13/08/2015 18:09 BST | Updated 13/08/2016 06:12 BST

Sex Offenders 'Receiving Harsher Punishment'

Prison sentences given to sex offenders have jumped sharply, figures show.

The average term increased by 4.5 months to 63 months - more than five years - in the year to March.

Ministry of Justice (MoJ) statistics also showed that the number of defendants proceeded against for sex crimes was the highest in a decade after increasing by 3%.

The trend is partly down to Operation Yewtree, the investigation set up in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, and surrounding media attention.

A total of 6,402 sex offenders were convicted in the year, an increase of 10% on the previous 12 months and also the highest level for 10 years.

Justice minister Andrew Selous said:"These figures show sex offenders are receiving harsher punishment than ever before for their appalling crimes.

"Longer sentences will be welcomed by victims, who deserve to know that those who commit these sickening acts are properly held to account."

The data showed that across all offence categories, those convicted of the most serious crimes were more likely to go to prison than at any point in the last decade.

More than one in four (27%) people found guilty or admitting an indictable offence received an immediate custodial sentence - up from 24% five years ago.

The average custodial sentence for indictable offences now stands at just over a year-and-a-half (18.7 months).

The number of adult offenders given a suspended sentence for an indictable crime also increased in the year to March, the figures show.

Meanwhile, a total of 142,900 offenders were given simple and conditional cautions in 2014/15 - a fifth (19%) lower compared to the same period a year ago.

Although the total number of individuals dealt with by the criminal justice system had fallen to a record low of 1.72 million, there was a 2% increase in the number of defendants facing action in magistrates courts.

This was driven by rises in proceedings for speeding offences, TV licence evasion, failure to pay car tax and common assault.