Tag Archives: Rape

Convicted rapist has sentence increased by 6 years

Rameez Afzal was convicted in March of raping a 23 year-old woman in a hotel room in Reading. Afzal met his victim in the lobby of a Travelodge at 4am and offered to help her find her friends, whom she had become separated from. He took his victim back to his room and raped her. HHJ Richard Parkes sentenced Afzal to 5 and a half years in prison. However, Afzal was already serving a six-year sentence for supplying Class A drugs, a sentence received in January. The Judge ordered the rape sentence to run concurrently to the drug sentence. The result of this was that Afzal had no additional time to serve for the rape offence. His sentence was referred to the Court of Appeal, on account of it being unduly lenient. The Court of Appeal heard the case yesterday and added a further six years to the sentence.

The guidelines for rape can be found here.

Consecutive or Concurrent?
When an offender is sentenced for two or more offences, the sentencing Judge has discretion as to whether to make the sentences consecutive or concurrent. Where the offences are wholly unrelated, the sentences are often consecutive, however the Judge must take into account the principle of totality in sentencing.

Court of Appeal
We often hear of the Court of Appeal reducing sentences which have been appealed as a result of being manifestly excessive. But the Court upholds an important function in relation to offences which are considered unduly lenient. Those cases can be referred to the Court of Appeal who will look afresh at the mitigating and aggravating features of the offence.

Nicky Suddons given second life sentence for attempted rape

Image from Daily Mail

Image from Daily Mail

Nicky Suddons, 26, has been given a second life sentence for attempted rape committed whilst on day release from prison.

An article in The Daily Mail set out the background

Previous convictions

He had received a life sentence (minimum term four years) in 2005 when aged 17 for rape and six sexual assaults. The victims were aged 13 to 28 years. Several of the attacks were committed with the use of a knife.

Day release

Whilst on day release from that life sentence, he – so say the Mail – assembled a ‘rape kit’ containing condoms, a knife, balaclava and gloves, and set about trying to rape a 50-year-old woman who was walking her dog in a park. The Mail reports that Suddons was unsuccessful in his attempted rape because the victim’s dog attacked him.

Second life sentence

Suddons was given a life sentence with a minimum term of 6 years. The Judge said:

“I strongly suspect that the lesson in your case has been learned, and it will be many years, if not decades – and it may be never – when it comes to considering your release.

You are an extremely dangerous human being. I am convinced you will sexually assault and rape women in the future if you are released.”

Suddons was convicted and so we can assume that the Judge took a starting point of 12 years. There was no credit for pleading guilty and the starting point would have been increased by his previous offending, and the fact the offence was committed whilst he was on day release. It is likely to have been mitigated by the fact that this was an attempt, and not the full offence, however the effect of that as mitigation will be limited because of the fact that Suddon was prevented from carrying out the full offence, as opposed to changing his mind and stopping the attack of his own volition.

Is this an automatic life case?

Automatic life is also known as ‘two-strikes life’. This is because where an offender has a second listed offence, they are liable to a life sentence – the conviction for the second listed offence being their ‘second strike’.

Rape is a listed offence and so as Suddons has a previous conviction for it (the 2004 rape), at first glance it appears that automatic life applies, because of his second listed offence – the 2013 attempted rape.

However, as usual, it isn’t quite as simple as it first seems. There is a condition which requires the sentence imposed for the ‘first strike’ – in this case, the 2004 rape – is of a certain length. For life sentences, the offender must not be eligible for release in the first 5 years of the sentence. In this case, Suddons would have been eligible for release after 4 years (notwithstanding that it appears he was kept in prison beyond that tariff).

So the conclusion is that automatic life did not apply in this case because there was no ‘first strike’.

The route by which the Judge determined that Suddons’ offence warranted a life sentence is therefore discretionary life under CJA 2003 s 225 – what is known as the dangerousness provisions. The Judge asked himself whether Suddons posed a significant risk of serious harm to members of the public. Clearly he did and therefore a life sentence was imposed. The minimum term was set at 6 years and so this would count as a first strike in the future, if Suddons was ever to be released.

Dainotas Doblys sentenced for manslaughter after ‘raping woman to death’

Doblys

Dainostas Doblys was acquitted of the murder of 49 year old Virginija Jurkiene but convicted of her double rape and manslaughter in June 2013. On 2 September, he was sentenced.

