Move to update judges’ guidelines on rape and sex offence sentencing

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Sentences for rapists and 
sex attackers should be brought up to date with advances in 
technology and tactics used by offenders, according to draft guidelines.

Judges are being urged by the Sentencing Council to take into account the psychological and long-term effects on victims, as well considering new factors such as filming or photographing a rape, when deciding on punishments.

A tougher maximum sentence of 19 years should be given for “one-off” rapes, a limit currently only available for those who attack the same victim over a course of time or rape multiple victims, the guidelines said.

The changes, which are under a 14-week public consultation, are designed to make sure paedophiles, people-traffickers and rapists who operate alone or in gangs are dealt with better in courts in England and Wales.

Sentencing Council member Lord Justice Treacy said: “We’re improving guidance for courts to help them deal with these incredibly complex, sensitive and serious offences.

“The perspective of victims is central to the council’s considerations. We want to ensure sentences reflect everything the victim has been through and what the offender has done.

“We are looking at the whole context, not just the physical offence but also the tactics employed by offenders like grooming activity, the targeting of vulnerable victims or abuse of a position of trust.

“No one wants more people becoming victims, so protecting the public is a vital part of our proposals, whether this is by jailing offenders or through rigorous 
treatment to stop them reoffending.

“This is a consultation: we want views on this extremely important subject.”

Judges are asked to take into account factors such as stalking and previous abuse by offenders, and the targeting of vulnerable victims such as those in care.

The council said the review of the guidelines has come about because the nature of offending has changed. There is now a greater understanding of how perpetrators use technology in offences involving indecent images of children and in cases of sexual exploitation and child grooming.

“The guidelines reflect these developments so they cover the ways these crimes are committed today,” the council said.

For rape, the new guidelines are designed take a broader approach covering a range of scenarios.