Sentencing Council Publishes New Guideline On Sexual Offences

Changes ‘Place Emphasis On Impact On Victims’


The Sentencing Council has published a new guideline on sexual offences which are designed to change how such issues are considered by courts and the impact of such incidents on victims.

Covering more than 50 offences including rape, child sex offences and indecent images, the new guideline is designed to reflect the psychological and longer term effects that victims suffer to enable the courts to understand the extent of such problems.

It also includes increases in sentencing starting points and ranges for some offences. For instance, top category sentences with a starting point of 15 years are to be introduced in relation to rape while sentences of 20 years or above are recommended for campaigns.

The system for assessing indecent images of children will also be simplified from looking at just the number of injuries to a greater emphasis on what the offender has done with the pictures.

Lord Justice Treacy, chairman of the Sentencing Council, said: “This guideline will make real changes to the way offenders are sentenced for these very serious, sensitive and complex offences. It will help judges and magistrates sentence in a way which protects our communities from this kind of offending and the suffering it causes.

“We have taken on board the views of victims, criminal justice professionals and the wider public to produce an approach to sentencing which people can understand and have confidence in.”

Barnado’s deputy director of strategy Alison Worsley added: “It is difficult to imagine the torment experienced by the vulnerable victims of crimes such as these. The publication of this new sentencing guideline will help to ensure the focus is on the perpetrator and not the victim.”

Expert Opinion
These changes are a positive step towards placing a greater emphasis on victims and the terrible impact that such problems have on their lives, often leaving them with significant psychological and physical trauma from which they never fully recover from.

"Continued efforts to put the welfare of victims first can only be welcomed and we hope that, if any good can come from recent cases of abuse, it is that it will make victims much more confident in reporting abuse and safe in the knowledge that their voices will be heard."
Tracey Storey, Partner