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S15. Grooming

Date Updated: January 2012

Title: Sexual offences

Offence: Meeting a child following sexual grooming

Legislation: Sexual Offences Act 2003 S15

Commencement Date: 01/05/2004

Mode of Trial: Either Way

Statutory Limitations & Maximum Penalty:

  • On Indictment - 10 years imprisonment
  • Summary Conviction - 6 months imprisonment and/or statutory maximum fine

Culpability & Harm

The sentences for public protection must be considered in all cases. They are designed to ensure that sexual offenders are not released into the community if they present a significant risk of serious harm.

In a case where no substantive sexual offence has in fact been committed, the main dimension of seriousness will be the offender's intention - the more serious the offence intended, the higher the offender's culpability.

The harm to the victim in such cases will invariably be less than that resulting from a completed offence, although the risk to which the victim has been put is always a relevant factor.

In some cases, where the offender has come quite close to fulfilling his or her intention, the victim may have been put in considerable fear, and physical injury to the victim is a possible feature.

In addition to the generic aggravating factors identified in the Council guideline on seriousness, the main factors determining the seriousness of a preparatory offence are:

  • the seriousness of the intended offence (which will affect both the offender's culpability and the degree of risk to which the victim has been exposed);
  • the degree to which the offence was planned;
  • the sophistication of the grooming;
  • the determination of the offender;
  • how close the offender came to success;
  • the reason why the offender did not succeed, i.e. whether it was a change of mind or whether someone or something prevented the offender from continuing;
  • any physical or psychological injury suffered by the victim.

The starting point should be commensurate with that for the preparatory offence actually committed, with an enhancement to reflect the nature and severity of the intended sexual offence.

Aggravating & Mitigating Factors

Aggravating

  • Background of intimidation or coercion
  • Use of drugs, alcohol or other substance to facilitate the offence
  • Offender aware that he or she is suffering from a sexually transmitted infection
  • Abduction or detention

Relevant Sentencing Council Guideline (if any)

  1. Guidelines effective for offences sentenced on or after the 14th May 2007.
  2. The starting points are for an adult offender, of previous good character who was convicted after trial.

Type/nature of activity: Where the intent is to commit an assault by penetration or rape

Starting points: 4 years custody if the victim is under 13
Sentencing ranges: 3 - 7 years custody

Starting points: 2 years custody if the victim is 13 or over but under 16 
Sentencing ranges: 1 - 4 years custody

Type/nature of activity: Where the intent is to coerce the child into sexual activity

Starting points: 2 years custody if the victim is under 13
Sentencing ranges: 1 - 4 years custody

Starting points: 18 months custody if the victim is 13 or over but under 16 
Sentencing ranges: 12 months - 2 years 6 months custody

Relevant Sentencing Case Law

Att-Gen's Ref No 91 of 2007, [2007] EWCA Crim 2626 - D 26 no convictions pleaded guilty to grooming, sexual activity with a child and taking indecent pictures of children. D contacted a boy of 15 over the internet and arranged to meet with him. Consensual sex took place. 2 years for the grooming concurrent with 3 years for the sexual activity and part of a 6 year extended sentence.

R v CB [2010] EWCA Crim 3009 D 29 one unrelated conviction. Contacted 2 14 year old girls over the internet, the messages becoming sexual. Meetings were arranged. The first girl attended with a friend and left when she realised the defendant's age. The defendant did not attend the second meeting. HELD 30 months reduced to 24 although the court agreed with the sentencing Judge this was deliberate, persistent and although nothing happened it wasn't for the want of trying.

Two cases involving 'sting' operations:

R v Barnett [2008]  1 Cr. App. R (S) 61 D contacting a journalist who pretended to be 12, suggestive conversations, met with her and sent her nude pictures.  D 46 previous good character. Court considered while any sexual grooming of a child is serious allowing for his remorse, the fact no child was in danger and the humiliation he suffered being exposed in the national press 18 months was sufficient.

R v S [2008] 2 Cr. App. R (S) 91 D 27 no convictions contacted a 14 year old girl in a chat room. She turned out to be an undercover police officer. Allowing for his guilty plea 16 months.

Ancillary Orders:

  • Notification (S83 to 96 Sexual Offences Act 2003)
  • Sexual Offences Prevention Order (S104 Sexual Offences Act 2003)
  • Where the defendant is aged 18 or over he or she is automatically barred from engaging in regulated activity with children and with vulnerable adults. (Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006). 

Consider Also:

  • Dangerous Offender provisions apply. Sentences for public protection must be considered.

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