put on the sex offenders' register has been placed under supervision for 12 months.
The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty at a Manchester court to five charges of indecently assaulting young boys in July.

They included three charges of indecent assault against three boys aged four, five and six, in summer 1998.

She also admitted two counts of inciting a girl under 14 to commit acts of gross indecency.

Sentencing the girl on Monday, judge Adrian Smith told the girl: "The courts
always take a serious attitude view when someone sexually interferes with children.

"Normally adults appear before the court, but sometimes other children interfere with children as well.

"The difference in age between you and these children was a big difference.

"They would have looked at you and thought of you as a very big girl and that's important, because why the courts take a serious view is that this sort of behaviour is very, very confusing to young children."
The girl is the youngest person in England and Wales to go on the sex offenders' register, but in February an 11-year-old boy was put on the Scottish sex offenders' register.
Duplication
The National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders said putting someone on the sex offenders' register, introduced in 1997, only ensured that the police and other agencies knew where they were.
A child supervision order would ensure the same thing. "It is essentially duplication and seems rather superfluous," said a spokesman.

"The point should be to allow the authorities to know where potentially dangerous people are, not to stigmatise or shame them."
He added that US evidence showed sex offenders' registers did not cut the likelihood of offences being committed, but they did help the authorities to clear up crimes by making it easier for them to track down potential suspects.
With children, he said, research suggested those who showed deviant sexual behaviour may have been abused themselves.
"They have to be caught early and offered counselling and treatment to come to terms with what they have been through. If they are caught early, the prognosis is good.
" A supervision order, correctly implemented, may help in this case. It is difficult to see what putting a child like this on the sex offenders' register would achieve."
Criminal justice system
A spokesman for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said it was opposed to putting children on the sex offenders' register unless there were "exceptional circumstances".
"We think that putting them on the register draws them into the criminal justice system unnecessarily," he stated.
"We would prefer they were treated in another way. Most children who abuse others have either been sexually abused, neglected or physically abused and they need treatment as early as possible."
The NSPCC runs courses for children who are sex abusers which force them to confront their behaviour and learn that it is not acceptable.
A spokesman for the Home Office said the government did not keep statistics on the number of under-16s on the sex offenders' register.

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