A paedophile who received a suspended jail term after the prosecution branded his 13-year-old victim “predatory” has been ordered to serve an immediate two-year prison sentence following a review.
Three Court of Appeal judges ruled that Neil Wilson's sentence of 12 months suspended for two years was "plainly and without doubt unduly lenient" after he admitted engaging in sexual activity with the child, as well as offences of making indecent images of a child and possession of an extreme pornographic image.
The 41-year-old’s original suspended sentence had been referred to the Court of Appeal by Attorney General Dominic Grieve. The new Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, sitting with Mr Justice Henriques and Mr Justice Blake, made the decision to quash that sentence earlier today, ordering Wilson - who was not present in court - to surrender to police in York by 6pm this evening.
The sentencing row began shortly after the case was heard at London's Southwark Crown Court in August when it emerged that prosecuting barrister Robert Colover had labelled Wilson's 13-year-old victim “predatory” and “sexually experienced”.
Following the case, the Crown Prosecution Service announced that Mr Colover had agreed to resign from the CPS Rape Panel of advocates, admitting his description of the girl was inappropriate. The CPS added, however, that Mr Colover "will remain on our general advocate panel and will still be instructed in other criminal cases".
A number of additional complaints have been recorded over Judge Nigel Peters' remarks that the girl's looks and behaviour would be taken into account during Wilson's sentencing. These comments are now being "considered" by the Judicial Conduct and Investigations Office.
At the Court of Appeal today, Lord Thomas said that how the prosecuting counsel "came to make the remarks he did is not a matter, as he is not present, we can investigate ourselves".
He added: "But in any event it is the duty of the court to sentence on the facts before it. Counsel is there to assist... The fact that counsel makes a fundamental error in introducing a factor that is thought to be relevant cannot in any way affect the power of this court in determining what is the correct sentence."
Lord Thomas went on: "This is a case where there is no dispute as to what actually happened. It is simply a case where the judge and counsel were in error that it was relevant, as a mitigating factor, that the sexual activity had been initiated by the victim. That was wrong."
He stressed that the law was there to protect those under 16 from sexual abuse, and agreed with the Attorney General that children who encouraged sexual activity needed "more protection, not less".
Speaking after the hearing, the Attorney General said: "Neil Wilson exploited a young and vulnerable girl... He pleaded guilty to sexual activity with a child, making indecent photographs of a child and possessing extreme pornography.
"I asked the Court of Appeal to examine whether the sentence was appropriate, given the seriousness of the offences, and I am pleased that they have found that this sentence was unduly lenient and have imposed an immediate sentence of imprisonment."