12 year old sentenced for raping his sister

12 year old sentenced for raping his sister

Photo from the BBC


It sounds an extremely disturbing, and very difficult, case. A 12 year old boy (unnamed of course) pleaded guilty and was sentenced on 25th August 2016 of raping his sister twice.

He was referred to a Youth Offending Panel for 12 months – colloquially known as a Referral Order. This mean that he will be referred to a Youth Offending Team who will draft a ‘contract’ with him and create a plan for the year with a view to ensure that he desk not reoffend.


Why wasn’t this in the Crown Court?

Rape is an offence which is indictable only – which means that if allegedly committed by an adult it can only be heard in the Crown Court.

There are different rules for youths. Apart from a few offences (such as murder) the view is that youths are much better being dealt with in the Youth Court, which is supposed to be specially designed for young people.

With someone who was older (say 16 or 17) it may well be that the case would end up in the Crown Court but given that this boy was only 12, and 11 at the time of the rapes, different considerations apply


Why wasn’t he sent to prison?

If he had been an adult he would have been. The starting point would have been 8-10 years.

But it is recognised across the world that children are different. They are more impetuous, less developed, and ultimately less culpable. Also, the purpose of punishment is different when you are dealing with children – it is more about rehabilitation, in part because youths are more able to change.

The rules on sentencing adults is complicated. It is far more complicated for youths. But basically, in this case it seems that the Judge concluded (on the face of it clearly correctly) that the boy was not ‘dangerous’ in the terms of the legislation (which would require a sentence of at least 4 years) and it was not even a case where a sentence of more than 2 years would have been needed.

It seems that although the boy has a very troubled background, he had not been in trouble with the police before. In light of all of that, there was only one sentence available to the District Judge, and that is the sentence that she passed.

In that, the Judge seems to be right in any event. A sensible way of dealing with a very difficult case.

Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.


  1. At least referral orders can now be intensive referral orders which I dare say was the sentence imposed. The referral order also becomes spent following completion. One would, however, hope that he’ll be properly supervised and treated given the disturbing nature of the offences.

  2. If they are still in the same household all the supervision in the world may not prevent a repeat. How old was the victim?

  3. “the boy was not ‘dangerous’ ”

    So how does the law define ‘dangerous’ ? I don’t know, but clearly it seems to have little or no grasp of what dangerous really is. I know my old law lecturer said you have to put common sense aside when dealing with the law but this is ridiculous.

    By any stretch of the imagination we clearly have a dangerous individual here – a double rapist aged 12. Makes me think what will happen in a few years when he’s free to roam again.

      • OK Dan, he gets the kidd gloves treatment for now because of his age. But what happens when he’s older and free to roam as previously stated ? Will he be monitored ? Some kind of license ?

        I believe research evidence coming through now shows that serious sex offenders can never really be cured, just their behaviour modified if possible. How does this play into the categorisation of ‘dangerous’ – I’m willing to bet it doesn’t.

  4. Is he going to be allowed back home after 12 months? I think that’s pretty unfair and not safe at all for his little sister. I think the court should have made the sentence longer or gave him restriction in terms of being near his sister. And yeah he is dangerous because he has done such a horrible act at such a young age.