Sexual offending has increasingly become an area of public concern in recent years, with increased reporting, prevention, and enforcement action. Sexual offences account for a high proportion of sentencing, particularly in the High Court, often involving difficult decisions in complex circumstances. This is an area of great importance in which we believe sentencing guidelines would bring significant benefits to the judiciary, those involved in such cases, and the wider public.
Given the wide-ranging nature of sexual offending, the Council has decided to develop multiple guidelines focusing on particular sexual offences, rather than a single guideline covering all offences. This will allow each topic to be given in-depth consideration, and for the first guidelines on sexual offending to be produced more quickly.
We held a stakeholder conference on sexual offending in 2018 to help identify particular challenges in sentencing, priority areas for guidance, and topics for further research. Through this and other events, we have held constructive discussions with the judiciary, victim support organisations, criminal justice agencies, academics, and other interested organisations and individuals. We are also in the process of carrying out research into public perceptions of sentencing in sexual offences cases.
Taking into account the information we have gathered to date, the Council has decided to begin its work on sexual offences by developing sentencing guidelines in relation to rape, sexual assault, and indecent images of children.
News release announcing sexual offences guidelines (16/05/2019)