The case of the 'predatory' 13-year-old abuse victim and the perpetrator who escaped jail

It is to be hoped the Attorney-General will increase this man's sentence on appeal. However, it’s the reasoning behind the decision that is most worrying.

Share
Related Topics

A judge’s work clothes don’t generally make him look like the most forward thinking kind of guy. When you have to wear a wig and robes every day, it’s easy to be seen as out of touch. For most members of the bench, however, this is a little bit unfair - beneath the seventeenth-century costume, they have at least one foot in the real world. Then you come across a judge like Nigel Peters and it makes the old-fashioned garb look all too appropriate.

This week, Peters decided that a 41-year-old man who pleaded guilty to a count of sexual activity with a 13-year-old girl could be spared jail because she was “predatory and egging you on”.  Astonishingly, the judge was not the only person taking this prehistoric view. Even the prosecutor decided to tell the court that the victim was “predatory” and “sexually experienced”, as if this was somehow an excuse for the behaviour.

Neil Wilson, the defendant in question, could scarcely have seemed more deserving of a prison sentence. In almost all cases where there is any sexual activity with a child, the offender is sent to prison and the difference in age is one of the key factors that the Crown Prosecution Service recommends judges take into account when making their decision. Wilson not only knew that the girl in question was not 16, but he was also, at 41, more than three times her age. This was no hook up between a sixth-former and a 15 year old behind the back of the school bike sheds; this was a middle-aged man taking advantage of a young girl.

Nor did Wilson have an unblemished character. He was convicted of two counts of making extreme pornographic images after officers searching his home found photos and videos depicting child abuse, and 11 images “involving horses and dogs”. You wonder what more he’d have needed to do to be sent to prison. 

It’s right that the Attorney-General is going to review the sentence and we have to hope that it will be increased on appeal. However, it’s the reasoning behind the decision that is most worrying. The attitude of the judge and the prosecutor seemed to work on the basis that victims of child abuse should be made to justify their own conduct.

Nobody who is under 16 can be complicit in their own abuse. The whole point is that they are unable to consent for themselves, so even if the victim believes it’s the best idea in the world to be hanging out with a middle-aged man with a penchant for storing images of bestiality, for good reason the law steps in to stop others from taking advantage of this immaturity.

More worrying, still, is the idea that a 13-year-old girl or boy could be labelled as “predatory” at all. As the NSPCC points out, victims of child sexual abuse often take part in risk-taking behaviour during adolescence, become sexually active at a young age or display age-inappropriate sexual behaviour. Meanwhile those who have been emotionally abused or with low self-esteem may see sexual activity with a means of proving their self-worth or securing the attention of an adult. All of these behaviours should be seen as symptoms of abuse, not invitations for the abuse to continue.

It may be relevant to sentencing if an abuser has used force in bringing about the sexual activity, but this is not the same as mitigating the act of an abuser by pointing the finger at the victim. There is only one predator in these situations – and we know exactly who that is.

Bobby Friedman is the author of Democracy Limited: How money and donations have corrupted British politics - published by Oneworld on 5 September, 2013

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Engineer - Powered Access

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They pride themselves that they...

Recruitment Genius: Pharmacy Branch Manager

£19000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This pharmacy group are looking...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This design and print company a...

Recruitment Genius: Lift and Elevator Contract Manager - London

£38000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Election catch-up: Just what the election needs – another superficially popular but foolish policy

John Rentoul
A Gold Ferrari sits outside Chanel on Sloane Street  

Sunday Times Rich List: We are no longer in thrall to very rich people

Terence Blacker
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence