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Revised sentencing guidelines for sexual offences against children

Revised sentencing guidelines that clarify how courts in England and Wales should sentence offenders convicted of arranging or facilitating sexual offences against a child have been announced and will come into effect at the end of the month.

Under the revised guidelines announced by The Sentencing Council, judges and magistrates will consider the intended sexual harm to a child even in cases where no actual child exists or no sexual activity takes place, for example in police ‘sting’ operations.

Sentencing Council member, Her Honour Judge Rosa Dean, said: “The sentencing guidelines published today bring greater clarity to the courts on how to deal with cases of arranging or facilitating child sexual offences, even in cases where no actual child exists, or no sexual activity took place.”

Current sexual offences guidelines, published in 2013, had been interpreted in some cases to mean that harm should be considered low in these types of cases or had placed the absence of actual harm to a child as a mitigating factor in cases where sexual activity was incited but did not actually occur.

However, the revisions follow requests from the Court of Appeal and arise from two cases ‘Privett and Others’ and ‘Reed and Others’. The case of ‘Privett’ involved arranging or facilitating the commission of a child sex offence where there was no child, and ‘Reed’ involved sexual activity that was incited but ultimately did not take place.

The revisions cover:

Arranging or facilitating the commission of a child sex offence (s14 Sexual Offences Act 2003) even where no sexual activity takes place or no child victim exists. The maximum sentence depends on the activity being arranged but is life imprisonment if the rape of a child under 12 years old is being planned.

Causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity (s10 Sexual Offences Act 2003) and other similar offences, even where activity is incited but does not take place or no child victim exists. The maximum sentence is 14 years’ imprisonment.

The Council is also publishing a new guideline for the offence of sexual communication with a child (s15A of the Sexual Offences Act). Offenders sharing images, causing psychological harm, abuse of trust or the use of threats or bribes face a maximum penalty of two years in prison. This guideline will come into effect on 1 July 2022.

Revised sentencing guidelines

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