5 July 2014

Why Rolf Harris received such a lenient sentence

The reason for Rolf Harris’ surprisingly lenient sentence — 5 years and 9 months — for a range of offences committed between 1969 and 1986, is clear from the judge’s sentencing remarks: the laws in effect at the times the crimes were committed were softer than today’s laws in England:
The maximum sentence on Count 1 is one of 5 years’ imprisonment, on each of Counts 2‐9 it is one of 2 year’s imprisonment, and on each of Counts 10‐12 it is one of 10 years’ imprisonment.

With the exception of Counts 10 & 11 the equivalent offences today attract significantly higher maximum sentences. For example on Count 1 the equivalent offence today is sexual assault of a child which carries a maximum of 14 years’ imprisonment and would be likely to involve a starting point of around one year’s imprisonment. On Counts 3,4,5,7,9&12 the equivalent offence today is assault by penetration which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and would be likely, to involve a starting point (given the severity of the psychological damage to ‘C’) of around 8 years’ imprisonment on Counts 3,4,5,7, & 9 and a starting point of around 4 years’ imprisonment on Count 12
The laws have changed, so why don’t they apply to “new” cases? The new laws would have to apply to everybody, including those who have already been caught and sentenced for crimes committed during the same period. Otherwise, it would be a great injustice to victims of similar crimes committed back then who would be asking why their abusers received lighter sentences simply because they were caught earlier than Rolf Harris.

No comments: