Page last updated at 18:16 GMT, Monday, 14 December 2009

Treatment plan promised for women sex offenders

Vanessa George. Pic: Devon and Cornwall Police
George admitted 13 charges of indecent assault

The government has pledged to develop its first-ever strategy for dealing with female sex offenders.

Unlike men, there are no accredited treatment programmes for women.

Now, a plan will be drawn up to manage female sex offenders in England and Wales, depending on the risk they pose and their motivations.

The announcement comes a day before nursery worker Vanessa George is sentenced for distributing indecent images of children.

Over the past five years, between 59 and 77 women have been convicted of sex offences every year. A small number - 2% - of convictions are for sexual offences.

Experts say the motivation for women sex offenders is more diverse than for men.

Many offenders have either experienced or are in abusive relationships.

And while a significant number commit their offences in partnership with men, others commit their offences alone. Many cases are not seen as sexually motivated.

Risk factors

The government had said the relatively low number of offenders and their wide spread across the national prison system meant it that it had not been practical to develop group programmes in the past.

Now the Ministry of Justice has announced the programme is to be targeted at offenders in England and Wales serving custodial sentences and those under supervision in the community, from April 2010.

The aim of the programme would be to try to standardise the treatment offered to women. Officials hope this will help to identify the factors which increase risk and help identify individual women at high risk of offending.

In a separate move, ministers have announced that they are cutting the number of places available in the women's prison estate by 400 by March 2012.

Money will be diverted towards specialist services in the community.

George, from Plymouth, admitted 13 charges of indecently assaulting, taking indecent photos and distributing photos of children in her care.

Angela Allen, from Nottingham, will also be sentenced for her involvement in the case.

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