Tougher sentences for young offenders who film their crimes

Angela Wrightson
Image caption Two girls who were convicted of murdering Angela Wrightson posted pictures of their attack online

Young offenders in England and Wales who film their crimes in order to post them on social media could face tougher punishments under new proposals.

Judges and magistrates would be expected to consider such behaviour a "serious aggravating feature" when sentencing offenders aged 10 to 17.

Footage was sometimes used to embarrass, humiliate or blackmail victims, the Sentencing Council said.

The new guidance aims to reflect the harm caused, and to "stop reoffending".

It comes a month after two teenage girls were given life sentences for murdering 39-year-old Angela Wrightson in Hartlepool.

The girls, then aged 13 and 14, took photographs of the attack, and uploaded them to the social media application Snapchat.

'Deliberate humiliation'

Draft Sentencing Council guidelines on the "overarching principles" for how courts handle youth criminals list a number of potential "aggravating factors", which are to be consulted on.

They include "deliberate humiliation of victim, including but not limited to filming of the offence".

They also include "deliberately committing the offence before a group of peers with the intent of causing additional distress or circulating details / photos / videos etc of the offence on social media or within peer groups".

Such behaviour is also cited as a possible aggravating factor in new guidance for sentencing youths specifically for sexual offences, along with online grooming.

If adopted, it will be the first time the issue has been explicitly covered in guidelines for dealing with young offenders - although the body said they do not aim to make significant changes to sentence levels.

'Sense of responsibility'

Sentencing Council chairman Lord Justice Treacy said young offenders should be sentenced "fairly and proportionately", with the primary aim of stopping them reoffending.

"These guidelines will help achieve this.

"No-one wants young people turning into hardened adult criminals and sentencing must play its part in fostering a sense of responsibility and helping them reintegrate rather than become alienated."

Sentencing guidelines must be followed, unless a judge or magistrate feels it is not in the interests of justice to do so.

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