Home Affairs Committee Press Notice

HOME AFFAIRS COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS ON DRAFT SENTENCING GUIDELINE ON THE SEXUAL OFFENCES ACT PUBLISHED

The Commons Home Affairs Committee today publishes its report into the Draft Sentencing Guideline on the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

The draft guideline is a long, complex document dealing with 57 separate offences. The Committee summarises the sections on general principles and general aggravating and mitigating factors. The Committee considers a set of specific issues with relation to the guideline and concludes that:

€” consensual sexual familiarity immediately preceding rape may be a mitigating factor, but may not be mitigating in all such circumstances and should only result in a small sentence reduction where it does

€” drug or alcohol abuse should not mitigate offending

€” the draft guideline should make clear that provocation should not be a mitigating factor in rape cases

€” grave psychological damage to children, especially as a result of long-term abuse, should be an additional aggravating factor, as should filming or photographing assaults and buying or selling another person for trafficking

€” restorative justice should be mentioned in the guideline as a possible option, but should not be an alternative rather than an addition to normal sentencing options

€” the 'dangerousness' provisions introduced under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 should be kept under review to promote the effectiveness of sentences and ensure that the custodial and continuing treatment aspects of the sentence may be appropriately balanced

€” sex offender prevention orders should be tailored to individual risk.

The Committee recommends that Government should undertake more research to investigate treatment outcomes, so that resources can be allocated accordingly.

The Committee welcomes the recent consultation paper issued by the Sentencing Advisory Panel, reviewing the reduction in sentence following a guilty plea. The Committee looks forward to considering a revised guideline on this area: sex offences are one area where reductions at their present level may not be acceptable to the public.

The Committee notes it has been severely limited in its ability to consult on and consider this long, complex and very important guideline, due to the short time allowed by the Sentencing Guidelines Council. The Committee seeks an assurance that the consultation period will not be so curtailed in future.

John Denham MP, Chairman of the Committee, said: "This is a complex but very important set of guidelines. We regret that the Committee has not had sufficient time to consider them in as much detail as we would have liked. We believe that our proposed changes would make the guidelines clearer and reduce that chance of an offender wrongly obtaining a softer than intended sentence." /ENDS