Under the recent new guidance for judges celebrities who used their fame to commit a sexual offence could face more severe sentences after April 2014.

Celebrities convicted of sex offences could see their fame used against them when being punished as part of an overhaul of the decade-old sentencing guides and previous “good character” may be considered as an aggravating factor when it has been used to commit a sexual offence.

The new guidelines, that have been drawn up by the Sentencing Council, set higher starting points for jail terms with a starting point of 15 years for top-category offences such as rape. While the Sentencing Council can recommend a starting point offenders can still only receive the maximum sentence available at the time the offence was committed.

The updated guidance also takes into account the increased use of technology as filming and photographing victims has become more common. In many of the sex offences, a new aggravating factor relating to the use of technology is “recording the crime”.

The council has also included guidelines on offending committed remotely, such as individuals or gangs grooming via social media and/or a webcam, offenders lying about their age or asking children to share indecent photos of themselves. Other significant changes include the removal of “ostensible consent”, this refers to the idea that those over 13 can give sexual consent.

The guidelines are the largest and most detailed so far. They were drawn up after a consultation with victims groups, judges, magistrates, lawyers, the police, non governmental organisations (NGOs), the government, academics, medical practitioners and the wider public. Although work on the new guidelines started a number of years ago, the recent series of high-profile sex offence cases have had an impact on attitudes towards sex crimes.

Covering more than 50 offences including rape, child sex offences and trafficking, the official guidance places more emphasis on the long-term and psychological impact on victims than the 2004 guidelines it replaces.

At Jordans we welcome the detail and the certainty that the new guidelines give to fresh crimes but more needs to be done in regards to crimes that occurred in the past. Many of our clients suffered abuse as far back as the 1960’s, like the alleged victims of Jimmy Savile, and more needs to be done to help victims come forward with their allegations and receive help in rebuilding their lives and planning for the future.

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