Therapy for young sex offenders

Young sexual offenders and "potential offenders" will receive therapy under a new scheme in Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and Bedfordshire.

The team of therapists will work with families of youngsters aged up to 17 whose behaviour has indicated they may commit sexual offences.

They will be referred to the programme by the youth criminal justice system or social services.

The £300,000-per-year project is part-funded by the Department for Education.

The team is being set up to "reduce the future risk" posed by offenders or those considered "at risk" of becoming offenders.

Tom Jefford, head of young people's services at Cambridgeshire County Council, said the ultimate aim of the joint-council programme was to reduce the number of victims of sexual assault.

'Managing behaviour'

"The young people seen by our therapists will have been referred [to us]," he said.

"Some will have been formally charged with indecent assault, for example. But others may not have met the criminal test.

"This is partly about managing that behaviour, and creating clear expectations within the family of what is normal sexual behaviour and development."

He said Multisystemic Therapy (MST) was "a well-structured therapeutic model", developed in the United States, but now widely used in the UK.

The treatment is generally defined as a family and community-based treatment which aims to make positive changes in the social systems that contribute to a young person's antisocial behaviour.

"This is only the second time it has been used in relation to youth sexual offenders, or potential offenders, in this country," Mr Jefford said.

"We will be working closely with colleagues who piloted the system in London."

The programme is initially being funded for a three-year period.

The government funding has been topped up by contributions from the councils involved in delivering it - Cambridgeshire, Central Bedfordshire and Bedford Borough, and Peterborough City Council.

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