Court of Appeal issues guidance in non-custodial sentencing of sexual offences

Philip Stott appeared for the Attorney-General, on a reference to the Court of Appeal of an unduly lenient sentence in R v Mireles [2019] EWCA 1086.

The offender had, whilst volunteering at a local primary school as an undergraduate, sexually assaulted a seven-year-old boy in a classroom. He had been sentenced originally to a three year community order with rehabilitation requirements.

The Court of Appeal considered the relevant part of the sentencing guidelines for this offence (and many other similar offences) wherein it was stated that, if there was a sufficient prospect of rehabilitation, a 'short to moderate’ custodial sentence could be replaced with a community order.

The Court of Appeal, for the first time, gave guidance that ’short to moderate’ meant sentences up to and around two years in length, but no longer. The correct sentence for this offender, the Court held, was however one of around three years, which was too serious to be replaced with a community order. In all the circumstances, the sentence was accordingly increased to one of immediate imprisonment for two years and six months.

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