Saturday 21 April 2018

'Tom Humphries case highlighted how wrong it is to sexually exploit a child' - calls for longer jail terms

Tom Humphries.
Tom Humphries.

Kathy Armstrong

The jailing of once-prominent sports writer Tom Humphries showed "how dangerous and wrong" sexually exploiting children is, according to a leading organisation.

Humphries was sentenced last month to two-and-a-half years in prison for defiling a teenage girl and two years for the sexual exploiting the same girl, the sentences will run concurrently.

The Rape Crisis Centre is backing a Fianna Fail bill which would increase the maximum sentence for exploiting a child from seven to 15 years.

Noeline Blackwell, Chief Executive of the Rape Crisis Centre, said today: "There has been a recent outrage and outcry about short sentences for people who have taken people's childhood.

"The Tom Humphries case was the one that epitomised how dangerous, how criminal, how wrong it is to sexually exploit a child.

"The legislation that Humphries was charged convicted under had already been changed and the time limit was increased from five years to seven years for someone charged with sexually exploiting a child who is aged between 15 and 17.

Concerned: Noeline Blackwell
Concerned: Noeline Blackwell

"The Fianna Fail proposal would double  that sentence."

Read More: 'Sentencing for paedophiles is a joke' - survivor on the devastating and lasting impact of child abuse

She spoke candidly on Newstalk Breakfast about how being sexually exploited as a child can have a devastating impact on the victim's life.

Ms Blackwell said: "It doesn't mean that everyone would get 15 years for sexually exploiting a child but it sends a message that society takes this so seriously that we insist on having one of our most serious penalties for this.

"It's really important because the damage that is done by by the exploit of power in childhood can be lifelong.

"We have adults coming into us decades later who have carried a burden all their lives of having being sexually exploited as children."

She stressed that the charity isn't in favour of mandatory sentencing, as she explained that a range of sentences is necessary.

Read More: 'It was a consensual act'... This is how the abuse by paedophile Tom Humphries was framed' - Paul Kimmage

She also said that we need to look at how people are rehabilitated during their time in prison and after they are released.

Ms Blackwell explained: "It's absolutely essential that we look at what happens when a person is put in jail and what happens to their family?

"A very small portion of those who are convicted of sexual offences take up courses dealing with their sexual offences.

"When they come back on the streets, our probation services have to be ready to know what to do with people who are back in public and are a high risk...

"We do need to work hard with people in prisons to identify, where possible, that people recognise the error of their ways in prison.

"When they come out of prison we can't say we just ignore that high-risk former offenders are still there, we have to work with them to ensure they are the least possible risk to our society."

  • If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article please contact the Rape Crisis Centre's 24-hour helpline on 01 778 888

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