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December 14, 2013

New guidelines for sentencing sex offenses promulgated in the UK

This notable new story from across the pond, headlined "Sex offences sentencing overhaul: More emphasis on long-term impact on victims as celebrities have fame used against them," highlights that sentencing rules in other nations also often get ratcheted up following public concern about too lenient sentences in high-profile cases. Here are the basics:

Celebrities who commit sex-offences could see their public image used against them when being sentenced as part of an overhaul of decade-old sentencing guidance for judges in England and Wales. Sex-offenders who are considered to have abused their position of power may be handed longer jail sentences when the guidelines come into effect in April 2014.

Previous “good character” may be considered as an aggravating factor when it has been used to commit a sexual offence, new guidelines drawn up by the Sentencing Council said. The guidelines cover more than 50 offences including rape, child sex offences and trafficking and focus more on the long-term and psychological impact on victims than the previous 2004 guidelines.  They also introduce a higher starting point for sentences for offences such as rape of 15 years.

The new guidance was drawn up by the Sentencing Council after a public consultation and research was undertaken with victims groups, medical practitioners, police, NGOs, magistrates and judges. “Across the justice system, changes have been made to ensure that the alleged offenders' behaviour and the context and circumstances of the incident are scrutinised, rather than the credibility of the victim,” Chief Constable David Whatton, national policing lead for violence and public protection, said....

The guidelines come following a series of high-profile sex offence cases, including revelations about disgraced TV presenter Jimmy Savile, that lead to high numbers of sex attack victims coming forward.  Cases involving grooming gangs in Rochdale and Oxford separately raised questions about social care and attitudes held towards victims....

While the Sentencing Council can recommend a starting point, offenders can still only receive the maximum sentence available at the time the offence was committed.

December 14, 2013 at 09:36 AM | Permalink


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And here we have more double think and goobledegook.

because the Sentencing Council felt it was the wrong approach to take when looking at the offence as “children do not consent to their own abuse"

Of course children cannot consent to their own abuse. No one can consent to their own abuse because by definition if the acts are genuinely consensual they are not abusive. So all this statement means is that before they thought 13 year olds could consent and now they think they can't. That certainly is their prerogative but they should come right out and say that instead of hiding behind mental contortions.

Posted by: Daniel | Dec 14, 2013 1:58:18 PM

Good character as a factor in sentencing? You can use a previous criminal record in sentencing, but "good character" is irrelevant. If Britain wants to raise penalties for sex offenses, then raise the penalties for all offenders and not just those with bad character.

Posted by: Jessica | Jan 10, 2014 10:42:39 AM

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