Prison struggles to cope with rise in sex offence convictions

Minister asked to intervene as Birmingham prison is swamped by rising number of sex offenders

LAST UPDATED AT 10:52 ON Wed 9 Jan 2013

A PRISON in Birmingham is struggling to cope with a sharp rise in the number of sex offenders as courts convict more people for offences including rape and internet pornography.

The BBC says the situation has got so bad at HMP Birmingham that the justice minister, Chris Grayling, has been asked to intervene and make more room for sex offenders.

Prisoners in the category are usually held exclusively in the prison’s G Wing, but the influx of new sex offenders means some are having to be housed elsewhere in the jail until space on G Wing becomes available.

The chairwoman of the Independent Monitoring Board has written to Grayling urging him to investigate the situation because it is "creating problems on the wings", the BBC says. Barbara Bradbury said: "Prison culture [means] sex offenders are the lowest of the low and if [other prisoners] can get at them either verbally or physically, then they will."

HMP Birmingham is trying to ease the problem by transferring some sex offenders to other prisons, the board says, but is "experiencing difficulty" arranging their relocation with the Prison Service.

The sharp rise in the number of sex offenders in the UK has been widely reported in recent years. For example, in August last year the BBC disclosed that the number of female sex offenders in Wales had "more than doubled" in the past three years. The pattern is being repeated across the country and the number of prosecutions looks certain to keep rising thanks to the high profile of the Jimmy Savile investigation.

HMP Birmingham, which can hold up to 1,450 adult male prisoners, was the first UK prison to be taken over by a private company. In October, 2011, G4S won a contract to operate the facility for the next 15 years. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.