Doblys was aged 49 and came to the United Kingdom between 2005 and 2008 and returned here in late 2011.

Convictions

There were some convictions from Lithuania, and convictions in Scotland for threatening behaviour, assaults and carrying a knife. With the seriousness of the offences here, it is unlikely these will have had much of an impact on the sentence.

Facts

Virginija placed an advert in the Lonely Hearts column of a Lithuanian paper. She said that she was a

“49 year old sole, friendly, funny female seeking friend for serious friendship. If you are bored of being on your own, call me. I live in Wisbech town. [Mobile] 756.”

He answered the advertisement and, after several telephone calls, agreed to meet. They did so and paid for a hotel room. They ate a meal on the hotel room floor and drank two bottles of brandy and a bottle of vodka.

Doblys then subjected Virginija to a sustained sexual attack during which he raped her both anally and vaginally. It was the prosecution case that she was raped on the floor, from behind and died of postural asphyxia in association with severe alcohol intoxication.

The following day, Doblys informed the hotel reception staff that Virginja was dead in the hotel room.

Virginija was already dead when at 7.15 am Doblys made a short call on his mobile to a woman in Lithuania. He took a long shower and did not go downstairs until about 11.15 am. Only after buying some cigarettes did he tell the landlady that there was something wrong with your companion.

Injuries

The Judge described the injuries as ‘shocking wounds to the intimate parts of her body.’ Details of the injuries were not read out in open court during the sentencing hearing. The details are disturbing.

We are able to report what was said of the injuries during the trial.

There were significant injuries to her vagina and the mucosa of her rectum had been removed to a depth of 8cm. The injuries were caused by repetitive and forceful penetration. There was lots of bleeding.

Felicity Gerry, prosecuting, said during the trial: “All the evidence indicates he kept assaulting her until she was dead and probably beyond.”

The Judge said

‘The extent and multiplicity of arm and leg bruises suggested many actions of gripping type pressure, with penetration being achieved by gripping your victim’s inner thighs and moving them apart. An injury to her chin was consistent with a forceful impact with the floor.’

Judge’s comments about the case

The investigation and presentation of this case by the police, CPS and counsel was meticulous.

‘I…thank all three experienced counsel (Miss Gerry, Mr. Khalil QC and Miss Rafferty) for their assistance throughout this trial, both on matters of law and in relation to the fair and efficient presentation of the evidence…’

Sentence

The Judge said:

‘I regard your culpability as only slightly reduced by the inference I make from the joint booking of the hotel room and her undamaged removed clothing that Virginija contemplated some sort of naked sexual activity with you there.

You were a florid liar in your dealings with the police, painting a bogus picture of athletic yet entirely consensual prolonged bouts of sexual intercourse.’

It was accepted that the rapes were not planned or pre-meditated.

The manslaughter

The Judge found that Doblys satisfied the dangerousness criteria. This means that the Judge considered that there was a significant risk of serious harm to members of the public posed by Doblys. That required him to impose either and extended sentence or a life sentence. He felt that an extended sentence was appropriate for the manslaughter offence.

The Judge was reuiqred to assess the appropriate custodial term, and then add on an extended licence period, designed to protect the public once Doblys has been released.

The sentence was 16 years’ custody with a 4-year extended licence.

The rapes

The Judge imposed two 11-year sentences on the two rape counts, to be served concurrently (at the same time) with the extended sentence.

Notification

As a result of the sentence, Doblys is subject to the notification requirements, under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, for life. This is more commonly known as the sex offenders register.

Release

Doblys will serve 2/3 of the custodial term, at which point he must apply to the parole board for release. They can release him, or keep him in custody until the expiration of the custodial term of the sentence (16 years).

Teacher Andrew Pearson jailed for rape of pupil

Andrew Pearson

Photo courtesy of BBC News

Piano teacher Andrew Pearson was sentenced yesterday, 20th August 2013, to an extended sentence of 22 years, combining eighteen years imprisonment and a 4 year extended licence, for the rape and abuse of a pupil.

