Arranging or facilitating the commission of a child sex offence

Sexual Offences Act 2003, s.14

Triable either way
Maximum: 14 years’ custody

For offences committed on or after 3 December 2012, these are offences listed in Part 1 of Schedule 15 for the purposes of sections 273 and 283 (life sentence for second listed offence) of the Sentencing Code.

These are specified offences for the purposes of sections 266 and 279 (extended sentence for certain violent, sexual or terrorism offences) of the Sentencing Code.


In accordance with section 120 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, the Sentencing Council issues this definitive guideline. It applies to all offenders aged 18 and older, who are sentenced on or after 1 April 2014.*

Section 59(1) of the Sentencing Code provides that:

“Every court –

  1. must, in sentencing an offender, follow any sentencing guidelines which are relevant to the offender’s case, and
  2. must, in exercising any other function relating to the sentencing of offenders, follow any sentencing guidelines which are relevant to the exercise of the function,

unless the court is satisfied that it would be contrary to the interests of justice to do so.”

This guideline applies only to offenders aged 18 and older. For sentencing children and young people, see:

Structure, ranges and starting points

For the purposes of of section 60 of the Sentencing Code, the guideline specifies offence ranges – the range of sentences appropriate for each type of offence. Within each offence, the Council has specified different categories which reflect varying degrees of seriousness. The offence range is split into category ranges – sentences appropriate for each level of seriousness. The Council has also identified a starting point within each category.

Starting points define the position within a category range from which to start calculating the provisional sentence. Starting points apply to all offences within the corresponding category and are applicable to all offenders, in all cases. Once the starting point is established, the court should consider further aggravating and mitigating factors and previous convictions so as to adjust the sentence within the range. Starting points and ranges apply to all offenders, whether they have pleaded guilty or been convicted after trial. Credit for a guilty plea is taken into consideration only at step four in the decision making process, after the appropriate sentence has been identified.

*The maximum sentence that applies to an offence is the maximum that applied at the date of the offence. See Sexual offences - historic for more information.

Important - Additional guidance where no child victim exists

On 25 January 2020 the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) heard the cases of R v Privett and Others[1] which concerned the application of this guideline specifically in cases where no child victim exists. The Court of Appeal concluded that the following approach should be taken when applying this guideline (at paragraph 67; see also paragraph 72):

The judge should, first, identify the category of harm on the basis of the sexual activity the defendant intended ("the level of harm should be determined by reference to the type of activity arranged or facilitated"), and, second, adjust the sentence in order to ensure it is "commensurate" with, or proportionate to, the applicable starting point and range if no sexual activity had occurred (including because the victim was fictional) ("sentences commensurate with the applicable starting point and range will ordinarily be appropriate").

The Court of Appeal invited the Sentencing Council to consider whether any and, if so, what clarification of the relevant sentencing guideline is necessary, and whether further guidance can be given to sentencers.

The Sentencing Council has considered this invitation and intends to revise the guideline in due course. In the interim sentencers are advised to follow the above approach set out by the Court of Appeal.

[1] [2020] EWCA Crim 557

Sentencers should refer to the guideline for the applicable, substantive offence of arranging or facilitating under sections 9 to 12:

The level of harm should be determined by reference to the type of activity arranged or facilitated. Sentences commensurate with the applicable starting point and range will ordinarily be appropriate. For offences involving significant commercial exploitation and/or an international element, it may, in the interests of justice, be appropriate to increase a sentence to a point above the category range. In exceptional cases, such as where a vulnerable offender performed a limited role, having been coerced or exploited by others, sentences below the starting point and range may be appropriate.