Tougher sex offence sentences proposed

A child with his head in his hands At the moment, the physical impact of an assault is the main factor in sentencing offenders

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Sentences for rapists and other sex offenders in England and Wales could become tougher to recognise the long-term psychological harm they cause.

The Sentencing Council also suggests judges could give longer sentences to offenders who film their victims.

In a new consultation, the body says judges should closely consider the complex and damaging effect that a crime has on a victim.

The proposed new guidelines cover virtually all sexual offences.

The Sentencing Council is responsible for trying to ensure consistency in criminal sentencing across all courts in England and Wales and it draws up complex guidelines to assist judges.

The council said that its proposed guidelines for sexual offences aim to update the way the courts deal with 54 crimes, to take into account the tactics and technologies used by offenders, as well as the long-term damage done to a victim.

The guidelines cover almost every sexual offence that is recognised in the UK, from voyeurism to rape, and, if adopted, would play a key role in dealing with people convicted of historic allegations of sexual abuse when victims have come forward decades after the event.

In the 14-week consultation, the council said that judges should be able to send offenders to jail for longer where modern technology proves to be an aggravating factor in increasing the victim's suffering - such as filming abuse of a sexual assault and then distributing it to others.

Nick, who was abused by his Scout leader as a child, said he was given a life sentence

Judges are concerned that they have seen a worrying increase in the number of cases where rapists have filmed their attack and the victim.

Previously the focus in sentencing has been largely on the physical act of the crime, such as which part of a body was violated, because the law defines each individual offence in a quite technical way.

The council's new guidelines make clear that this form of sentencing does not take sufficient account the potentially catastrophic long-term effect on the victim.

Increased sentences

Under the new guidelines, judges would also be able to jail those guilty of so-called "one-off" rapes for a maximum of 19 years, a sentence that is currently only for offenders who attack more than once.

Judges can also take into account the behaviour of an offender before the specific offence, such as whether they use drugs and alcohol as part of their targeting.

Lord Justice Treacy Lord Justice Treacy says victims must be central to sentences handed down by judges

Sentencing for sexual offences against children should also look at how the victim has been groomed or whether the assailant was in a position of trust.

Lord Justice Treacy of the council said: "We're improving guidance for courts to help them deal with these incredibly complex, sensitive and serious offences.

"The perspective of victims is central to the council's considerations. We want to ensure sentences reflect everything the victim has been through and what the offender has done.

"We are looking at the whole context, not just the physical offence but also the tactics employed by offenders like grooming activity, the targeting of vulnerable victims or abuse of a position of trust.

"No one wants more people becoming victims, so protecting the public is a vital part of our proposals, whether this is by jailing offenders or through rigorous treatment to stop them reoffending."

Psychological impact is already taken into consideration in assault and burglary guidelines, but Lord Justice Treacy told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that "current [sexual offence] guidelines don't concentrate enough on the perspective of victims".

Sense of responsibility

Sexual violence campaigner Jill Saward, who was raped by two burglars who broke into her home in Ealing, London, in 1986, welcomed the proposals.

"For too long, the impact that [sexual violence] has had on victims has been neglected in the whole justice process," she said.

In the aftermath of her attack, she saw a psychotherapist, a psycho-analyst and psychiatrist, but that was not mentioned in court, she said.

At the sentencing of her attackers, Mr Justice Leonard said that her trauma "had not been so great" - a comment he was censured for and apologised for later in his life.

"That reflected how little understanding there was. I'd been suicidal three times, I'd had post-traumatic stress disorder, which wasn't really recognised then," she said.

She added that victims often felt a sense of responsibility to other potential victims, and were relieved when their rapist was locked up for a long time, thereby preventing further attacks.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    @216. plath
    "it's a traumatic crime. people don't want to be further humiliated by a defendant"
    I agree. Because it's such a serious crime, normal rules of justice should be adhered to rigorously, not suspended! The defendant is the defendant, innocent until PROVEN, right?

    "... rape anonymity has nothing to do with... rape myths..."
    I disagree with you here as my comments @196 point out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.


    Yes there are always the odd exceptions.

    We are talking about rapists and paedophiles with a predilection for underage girls.

    Let's not muck around with these unsavoury folks. Humiliate and mutilate them with a public castration. Let other potential paedophiles see what's in store if they sleep with their own daughters or family friends.

    Watch the sex crime rate plummet!