Pearson, 37, from Bradford, was found guilty of eight offences of rape and six of ‘sexual abuse’ by a jury sitting at Bradford Crown Court. News reports state he was convicted of ‘sexual abuse’ – sexual abuse is not an offence and it is unclear exactly which offences were charged for this element of the offending. It may well be one of the ‘abuse of a position of trust’ offences under Sexual Offences Act 2003 s 16-24.

The facts of the case are sparse, but is had been reported that Pearson started grooming his female victim when she was just eight years old and the abuse continued for four years.

Further reports suggest that the some 74,000 pornographic images and 5,000 videos were found on Pearson’s computers.  Pearson apparently had a fetish for soiled ladies underwear, as discovered by his wife when she found a pair of small pink knickers in his drawer, and pornography on a memory stick.

The Judge is reported to have said: “It was protracted, detailed, repeated abuse on a little girl who could not and did not understand and was ashamed, terrified, afraid to complain, afraid of you.”

Pearson is said to have forced the girl to take her clothes off and watch pornography with him.

Sentencing guidelines for the offences can be found here.  The maximum sentence is one of life imprisonment.  Pearson received an extended sentenceof 22 years, comprising of 18 years custody and 4 years on licence.

This means that the Judge decided that he was ‘dangerous’ within the meaning of the CJA 2003. The test is whether the defendant poses a significant risk of serious harm. On any view these were offences of the utmost seriousness and a finding of dangerousness comes as little surprise.

The aggravating features of the offences are the age of the victim, the length of time over which the offences were committed, as well as the fact that Pearson was in a position of trust.  Given the length of the sentence there may be an appeal; it may be that the assessment of dangerousness is challenged. Without knowing more information about the offences and the offender, it is impossible to assess. However, on the basic facts that have been reported, it seems any appeal may well be unsuccessful.

Paedophile receives suspended sentence after admitting sex with 13 year-old “predatory” school girl

“Predatory” isn’t a word often used to describe 13 year-old victims in sex-cases, but in the case of Neil Wilson, who pleaded guilty to having sex with a 13 year-old school girl, this is what the victim was described as, by both the prosecutor and the judge.

41 year-old Wilson received an 8 month suspended sentence for various offences, including taking a 13 year-old girl back to his home, allowing her to take off her school uniform and engage in a sex act with him.

This would appear to be an offence under Sexual Offences Act 2003 s 9 – sexual activity with a child. Penetrative activity with a child attracts a starting point of 4 years according to the guidelines (see page 53). The range suggested is 3 – 7 years. If the act is “contact between the naked genitalia of the offender and naked genitalia of the victim or another part of victim’s body, particularly face or mouth” then the starting point is 2 years and the range is 1 – 4 years.

In addressing the Court, the prosecutor is reported as having said:

The girl is predatory in all her actions and she is sexually experienced.

She appeared to look around 14 or 15 and had the mental age of a 14 or 15 year old despite being younger than that.

There was sexual activity but it was not of Mr Wilson’s doing, you might say it was forced upon him despite being older and stronger than her.”

Judge Nigel Peters told Neil Wilson, 41, he had also taken account the fact the child looked older. Prosecutor Robert Colover, told the judge: ‘The girl is predatory in all her actions and she is sexually experienced.’ Wilson lured the teenager to his home in Romford, Essex, where he watched her strip out of her school uniform before she performed a sex act on him. The abuse did not come to light until the girl confided in a friend who then told police. During a search of Wilson’s home officers also uncovered a stash of vile images and videos depicting child abuse and bestiality. He pleaded guilty to two counts of making extreme pornographic images and one count of sexual activity with a child and was handed a suspended sentence at Snaresbrook Crown Court. Judge Peters told him: ‘You have come as close to prison as is imaginable. ‘I have taken in to account that even though the girl was 13, the prosecution say she looked and behaved a little bit older. ‘You knew she was not nearly 16 as she said and your plea of guilty recognises that you knew. ‘Allowing her to visit your home is something we have to clamp down on and in normal circumstances that would mean a significant term in prison. ‘On these facts, the girl was predatory and was egging you on. ‘That is no defence when dealing with children but I am prepared to impose a suspension.’ – See more at: http://www.courtnewsuk.co.uk/online_archive/?name=predatory&sa=Search#results

These astonishing comments have sparked concerns that Wilson was sentenced on the basis that the 13 year-old victim was complicit in her own abuse, despite being well below the age of consent, and the 28 year age gap between her and Wilson.

