Pressure was mounting on the Government and the judiciary today to toughen sentencing for Ulster's paedophiles after 15 MPs raised concern in the House of Commons over current guidelines and policies.
A complete overhaul of the province's criminal justice system has been announced, with new legislation aimed at serious sex offenders and violent criminals due to be introduced in the spring - but the MPs fear it does not go far enough and have called for an urgent review of sentencing policy to ensure sentences "better reflect the depravity of the crime in each case ".
In an Early Day Motion in the Commons, North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said there is widespread concern in Northern Ireland regarding recent sentences passed down for serious sexual offences against children.
He said the Government needs to recognise "the long-term damage done to the victims in such cases and the need for all those in authority to be more aware of the adverse consequences for the victims".
Mr Dodds' motion stated that sentences should reflect the depravity of the crime in every case, especially where the offender is a "persistent one who poses a continuing risk to society in general and children in particular. "
The motion has been signed by 15 MPs from the DUP, SDLP, Conservative and Labour parties.
It was submitted amid concern over the "leniency" of sentencing in a number of cases, including the case of Downpatrick architect Ian Magill who was caught with over 15,000 images of child sex abuse on his computer.
The PSNI said his was one of the worst cases they had ever come across but there was outrage when the judge passed down a two-year custodial sentence, with two years on probation. Due to 50% remission and time spent on remand Magill is due to walk free in months.
Concern was also raised earlier this year after Comber security guard Francis Scullion (41), who downloaded 7,000 indecent images of children, including scenes of child rape and torture, was jailed for 12 months, serving half that time under 50% remission.
Scullion (41) was arrested after his home at Dermott Avenue was raided last year as part of Operation Ore.
Although Policing and Justice Minister Paul Goggins has said that the new Criminal Justice Order for Northern Ireland will see a major toughening up of sentencing policy for dangerous offenders, Mr Dodds said the Government and the judiciary needs to become more aware of the damage caused to the victims of child sex abuse.
He added: "All sex crimes against children cause a lot of damage and in many cases that damage can last for the rest of their lives.
"It is a matter of extreme importance that this is reflected in sentencing.
"Currently it is not, as can be seen in the lenient sentences passed down in recent cases."