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    "9.The Village Idiot
    I think ... the views of the victims and how it impacts their lives should be taken into consideration..."

    Good on the face of it. But what if the victim has no memory of an attack through being drugged. Should the offender get a lighter sentence, thus encouraging the drugging of victims? Should child abusers get lighter sentences if their victim is too young to remember?

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    Why would someone elect to be placed to a capital trial? There is no benefit for the accused to elect to be placed in a capital trial.
    Capital punishment is barbaric, but neutering rapists/pedophiles as suggested by someone on here is a good idea, but this wouldn't stop all offenders as depravity isn't necessarily linked to sexual gratification.

  • Comment number 227.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    This too long over due, can they not take into consideration that the affect it has on the victims life, my neice was abused sexually but can't keep a relationship as when gets too intimate she freaks out,depression sets in and withdraws into herself,this was 8 years ago that the offender was sentenced getting 4 years yet my neice is carrying a life sentence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    Death penalty doesn't work.
    I agree with it in a way. If someone is 100% guilty, hang them.
    BUT..... how many 100% guilty people have been found to be innocent years later. Look at that wee dude in manchester, who done years for a murder, 100% guilty, then it turned out he wasn't even in the city when the murder happened.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    203.qualia & 200.Old Father Thames
    'Public castration and life sentences for all sex offenders is the answer!'

    Easy as that is it? What about the 16 year old having consentual sex with their 15 year old partner? Urinating in a public place?

    Plus, castration in a public place?!?! Not sure anyone that wasn't already a sexual deviant would want to see that!

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    Easiest way of dealing with proven offenders of all major crimes is a length of rope and a short drop.

    In this case people might not be able to control what they are attracted to but dont be so naive to think that these people will ever change.

    As with all crime stronger deterents will mean fewer offenders, stop being soft on all proven offenders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    I'm shocked its taken so long to do this (or is it more talk?). All attacks are terrible, & certain types leave severe mental & physical problems. Meanwhile the % of attackers who offend again within 3 years of leaving jail is HUGE. People needed to be protected properly and to feel protected. I feel those who attack repeatedly should be kept away until it is assessed that they won't anymore.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    206. c_cat, Thanks for the ... (sorry used all my letter quota up!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    I've often been disgusted by the lenient sentences sex offenders get - some judges seem to have pretty odd views about rapists and paedophiles. These are people who commit some of the worst crimes imaginable, and victims lives are permanently changed or even destroyed; victims sometimes commit suicide later in life. I can't think of a punishment harsh enough for some of the perpetrators.

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.


  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    @209. Black_And_Proud
    "I’m not in favour of the death penalty except for repeat murderers, where the accused elects to be tried in a capital trial."

    The state should never take the life of a citizen away. What if their innocent? Ridiculously, most of the inmates in the UK are black. What's your alias here again?

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    176.Mighty Mouse
    'I'm a mental health nurse. I work in a secure forensic mental health unit, where we deal with, amongst others, sex offenders.
    Yes they can be rehabilitated'

    Do you ever wonder though whether they are pretending to be rehabilitated in the hope of release but underneath the monster still lurks just waiting for the right opportunity to strike again ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    196. Bastiat "Shielding accusers actually hurts them. Revealing them empowers them in society's eyes."

    i don't think rape anonymity has anything to do with promoting rape myths. the circumstances of rape are publicised regardless of whether the accuser is named or not.

    also, it's a traumatic crime. many people don't want to be further humiliated by a malicious defendant

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    Those who want really harsh sentencing (death) are mainly looking for revenge, that is not going to help anyone solve the problems. We have to deal with offenders humanly otherwise we become the offenders. Revenge seems necessary at the time but makes you feel bad later. The answers are never simple.

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    I trust this has been approved by the ECHR, otherwise the 1st offender sentenced in this way will go running to the nearest Human Rights Lawyer screaming his Human rights have been violated. The victims rights as usual will count for nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    It's all very well people calling for longer sentences in harsher conditions, but sentences are short and prisons are soft because it's cheaper. If you want long sentences and tough prisons then you'll have to pay for it, something the British public show no inclination for whatsoever. You get what you pay for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    I have been amazed to discover just how lenient sentences for sex offenders are - with many given suspended jail sentences for a dangerous crime which is neither acquisitive nor can be realistically mostly, provocative. Out of touch judges are also to blame but a complete overhaul in sentencing is long overdue as well as analysing whether treatment is actually likely to be impactive in each case.


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