Wilson was sentenced at Snaresbrook Crown Court by HHJ Nigel Peters, who said:

You have come as close to prison as is imaginable. I have taken in to account that even though the girl was 13, the prosecution say she looked and behaved a little bit older. You knew she was not nearly 16 as she said and your plea of guilty recognises that you knew.

Allowing her to visit your home is something we have to clamp down on and in normal circumstances that would mean a significant term in prison. On these facts, the girl was predatory and was egging you on. That is no defence when dealing with children but I am prepared to impose a suspension.

We don’t have full details of the extent of the offending behaviour, but The Independent has reported that eight images of child sexual-abuse and eleven sexual images involving horses and dogs were found on Wilson’s home computer.

As part of his sentence Wilson will be supervised by the probation service for 3 years, must attend a sex offenders’ program, is banned from contacting children and must allow the police to examine his computer.

Wilson now faces a review of his sentence by the Attorney General, who could refer the sentence to the Court of Appeal if it is believed to be “unduly lenient”.  We will know whether this case will be referred  within 28 days, whereon this post will be updated.

Boy, 15, raped a boy, 13, for ‘not having a good phone’

youth justice

Facts

A 15-year-old boy pleaded guilty to two counts of rape. When aged 14, X (he cannot be named because of his age) approach V (aged 13) whilst V was waiting at a bus stop on his way home from school.

X asked V where he lived, where he went to school, whether he was in a gang and whether he had a phone. When V replied that he did not have a phone, X told him he must go to a block of flats in order that he could be searched.

X then grabbed V, ordered him to remove his boxer shorts and raped him, telling him to “do it like a girl”. V was begging for X to stop and X replied “Good, that’s what you get for not having a good phone [to steal]. I’m going to scar you for life.” After the rape, X then slapped V in the face and told him not to look at him.

X had a previous conviction for possession of cannabis and had been reprimanded for carrying a knife.

News reports are here (Evening Standard), here (LBC) and here (BBC).

Sentencing

X was sentenced to 4 years’  detention under section 91. This is for grave crimes committed by those under 18. See here for our explanation of youth custodial sentences.

Judge Roger Chapple, sentencing, told the defendant that his offences had been “dreadful” and the effects on his victim “profound”.

“You were apparently punishing him (the victim) for not having a mobile phone you could steal from him,” the judge said.

“A quite sad and disquieting theme that has run through this case is the power, control and domination you sought to exercise over your victim and your apparent wish to degrade him.

“When he told you how much you had hurt him you expressed satisfaction and threatened to scar him for life.”

This throws up a couple of important – difficult – issues.

Punishment

The first issue is punishment. What is the appropriate sentence? For an adult, the sentence is likely to have been more than double the four years given to X.

On one side, there is the need to punish X, and a lengthy custodial sentence is necessary to a) deal with the issues X obviously has and b) mark the seriousness of the offence, ensuring that an appropriate punishment is imposed. There is also the need to protect the public where appropriate, however here, X was not assessed as dangerous (within the meaning of CJA 2003) warranting an extended or life sentence.

On the other, there is the desire not to unnecessarily incarcerate children and young offenders. X is clearly a child with issues which need addressing. A sentence maeasured in years is obviously going to have a significant effect on X’s life and restrict what he can do once he is released. This may be the beginning of a life of crime if, for example, he leaves custody with no education, a drugs habit, no skills, no job prospects.

Whilst there is a duty to impose the shortest possible sentence commensurate with the seriousness of the offence, there is some discretion within that and courts can – and do – take very lenient approaches to some offenders.

So, what is the correct sentence? For my money, 4 years seems right.

Anonymity

The second issue is anonymity. As a general rule, those under 18 are anonymised.

The victim, V, will remain anonymous for the rest of his life as he is a victim of a sexual offence (see here for more about sex complainant anonymity).

As for X, his identity is currently subject to reporting restrictions. That means that publication of his name, image or any information which might lead to the public ascertaining his identity is prohibited. This would most likely include his school and where he lives.

The Judge is reportedly considering a request to lift the anonymity order in relation to X. Should he do so? We understand his decision will be given on 17 July. 

