Police say Jimmy Savile was one of the most prolific sex offenders in history (Reuters)
Police say Jimmy Savile was one of the most prolific sex offenders in historyReuters

Public figures convicted as sex offenders in the UK — including celebrities such as Gary Glitter and Rolf Harris — face the longest sentences for their crimes in a decade. Those found guilty of sex offences, such as rape and sexual abuse, are being sentenced on average to more than five years in prison. This is 4.5 more months than they were receiving before. Glitter was sentenced to 16 years in February.

The number of people being prosecuted has also increase by 3%, according to Ministry of Justice (MoJ) statistics released on 13 August. It indicates the rise is directly connected to the Operation Yewtree investigation into Jimmy Savile and other media personalities.

"Longer sentences will be welcomed by victims, who deserve to know that those who commit these sickening acts are properly held to account," said Justice Minister Andrew Selous. "These figures show sex offenders are receiving harsher punishment than ever before for their appalling crimes".

All told, 6,402 sex offenders were convicted in the past year ending in March. That was out of 12,000 sexual offence court cases. That is a 53% conviction rate. Still, this is the highest in a decade, according to the MoJ.

In the UK, as in most English-speaking Western nations, the extreme youth or old age of victims adds to the sentence when being weighed by a judge. Other Western nations vary in how they tackle the issue.

In the United States, the average sentence for rape is eight to nine years. In Australia, the median of sentences for sexual assault is seven years, although those convicted, on average, spend 4.8 years in jail. In Canada in 2002, the median was 3.8 years in jail.

Convictions continue to grow year-on-year in the UK on increased action against offenders. The MoJ report said: "In our previous quarterly publication, we reported a 9% increase between the 12 months ending December 2014 and the previous year."