We covered the case of Stuart Hall who was acquitted of all charges of rape and all but one of indecent assault last Friday. He fell to be sentenced for the one offence of indecent assault that he was convicted of as well as one that he had pleaded guilty to at the start of the trial.
These offences were committed against the same victim.
Count 19 – Indecent assault – Guilty plea
The victim was aged 13. Hall was invited to supper at the victim’s parents house. The victim, with Hall’s son, consumed a quantity of alcohol and was sick. She went to bed and Hall entered her bedroom and digitally penetrated her with his fingers. At one point he tried to get on top of her but eventually desisted. He had also indecently assaulted the victim’s friend, who was also present. He pleaded guilty to that count last year and was sentenced to 15 months.
Sentence: Starting at 18 months. 6 months discount for pleading guilty. 12 months
Count 21 – Indecent assault – Convicted
Hall had admitted having a sexual relationship with the victim, aged then 15. He would buy her champagne and presents and take her to football matches on which he would commentate. He was convicted of one count of indecent assault; the jury found that oral sex occurred between Hall and the victim. Because the offence of unlawful sexual intercourse can no longer be prosecuted due to a time bar, the intercourse cannot be prosecuted unless they are indicted as rape. The jury returned not guilty verdicts on those counts and so this offence has to be prosecuted as indecent assault.
Sentence: 18 months
The Judge’s remarks are available here. They are worth a read if you want to understand the nature of the offences and the way in which the Judge arrived at his final decision as to sentence.
What about the sentences Hall is already serving?
Stuart Hall was sentenced to 12 months and 18 months consecutive, making a total of 2 1/2 years. That is to be served consecutively to the sentence of 2 1/2 years he is already serving.
The Judge considered that because the victims of these two offences were separate from those in respect of which he pleaded guilty last year, notwithstanding that one offence occurred on the same evening against a different victim, consecutive sentences were appropriate.
Indecent assault has a maximum sentence of two years for these offences and so the Judge had to work within that maximum.
The primary issue for the Judge to consider was totality both in respect of the sentences that Hall is currently serving and in relation to the two counts against the same victim.
Concurrent or consecutive with one another?
Where offences are committed against the same victim, often courts will pass concurrent sentences, ensuring that the total is proportionate to the overall offending. In this case, the Judge made the sentences consecutive. That is because the two offences were very different in nature and committed at very different times – one when the victim was aged 13 and one when she was aged 15. That analysis appears to me to be correct.
Concurrent or consecutive to his current sentence?
The Totality guideline suggests that where offences were committed before the previous sentence was imposed, the approach should be to consider what the sentence length would have been if the court had dealt with the offences at the same time and ensure that the totality of the sentence is just and proportionate in all the circumstances. If it is not, then an adjustment must be made to the sentence.
The Judge obviously felt that had these two counts been sentenced at the same time as the offences to which Hall pleaded guilty last year there would have been an additional 2.5 years added to the sentence and so no adjustment was necessary.
So, is it too long?
Previously, we would have expected this sentence to have been reduced for totality on the basis that 5 years for all the offending (these two and the ones he pleaded to last year) was too long based on the old law. However, practice is changing and sentences for historic sexual abuse are getting longer. For that reason, we will not be pinning our colours to the mast as to whether an appeal would be successful. Having said that…
Will Hall be off to the Court of Appeal?
I would think he is likely to receive permission to appeal. The outcome of the Max Clifford sentence appeal will be instructive as to whether a complaint such as this about the length of the sentence for historic sexual offences is likely to result in any reduction in sentence…so we will refrain from committing ourselves either way just yet.