There was a lot of criticism recently about the lifting of anonymity orders in relation to child offenders – this was sparked by the news that John Venables was to be released from prison . Many thought that had the judge decided to refuse the request to publish details of Thompson and Venables’ identities and their pictures, then some of the anger surrounding the may have subsided. As it currently is, their names can keep cropping up in the press, as the order made by the judge permitted their identities to be known, but no images etc. of their appearance to be published after 2001.

This is tricky issue. There is force in the argument that says offenders should be named and shamed, and that such a process features as a part of the denunciatory value of sentencing. However, there is much force, in my view, in the argument that supports retaining that anonymity as it would allow X to serve his sentence and attempt to rebuild his life.  He is a young boy who clearly has issues which need addressing. The fact he has a criminal conviction, for a sex offence, will serve as an ongoing reminder – as will signing on to the sex offender’s register. By virtue of the sentence he received, the conviction will remain on his record forever. Is his custodial sentence, criminal record and requirement to sign on to the sex offender’s register punishment enough?

 Should the courts give him a helping hand to turn his life around and protect his identity? Or should the court grant the application to publish his identity and leave him with an albatross around his neck for the rest of his life?

Man who ‘raped woman to death’ is convicted of manslaughter and rape

Man who ‘raped woman to death’ is convicted of manslaughter and rape

In January 2013, Virginja Jurkiene, 49, posted a ‘lonely hearts’ advert.Dainotas Doblys, 48, answered the advert and the pair agreed to meet.

They went to the Hare and Hounds Hotel in North Brink. They went to buy alcohol and food from a local shop, and then returned to the hotel.

The following day, Doblys informed the hotel reception staff that Virginja was dead in the hotel room.

The BBC reported that a post-mortem examination revealed Ms Jurkiene had died from “suffocation in conjunction with severe alcohol intoxication”.

In court, the cause of death was described as postural asphyxia – essentially, Virginje had suffocated due to the position her body was in. Doblys told the police he had penetrated her for 4-5 hours. Injuries to both indicated this was from behind.

Virginje had suffered numerous injuries and was found face down in a pool of her own blood. There were significant injuries to her vagina and the mucosa of her rectum had been removed to a depth of 8cm.

The trial

Doblys denied murder and rape and said the two had had consensual sex.

The prosecution case was essentially that Doblys had ‘raped Virginje to death’. They brought the case on the basis that he had murdered her – not intending to kill, but intending to cause her really serious harm. They also alleged two counts of rape, anal and vaginal

The BBC reported: Felicity Gerry, prosecuting, said: “The multiplicity and significant nature of injury leads to an inevitable inference that the defendant intended to cause really serious harm.

“All the evidence indicates he kept assaulting her until she was dead and probably beyond.”

She said Ms Jerkiene died long before she was found and “the pathology is that she would have been semi-conscious or unconscious and therefore incapable of consent” .

Virginje was a heavy drinker and was 4.5 times the legal driving limit at the time of her death.

The jury were asked to consider counts of murder and rape (x2). Manslaughter was an alternative verdict to the murder count on the basis that the rapes were unlawful acts and Doblys was responsible for her death even if he did not intend to kill.

Verdicts

Dainotas Doblys was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter and rape (two counts).

Sentences

The maximum sentence for rape and for manslaughter is life imprisonment.

Doblys will be sentenced on 2 September 2013. We will return to the case then.

Anonymity for complainants in sex cases

 

The anonymity

Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 s 1 affords lifetime anonymity to complainants in certain situations.

When does it apply?

When an allegation that an offence specified under the Act has been committed.

The offences to which it applies

Section 2 of the Act lists the offences to which the anonymity under section 1 applies. These include all offences under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (excluding sex with an adult relative, intercourse with an animal and sex in a public lavatory). This includes rape, sexual assault, and all child sex offences. Also included under the Act are attempts to commit such offences.

What is prohibited and to whom does it apply?

The publication of any matter likely to lead members of the public to identify a person as the person against whom the offence is alleged to have been committed.

This includes their name, address and image (still and moving)

How long does the anonymity last?

For the complainant’s lifetime.

What does ‘publication’ mean?

It means traditional media, such a newspapers, magazines and news programmes, but also new media, such as online blogs, news websites, and crucially, Twitter and Facebook.

Offence of breaching anonymity

Section 5 makes it an offence to publish matters listed above.

