Prison figures show a link between sex crime and religion
# Some use faith to justify wrongs
# They try to avoid therapy schemes
Churches are being advised to protect congregations against paedophiles and rapists in their midst as The Times uncovers figures showing a clear link between religion and sex crime.
The Home Office has disclosed statistics for the first time, showing the prison population according to their faith and type of offence committed.
Two trends emerge: a strong tendency for prisoners who declare a religious faith to be serving time for sexual offences; and a large proportion of fraudsters from oriental faiths.
Richard Foot, of the charity Sanctuary UK, said that some Christians used a warped theology to justify sex crimes and tried to get out of therapy programmes.
“We do know of men that go from church to church seeking children,” he said. “It’s an issue the Home Office is becoming particularly aware of.”
The likelihood of sex offenders to adhere to a religion can be seen from the figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The proportion of all prisoners declaring any faith compared with those with none is about 2:1 but among those convicted of sex crime it rises to 3:1. The trend is marked across many faiths, including Buddhism, Anglicanism, Free Church Christianity and Judaism.
One prison worker told The Times about a man who claimed to believe that God had put a girl victim in his path, so He must be responsible for what happened to her.
Sex offenders often convert to religion while serving their sentences. Mr Foot, a social worker and member of the Free Church, said: “Some of those will be genuine. Others develop a religiosity which doesn’t signify a real heart change. You still get churches making crazy decisions about people who come into their congregations – ‘we have forgiven them so that’s all that matters’.”
The Home Office has held two preliminary meetings with church leaders to discuss protecting worshippers when freed sex offenders join congregations. A government spokesman said national protocols are due to be introduced next year after consultation.
Probation officers would be invited to help draw up “contracts” requiring offenders to agree to be chaperoned, or, if necessary, to stay away from children. Breaking a contract would result in expulsion from church and warnings being sent to neighbouring parishes.
Jonathan King, the pop impresario who served three years for under-age sex, said: “The chaplains in prisons are normally a pretty fine bunch of men and the only people guaranteed to lend a sympathetic ear. With sex offenders being vilified by the rest of society, it is quite a relief to find a shoulder to cry on. So even the most distant tend to become more religious inside. It is rumoured to help you get parole if you have a positive chaplain report.”
Ray Wyre, the sex crime consultant from raywyre.uk.com, said there was a risk when offenders came to believe their wrongdoing was caused simply by having too little faith. He had known ministers who tried to cast out “rape demons”.
One prisoner demanded to be given a Christian probation officer who, he wrongly believed, would accept that he no longer needed treatment since he had accepted Christ.
Lord Avebury, patron of Angulimala the Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy Organisation, was surprised to be told that nearly a fifth of all jailed Buddhists are held for sex crimes. He suggested many would be jail converts. “If you are on your own a lot and you have time to think about your life then meditation and Buddhist practice is a useful way not only of passing the time but coming to grips with things that are wrong in your life,” he said