Tougher sex attack sentencing guidelines proposed
Sentences for rapists and sex attackers should be brought up to date with advances in technology and tactics used by offenders, according to draft guidelines released today.
Judges are being urged by the Sentencing Council to take into account the psychological and long-term effects on victims, as well considering new factors such as filming or photographing a rape, when deciding on punishments.
A tougher maximum sentence of 19 years should be given for "one-off" rapes, a limit currently only available for those who attack the the same victim over a course of time or rape multiple victims, the guidelines said.
The changes, which are under a 14-week public consultation, are designed to make sure paedophiles, people-traffickers and rapists who operate alone or in gangs are dealt with better in courts in England and Wales.
Sentencing Council member Lord Justice Treacy said: "We're improving guidance for courts to help them deal with these incredibly complex, sensitive and serious offences.
"The perspective of victims is central to the council's considerations. We want to ensure sentences reflect everything the victim has been through and what the offender has done.
"We are looking at the whole context, not just the physical offence but also the tactics employed by offenders like grooming activity, the targeting of vulnerable victims or abuse of a position of trust.
"No one wants more people becoming victims, so protecting the public is a vital part of our proposals, whether this is by jailing offenders or through rigorous treatment to stop them reoffending.
"This is a consultation: we want views on this extremely important subject."
Judges are asked to take into account factors such as stalking and previous abuse by offenders, and the targeting of vulnerable victims such as those in care.
The council said the review of the guidelines has come about because the nature of offending has changed. There is now a greater understanding of how perpetrators use technology in offences involving indecent images of children and in cases of sexual exploitation and child grooming.
"The guidelines reflect these developments so they cover the ways these crimes are committed today," the council said.
For rape, the new guidelines are designed take a broader approach covering a range of scenarios, and to recognise not just the stereotypical "stranger rapes" but to take into account that most rapes are carried out by someone the victim knows, and that many occur within families.
The council said the current guidelines for sexual assault take "too narrow an approach", and focus too much on the nature of the physical activity done by the offender.
It called for fear and intimidation to be taken into account, so an offence would be more serious if violence was threatened or threatening or violent sexual language was used.
For child sex offences the council said it wanted to increase the focus on the behaviour of offenders, how children may have been groomed or exploited, and whether offenders abused a position of trust.
It also said factors such as the use of alcohol or drugs to facilitate the offence and the use of gifts or bribes to coerce a victim should be taken into account.
The guidelines say paedophiles operating in rings or those who abuse a position of trust to create images or videos should be given tougher sentences, and called for changes in the way images are classified to aid investigators.
For exploitation and trafficking offences, the council said it wanted to make sure the "big players" get the longest sentences and only those very low down in any operation would avoid jail.
It said offences involving children were "particularly heinous", and proposed even those with a low level involvement in such an offence should be jailed.
People have been asked to respond to the guidance, which covers 54 "varied offences", by going to www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk.
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