What is the penalty?

A level 5 fine (currently £5,000, but there are plans to increase the powers of the Magistrates’ to impose unlimited fines)

“But I didn’t even know there was a law prohibiting it”

Tough. Ignorance is not a defence.

Examples

Ten individuals were convicted of offences under the Act in relation to the Ched Evans case. We covered it here and here.

Recently, Michael Le Vell (Corronation Street actor) was arrested and charged with child sex offences (see here for details). On 1 March, a 23-year-old man from Manchester was arrested for an offence under the Act for allegedly Tweeting the identity of the alleged victim in that case. The Daily Mail reported the story here.

Advice

If you are unsure whether you should be putting something on Twitter or Facebook in relation to the victim of a crime, don’t. It is as simple as that.

Stuart Hall sentenced for historic sexual offences

stuart hall

Facts

EDIT: Stuart Hall was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment on 17 June 2013. More to follow.

Stuart Hall, 83, pleaded guilty to 14 offences which occurred between 1967 and 1985. There is one count of rape which will lie on the file – this means that the charge will not be proceeded with without the leave of the Court of Appeal. This usually happens where the offence is not admitted by the defendant, the judge agrees there is sufficient evidence to have a trial., but the prosecution decide (usually as a result of pleas to other offences) there is no need to secure a conviction on the matter, but do not want to offer to evidence. The matter can be reinstituted but this is rare.

 You may remember that Mr Hall had previously referred to the allegations as “pernicious, callous, cruel and above all spurious”.

 The BBC report was as follows: “Preston Crown Court previously heard that in the 1980s Hall molested a nine-year-old girl by putting his hand up her clothing.

He also kissed a 13-year-old girl on the lips after saying to her: “People need to show thanks in other ways.”

CPS Chief Crown Prosecutor Nazir Afzal described Hall as an opportunistic predator. He went on to say that Mr Hall’s victims did not know each other and that although almost two decades separated the assaults, the victims provided strikingly similar accounts.

 Sentencing

Sentencing in historic sex cases can be complex and difficult.

Here are some basic principles from the guideline case on sentencing historic sexual offences, R v H 2012 2 Cr App R (S) 21:

1) The offence of which the defendant is convicted and the sentencing parameters (in particular, the maximum available sentence) applicable to that offence are governed not by the law at the date of sentence, but by the law in force at the time when the criminal conduct occurred.

 2) Article 7(1) of the European Convention of Human Rights prohibits the imposition of a heavier penalty than one “applicable” at the time when the offence was committed.

 3) Although sentence must be limited to the maximum sentence at the date when the offence was committed, it is wholly unrealistic to attempt an assessment of sentence by seeking to identify in (2013) what the sentence for the individual offence was likely to have been if the offence had come to light at or shortly after the date when it was committed.

 4) Similarly, if maximum sentences have been reduced, as in some instances, for example theft, they have, the more severe attitude to the offence in earlier years, even if it could be established, should not apply.

 5) As always, the particular circumstances in which the offence was committed and its seriousness must be the main focus. Due allowance for the passage of time may be appropriate. The date may have a considerable bearing on the offender’s culpability.

Historic sexual abuse allegations

 

What are we talking about?

These are cases in which there are allegations of sexual abuse which occurred decades ago. Frequently these can include repeated abuse over a significant period of time, with numerous victims.

Often, the victims are young, vulnerable individuals.

There is usually a degree of breach of trust in such cases, and

It is common for the abuse to be centred around an institution such as a school or church, or within a family.

Should they be prosecuted? It is a very long time ago.

It can be difficult to ensure that a defendant receives a fair trial if the allegations concern conduct 30 or 40 years ago. The situation, as one would imagine, is complicated.

Nick Ferrari, presenter on LBC radio, said this week, ‘I can’t remember what I was doing last week. How is a defendant supposed to remember an incident 30 or 40 years ago?’. Whilst many sympathise with this view, the question must be asked whether the passage of time negates the need to detect, investigate and prosecute serious crime.

In April 2013, the Chief of the Met Police stated that they would continue to look for the other men involved in Stephen Lawrence’s murder, 20 years after the event. No one would suggest that that course of action is wrong, so why should police and the CPS not investigate and prosecute allegations of serious sexual abuse?

