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Anti-sexual abuse charity calls for tougher sentences

Shuja Amon Muhammad (File photograph)

A charity dedicated to stopping the sexual abuse of children has called for stronger sentences after a convicted sex offender was found guilty of a new offence in Magistrates’ Court.

Debi Ray-Rivers, founder and executive director of Saving Children and Revealing Secrets, questioned the level of treatment received by Shuja Muhammad, who was last week found guilty of intruding on the privacy of a 13-year-old girl.

Muhammad had previously been sentenced to a decade behind bars for sexual offences against a child.

Ms Ray-Rivers said nothing about the case surprised her, explaining that child sex offenders deny their actions, blame their victims and do not stop with one child.

“Sentencing of child sex offenders in this country is not effective,” she said. “Those who are sentenced to imprisonment do not receive sentences long enough for any meaningful intervention to occur.

“Parliament has already made the maximum sentences higher. It is time that those increased penalties are reflected in the actual sentences imposed on child sex offenders.”

In 2014, Muhammad was found guilty of four counts of sexually exploiting a girl while in a position of trust after a Supreme Court trial.

Those offences reported took place in two incidents between August 1 and September 30, 2013.

Muhammad again denied the offences but was found guilty on all counts by a unanimous verdict and sentenced to ten years behind bars.

However, he was before the courts again last week after he was found guilty of making inappropriate comments to a 13-year-old schoolgirl.

Muhammad was remanded in custody following the conviction and is set to return to the courts for sentence in March.

In the wake of the news, Ms Ray-Rivers questioned the level of treatment that Muhammad received when he was incarcerated and how many qualified experts were involved in the decision to release him back into the public.

She said: “Who deemed him to be at no or low risk to children before he was released?

“Shouldn’t such assessments be by two professionals based on progress reports provided to the court and taken over an extended amount of time? Did that happen?

“Will he now receive extensive, robust, psychosocial, psychological, and psychosexual intervention during this sentence? Will he receive a treatment programme called Healthy Sex Programme?

“Knowing that he will be released one day, what will be his provisions upon release? What will be the monitoring protocol upon his release and for how long? What will be the criteria for him to be policed in this protocol.

“Will he have the freedom to live with children or frequent areas where there are children? Who will accept responsibility if he reoffends and whose little life will be changed forever?”

Ms Ray-Rivers said that sentencing judges and magistrates should have access to all the information needed to make their decision and argued that they should not be “hindered” by guidelines or previous cases.

She added that while such a measure would earn strong criticism from legal critics as unfair, the risk to children in the community should take priority.

“If we say we are a country who care for its people, we need to begin with children and their future,” Ms Ray-Rivers said.

“Children become adults and if they don’t have an opportunity to grow up healthy and whole because of the warped sexual desires of adults who are provided with freedom to reoffend, because of our inadequate sentencing practices, then we need to look at our laws, both the statutes and the common-law sentencing principles.

“I appeal to those politicians who pass law, and I appeal to those judges who interpret those sentencing laws.

“I appeal to those that have the power to find the money to bring the most effective treatment and management processes to our shores.”

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