Defendants convicted of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity may face longer sentences due to revised sentencing guidelines. It is one of a number of changes made recently by the Sentencing Council.
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Revised sentencing guidelines
The Sentencing Council regularly updates sentencing guidelines. These are the guidelines judges and magistrates must follow when deciding an appropriate sentence.
The Sentencing Council recently revised the sentencing guidelines for a number of sexual offences, including that of:
- Arranging or facilitating the commission of a child sex offence, even where the activity does not take place, or the child does not exist (s14 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003)
- Causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, even where the activity does not take place, or the child does not exist (s10 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003)
- Sexual communications with a child (s15A of the Sexual Offences Act 2003)
It is thought these revisions could increase the sentencing severity for those convicted of sexual communication with a child. Some offenders who would previously have received a community order may now receive a short custodial sentence instead, although these may well be suspended sentences due to limited prison resources.
The updated guidelines are also likely to increase the sentencing severity for those convicted of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, and arranging or facilitating the commission of a child sex offence. The former offence may see 190 additional prisoners per year, with the latter potentially resulting in an extra 40 prisoners per year.
Have the maximum sentences changed?
The maximum sentence for each offence remains the same. Currently they are:
- Life imprisonment for the rape or planned rape of a child under 12 years old
- 14 years’ imprisonment for causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity
- Two years’ imprisonment for sexual communication with a child
When will the updated guidelines take effect?
The new guidelines apply to those sentenced on or after 31 May 2022, with the exception of those convicted under s15A of the Sexual Offences Act, which apply to those sentenced on or after 1 July 2022.