Sexual offences - historic

Sexual Offences Act 1956 (unless otherwise stated)
Effective from: see offences

 

Approach to sentencing historic sexual offences

When sentencing sexual offences under the Sexual Offences Act 1956, or other legislation pre-dating the
2003 Act, the court should apply the following principles:1

  1. The offender must be sentenced in accordance with the sentencing regime applicable at the date of
    sentence. Under the Criminal Justice Act 20032 the court must have regard to the statutory purposes of
    sentencing and must base the sentencing exercise on its assessment of the seriousness of the offence.
  2. The sentence is limited to the maximum sentence available at the date of the commission of the
    offence. If the maximum sentence has been reduced, the lower maximum will be applicable.
  3. The court should have regard to any applicable sentencing guidelines for equivalent offences under
    the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Where the offence, if committed on the day on which the offender was convicted, would have constituted an offence contrary to section 5 or section 6 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, section of the 236A Criminal Justice Act (special custodial sentence for certain offenders of particular concern) applies.
  4. The seriousness of the offence, assessed by the culpability of the offender and the harm caused or
    intended, is the main consideration for the court. The court should not seek to establish the likely
    sentence had the offender been convicted shortly after the date of the offence.
  5. When assessing the culpability of the offender, the court should have regard to relevant culpability
    factors set out in any applicable guideline.
  6. The court must assess carefully the harm done to the victim based on the facts available to it, having
    regard to relevant harm factors set out in any applicable guideline. Consideration of the circumstances
    which brought the offence to light will be of importance.
  7. The court must consider the relevance of the passage of time carefully as it has the potential to
    aggravate or mitigate the seriousness of the offence. It will be an aggravating factor where the offender
    has continued to commit sexual offences against the victim or others or has continued to prevent the
    victim reporting the offence.
  8. Where there is an absence of further offending over a long period of time, especially combined with
    evidence of good character, this may be treated by the court as a mitigating factor. However, as with
    offences dealt with under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, previous good character/exemplary conduct is
    different from having no previous convictions. The more serious the offence, the less the weight which
    should normally be attributed to this factor. Where previous good character/exemplary conduct has
    been used to facilitate the offence, this mitigation should not normally be allowed and such conduct
    may constitute an aggravating factor.
  9. If the offender was very young and immature at the time of the offence, depending on the
    circumstances of the offence, this may be regarded as personal mitigation.
  10. If the offender made admissions at the time of the offence that were not investigated this is likely to
    be regarded as personal mitigation. Even greater mitigation is available to the offender who reported
    himself to the police and/or made early admissions.
  11. A reduction for an early guilty plea should be made in the usual manner.

Notes

1 R v H and others [2011] EWCA Crim 2753
2 Section 143

Rape and assault offences

Offence
(Sexual Offences Act 1956 unless stated otherwise)
Effective dates Maximum
Rape
(section 1)
1 January 1957 – 30 April 2004 Life
Buggery with a person or animal
(section 12)
1 January 1957 – 30 April 2004 (from 3 November 1994 non-consensual acts of buggery were defined as rape) Life
Indecent assault on a woman
(section 14)
1 January 1957 – 30 April 2004 1 January 1957 – 1 July 1960: 2 years

2 July 1960 – 15 September 1985:       2 years or 5 years if victim under 13 and age stated on indictment

16 September 1985 onwards: 10 years

Indecent assault upon a man
(section 15)
1 January 1957 – 30 April 2004 10 years

Offences against children

Offence
(Sexual Offences Act 1956 unless stated otherwise)
Effective dates Maximum
Sexual intercourse with a girl
under 13
(section 5)
1 January 1957 – 30 April 2004 Life
Incest by a male person
(section 10)
1 January 1957 – 30 April 2004 Life if victim under 13; otherwise
7 years
Incest by a female person
(section 11)
1 January 1957 – 30 April 2004 7 years
Indecency with a child
(section 1 of the Indecency with
Children Act 1960)
2 July 1960 – 30 April 2004 2 July 1960 – 30 September 1997: 2 years
1 October 1997 onwards: 10 years
Note: on 11 January 2001 the age
definition of a child increased from 14
to 16.
Incitement of a girl under 16 to
commit incest
(section 54 of the
Criminal Law Act 1977)
8 September 1977 – 30 April
2004
2 years
Abuse of position of trust
(section 3 of the Sexual Offences
(Amendment) Act 2000)
8 January 2001 – 30 April
2004
5 years

Indecent images

Offence
(Sexual Offences Act 1956 unless stated otherwise)
Effective dates Maximum
Taking indecent photographs of a child
(section 1 of the Protection of Children Act 1978)
20 August 1978 – present 20 August 1978 – 10 January 2001: 3 years

11 January 2001 onwards: 10 years

Possession of indecent photographs of a child
(section 160 of the Criminal
Justice Act 1988)
29 September 1988 – present 29 September 1988 – 10 January 2001: 6 months

11 January 2001 onwards: 5 years

Exploitation offences

Offence
(Sexual Offences Act 1956 unless stated otherwise)
Effective dates Maximum
Procurement of woman by threats
(section 2)
1 January 1957 – 30 April 2004 2 years
Procurement by false pretences
(section 3)
1 January 1957 – 30 April 2004 2 years
Causing prostitution of women
(section 22)
1 January 1957 – 30 April 2004 2 years
Procuration of girl under 21 for unlawful sexual intercourse in any part of the world
(section 23)
1 January 1957 – 30 April 2004 2 years
Detention in a brothel
(section 24)
1 January 1957 – 30 April 2004 2 years
Permitting a defective to use premises for intercourse
(section 27)
1 January 1957 – 30 April 2004 2 years
Causing or encouraging prostitution (etc) of a girl under 16
(section 28)
1 January 1957 – 30 April 2004 2 years
Causing or encouraging prostitution of a defective
(section 29)
1 January 1957 – 30 April 2004 2 years
Living on earnings of prostitution
(section 30)
1 January 1957 – 30 April 2004 1 January 1957 – 15 August 1959: 2 years

16 August 1959 onwards: 7 years

Controlling a prostitute
(section 31)
1 January 1957 – 30 April 2004 1 January 1957 – 15 August 1959:
2 years

16 August 1959 onwards: 7 years

Trafficking into/within/out of the UK for sexual exploitation
(sections 57 – 59 of the Sexual
Offences Act 2003)
1 May 2005 – 5 April 2013 14 years

Offences against those with a mental disorder

Offence
(Sexual Offences Act 1956 unless stated otherwise)
Effective dates Maximum
Intercourse with a defective
(section 7)
1 January 1957 – 30 April 2004 2 years
Procurement of a defective
(section 9)
1 January 1957 – 30 April 2004 2 years
Sexual intercourse with patients
(section 128 of the Mental Health
Act 1959)
1 November 1960 – 30 April
2004
2 years

Other offences

Offence
(Sexual Offences Act 1956 unless stated otherwise)
Effective dates Maximum
Administering drugs to obtain or
facilitate intercourse
(section 4)
1 January 1957 – 30 April 2004 2 years
Burglary with intent to commit
rape
(section 9 of the Theft Act
1968)
1 January 1969 – 30 April 2004 14 years if dwelling; otherwise 10
years

 


With thanks to Sweet & Maxwell, HHJ Rook QC and Robert Ward CBE for their kind permission to reproduce parts of Sexual Offences Law & Practice.