New Sexual Offences Sentencing Guidelines – 'Previous Good Character' Can Be An Aggravating Factor

Summary and implications

An overhaul of the Sexual Offences Sentencing Guidelines will focus on psychological harm rather than physical harm. The guidelines were published on 12 December 2013 and will come into force on 1 April 2014 and bring the following key changes:

Previous good character can be considered an aggravating factor where used to facilitate an offence. Removal of "ostensible consent" - the idea that a child over 13 can agree to sex. New aggravating feature of recording the crime, to take into account advances in technology. New offences concerning an abuse of a position of trust over children. Increased sentences for some offences, such as rape. In the wake of the Saville inquiry and instances of large-scale grooming of children, it comes as no surprise that the Sexual Offences Sentencing Guidelines have been amended. The focus has shifted from the physical harm caused by offenders to the psychological and long-term impact on victims.

"Previous good character"

The Saville inquiry in particular demonstrated the potential for someone with influence over their victims, to abuse that trust. Whilst an abuse of trust has always been considered an aggravating factor in sentencing for sexual offences, an offender's "good character" has previously been a point of mitigation of the offence. The new guidelines however consider that there may be circumstances where an offender uses their "previous good character" to facilitate their offending. Whilst this concept may have originated by consideration of large-scale abuse by celebrities and instances of grooming by gangs, it is also relevant to any scenario where there is an abuse of a position of trust.

Doctors are particularly vulnerable in this regard given their special relationships with their patients. Whether this be in the context of a single incident or a series of incidents, it may be open to a judge to find that a doctor's long standing "good character" may have influenced a patient that their doctor's conduct was proper or that it...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT