13 May 2021
Sentencing council to revise child sexual offences sentencing guidelines
The Sentencing Council has launched a consultation on revised sentencing guidelines for child sexual offences where no child exists or is harmed. The revised guidelines will clarify how courts in England and Wales should sentence offenders convicted of these offences.
The Council is seeking views on proposed changes to the guidelines, which will see judges and magistrates base the sentence they impose on the intended sexual harm to a child, whether or not a child victim existed or sexual activity took place, for example in cases where the offender was arrested following a police or concerned citizens operation.
Current sexual offences guidelines, published in 2013, had been interpreted in some cases to mean that harm should be considered low in these 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.
In addition, the Council is publishing a new draft guideline for the offence of sexual communication with a child (s15A of the Sexual Offences Act). Offenders face a maximum penalty of two years in prison for sharing images, causing psychological harm, abuse of trust or the use of threats.
The consultation is open until 13 August 2021.