The courts will take every step to ensure that the defendant receives a fair trial. The judge will ensure the jury are properly directed on the law and the evidence and will remind them of the difficulties of historic cases – particularly when it comes to ‘his word against hers’ (as so often is the case).

What about the delay in reporting? Does this suggest they are lying?

CPS Guidance on the topic states:

“It is now widely accepted that delay in reporting is not indicative of a false allegation and prosecutors should be proactive in encouraging the police to investigate thoroughly to uncover any available supporting evidence. Not surprisingly victims may have problems recalling the precise details of each and every incident, especially in relation to dates.”

There can be many reasons why a complainant may not report such abuse until years – even decades – after the event. These can include fear of not being believed (certainly in the case of a prominent public figure) and an unwillingness to relive the incident.  In the Stuart Hall case this week, we have seen reported that numerous complainants – unconnected to one another – came forward after hearing of the initial allegations against him.

A delay in reporting abuse of course does not mean a complainant is lying, but there are added complications when the incident is alleged to have happened so long ago.

What about defendant anonymity? If they are acquitted, their reputations are ruined.

This a tricky question.

On the one hand, there are strong arguments to say that because of the reputational damage caused by such serious allegations – irrespective of whether they are proven or not – there should be anonymity for those accused of such crimes.

Some say, this should merely extend to when a defendant is charged, as at that point, the CPS have taken the decision that there is sufficient evidence to prosecute etc.

Others say this should extend to conviction, as the reputational damage is the same even if a defendant is not named until they are charged.

On the other hand, one cannot deny the importance of encouraging victims of historical abuse to come forward. The Stuart Hall case provides a persuasive example. Had his name not been published, then it may be that the allegations would have resulted in only 3 charges rather than 14 being brought. Indeed, one complainant said she only came forward after hearing about Stuart Hall’s arrest on the radio.

So, what is the solution?

Well, better reporting of acquittals and defence cases in trials such as this would go some way to reducing the reputational damage caused by unproven allegations. With a bit more information, and a little bit of education, the wider public may understand that arrested and charged means only that an allegation has been made and the CPS consider that a) there is a realistic prospect of conviction and b) it is in the public interest to prosecute.

However, there remains the ‘no smoke without fire’ mentality which is damaging.

Mark George QC wrote on defendant anonymity here, earlier this year.

Here is an article on ‘The right to know’ in today’s Telegraph.

Current practice in naming suspects

The following is a quote from a BBC article (3 May 2013).

“When someone is arrested for an offence – and the incident appears to be newsworthy – journalists will try to establish what has happened. That ultimately means trying to establish who has been arrested, because journalists want their reporting to be accurate.

But the police’s position in relation to names is shifting in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry report.

Lord Justice Leveson said that arrested suspects should not be named “save in exceptional and clearly identified circumstances”.

Current practice is that a police force issues a statement along the lines of a “A 34-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of such-and-such a crime”.

What happens next varies from force to force. Some will informally confirm the name of the person arrested if journalists have worked it out for themselves. Some won’t.

Police chiefs want to introduce an official policy under which forces would “neither confirm nor deny” (NCND) the name of anyone arrested.”

Sentencing

Here are some basic principles from the guideline case on sentencing historic sexual offences, R v H 2012 2 Cr App R (S) 21:

1) The offence of which the defendant is convicted and the sentencing parameters (in particular, the maximum available sentence) applicable to that offence are governed not by the law at the date of sentence, but by the law in force at the time when the criminal conduct occurred.

 2) Article 7(1) of the European Convention of Human Rights prohibits the imposition of a heavier penalty than one “applicable” at the time when the offence was committed.

 3) Although sentence must be limited to the maximum sentence at the date when the offence was committed, it is wholly unrealistic to attempt an assessment of sentence by seeking to identify in (2013) what the sentence for the individual offence was likely to have been if the offence had come to light at or shortly after the date when it was committed.

 4) Similarly, if maximum sentences have been reduced, as in some instances, for example theft, they have, the more severe attitude to the offence in earlier years, even if it could be established, should not apply.

 5) As always, the particular circumstances in which the offence was committed and its seriousness must be the main focus. Due allowance for the passage of time may be appropriate. The date may have a considerable bearing on the offender’s culpability.