Judge calls victim, 13, a 'sexual predator': Outcry as 41-year-old man walks free after admitting sex with girl

Attorney General to consider whether to ask Court of Appeal if suspended eight-month jail sentence was unduly lenient

Anti-sexual abuse campaigners, among them the author who successfully put Jane Austen on the £10 note before having to fend off the resulting torrent of online rape threats have reacted angrily after it emerged that a man who admitted engaging in
sexual activity with a 13-year-old girl walked free from court; while his victim was described by the judge and prosecution as sexually “predatory”.

Neil Wilson, 41, faces having his eight-month suspended jail sentence reviewed after the Attorney General Dominic Grieve agreed to look into the case yesterday. And the Crown Prosecution Service was forced to admit that its own prosecutor acted “inappropriately” when he placed a portion of the responsibility upon the victim in court.

This afternoon, the CPS said that it is considering the involvement of the barrister in question, Robert Colover, in future sexual cases and that it "will not instruct him in any ongoing or future cases involving sexual offences in the meantime".

Campaigners and charities demanded answers after the “victim blaming” language came to light following weeks of campaigning to better represent and protect women in Britain. Following complaints, the Attorney General’s office will consider whether or not to ask the Court of Appeal to decide if the sentence given to Wilson was unduly lenient.

For more than two weeks, writer Caroline Criado-Perez has been leading a fight against the threats of violence online, which followed her banknote victory. Speaking today, she said: “This latest incident is the very front line of the sexism that still pervades UK society. For two weeks, Twitter has been awash rape and death threats against women who dare to speak out against abuse. The women are accused ‘provoking’ them.

“Now we have seen where this kind of attitude ends up: with what looks like a judge calling a 13-year-old girl a ‘sexual predator’ and letting her abuser off with a suspended sentence.”

Deputy Children’s Commissioner Sue Berelowitz added her voice to the chorus of anger, saying that the judge’s behaviour was “of the deepest concern” and called the sentence “lenient”.

She was joined by charities and other campaigners; among them the people behind the Everyday Victim Blaming website, who set up a petition on the campaigning website Change.org demanding change at the CPS. The number of signatories was approaching 3,000 last night.

Their anger followed the comments made by prosecution lawyer Robert Colover. In sentencing, Judge Nigel Peters apparently accepted the suggestions that Wilson’s teenage victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was complicit in the abuse; despite her being well below the age of consent.

The girl was accused in court of "egging her abuser on" and was described as "looking older" than her thirteen years, something the judge said he would consider in Wilson’s favour. But anti-rape campaigners railed at the accusation that the young victim was promiscuous. They argued that it helped facilitate the sexual abuse of children.

The support group Rape Crisis (England and Wales) said it was “appalled and bitterly disappointed” at what it called “shocking and entirely unacceptable treatment of a 13-year-old sexual violence victim in court”.

A spokesman said that the charity “utterly refutes the strong implication of the judge’s comments that a child’s behaviour can somehow mitigate that of an adult who perpetrates sexual violence against her”.

The spokesman added: “This is not only a gross misinterpretation of the law but also a sad and clear signal that we still have some way to go before rape survivors can confidently expect both social and criminal justice in this country.”

And Barnardo’s deputy director of strategy Alison Worsley called the judge’s comments “plain wrong”, adding: “It is difficult to imagine the torment experienced by the vulnerable victims of crimes such as these. Many turn in on themselves and have feelings of shame and even self-loathing on top of the psychological scars inflicted by the abuser.

“It takes immense bravery for these young people to relive their ordeal in a court of law and we must not forget that it is the abuser who is guilty and not the victim.”

One woman, who said she was sexually abused as a child, told The Independent that she “could have been that 13-year-old girl”. She added that child victims of abuse often do not see themselves as victims at all because of the grooming process they have been put through.

Angela (not her real name), 37, said that was the way she felt during six years of sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather as a child. She said that, because of the abuse, she believed love to simply be a sexual act from an early age. Angela, whose ordeal started at the age of seven, said: “He told me that it happens in every family. I believed him because he was in a position of trust.”

“As a result of the abuse, I adopted some behaviour that could have been described as sexually predatory; in the same way as this girl’s was described. My understanding, as a young child, was that affection and being close to people was about doing sexual acts.”

She said that, when she told her story to police after confiding in a school friend, not even her mother believed her and she was said by a family member to be “very close” to her step-father. He was never prosecuted, she added. “It was my word against his.” When, as an adult, she said was raped again, she did not report it because she said she did not think she would be believed.

The attitude that victims, particularly children, are complicit in their own abuse means that there will be more and more stories like hers, Angela said.

Wilson was told by Judge Nigel Peters that he had taken account the fact his child victim looked older during sentencing at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Monday.

He added: “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…On these facts, the girl was predatory and was egging you on…”

Wilson will also be supervised by the Probation Service for the next three years and has been banned from contacting children. He must allow police to examine his computer and attend a sex offenders’ programme. The court also heard that eight images of child sexual abuse and 11 images “involving horses and dogs” were found on his computer.

His case follows other recent high profile cases involving the sexual abuse of children, including those of Stuart Hall, Jimmy Savile and a host of child sexual abuse gangs found to be operating across the country.

A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office confirmed that the case will be “considered by a law officer (the Attorney or Solicitor General), who will decide whether it should be referred to the Court of Appeal under the Unduly Lenient Sentence (ULS) scheme”.

A CPS spokesperson said: “The language used by prosecution counsel was inappropriate. The transgressor in this case was the defendant and he bears responsibility for his criminal acts.”

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game