Loren Morris has been sentenced to imprisonment for two years having been convicted following trial of three counts of sexual activity with a child. She was also made the subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order, preventing her from contacting a child under the age of 16 without the consent of the child’s parents. She was placed on the Sexual Offences Register, where her details will remain for ten years.
HHJ Juckes QC’s sentencing remarks are not available, and so we are reliant on the tabloids for the facts of the case. It is said that Morris, now aged 21 and a mother, engaged in sexual intercourse with the victim over 50 times in a two year period. The abuse commenced when Morris was 16 years old, and the victim was 8. It is said that the victim “bragged” about the offences at school, which led the school to inform the police.
Section 9 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 sets out the offence:
9 Sexual activity with a child
(1) A person aged 18 or over (A) commits an offence if–
(a) he intentionally touches another person (B),
(b) the touching is sexual, and
(i) B is under 16 and A does not reasonably believe that B is 16 or over, or
(ii) B is under 13.
(2) A person guilty of an offence under this section, if the touching involved–
(a) penetration of B’s anus or vagina with a part of A’s body or anything else,
(b) penetration of B’s mouth with A’s penis,
(c) penetration of A’s anus or vagina with a part of B’s body, or
(d) penetration of A’s mouth with B’s penis,
is liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years.
(3) Unless subsection (2) applies, a person guilty of an offence under this section is liable–
(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or both;
(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years.
The sentencing guidelines for the offence can be found here (at page 53).
It appears that the sentencing Judge placed the offence into the second bracket of the guidelines, with a starting point of 2 years and a range of 1 to 4 years.
We know little of the mitigation put forward, and the Judge’s sentencing remarks have not been published, but the Judge was reported as having said:
“I make no secret of the fact your case has given me cause for much consideration.
I have come to the conclusion that due to the concern and embarrassment caused to both you and your family that you will not be offending again, let alone committing sexual offences.
I am also aware of the effect this will have on your baby. I am pleased to hear your parents have started to build bridges with you.
It seems to me that I am bound to pass an immediate custodial sentence. I take into account what has been said to me and the fact that you stopped the activity yourself.
You realised it was wrong rather than being caught and forced to stop. Therefore my sentence is one of two years. You will serve 12 months in prison before being released on licence.”
It seems likely that this was Morris’s first offence. Having contested the offences at trial should wouldn’t have received any credit for a guilty plea. The Guideline notes the following:
The culpability of the offender will be the primary indicator of offence seriousness, and the nature of the sexual activity will provide a guide as to the seriousness of the harm caused to the victim.
Other factors will include:
• the age and degree of vulnerability of the victim – as a general indication, the younger the child, the more vulnerable he or she is likely to be, although older children may also suffer serious and long-term psychological damage as a result of sexual abuse;
• the age gap between the child and the offender;
• the youth and immaturity of the offender; and
• except where it is inherent in an offence, any breach of trust arising from a family relationship between the child and the offender, or from the offender’s professional or other responsibility for the child’s welfare, will make an offence more serious.
Morris’s defence barrister made reference to her “immaturity”; it’s likely that she would have been sentenced more leniently given the fact that the offending commenced when she was a child herself, albeit the disparity between her age (16 years old at the start of the offending) and the age of the victim (8 years old) is likely to have been an aggravating feature. It’s also notable that the Judge referred to the fact that Morris “realised it was wrong”, which suggests that this was something she came to recognise, rather than something that she knew all along. Again, we can speculate that this may reflect back to her immaturity, as referred to by her counsel.
It’s been reported that Morris’s barrister mitigated for a community order or suspended sentence. On the face of it, even with a first time offender, a community penalty would be a very lenient sentence. Custodial sentences of up to two years can be suspended, and so it’s understandable that defence counsel would be seeking such a sentence, particularly given the fact that Morris has a child which, presumably, she is carer for. In my view it’s understandable that the Judge did not suspend the sentence; offences of this nature will usually warrant a custodial sentence.
Questions have been asked as to whether she received a more lenient sentence because she is a female. In our experience the view that female offenders receive lesser sentences than male offenders committing the same offence does not stand up to scrutiny. A sentence has to reflect all of the factors including (as is common with female offenders) the fact that they are the primary carer of children, which may be cause for reducing a sentence. It appears that Morris was sentenced firmly within the guidelines (and so there is little to suggest she benefited from a more lenient sentence on the basis she is a female). It’s unlikely we’ll see an appeal in this case.