17 Year Old gets 24-month DTO for assault on Oxford Student that...

17 Year Old gets 24-month DTO for assault on Oxford Student that sparked the #NotGuilty campaign

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Introduction

Last month there was a very moving letter written by a 20 year old student to the boy that had attacked her on 11th April 2015. After being published in ‘Cherwell’ the Oxford University Newsletter, and was picked up and republished in many national papers.

On 6th May 2015 the boy (who, as someone aged under 18, cannot be named) was sentenced to a 24 month Detention and Training Order (DTO). Youth sentencing can be even more complicated than for adults, see here for an overview.

Sentence

The offence was Sexual Assault, and it seems that the attack was a brutal and violent one. Perhaps even more worryingly, the boy was arrested an hour later after following another woman.

Some further details can be obtained from the open letter “you clapped your hand around my face until I could not breathe, when you pushed me to my knees until my face bled, when I wrestled with your hand just enough so that I could scream. When you dragged me by my hair, and when you smashed my head against the pavement and told me to stop screaming for help, when my neighbour saw you from her window and shouted at you and you looked her in the eye and carried on kicking me in the back and neck. When you tore my bra in half from the sheer force you grabbed my breast, when you didn’t reach once for my belongings because you wanted my body, when you failed to have my body because all my neighbours and family came out, and you saw them face-to-face.

There was a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity, so the full one third discount would be available for that. We don’t know anything about the boys previous convictions (if any).

A helpful starting point is the Sentencing Guidelines for Sexual Offences, however of course the guidelines do not apply to those under 18. The section dealing with Sexual Assault is at page 18.

So, considering the case as if the boy was aged a few months older and fell to be treated as an adult, on the face of it, there was violence which puts it as Harm Level 1. It would appear to be Culpability B. The Judge indicated that had the boy been an adult, he would have got 32 months. This equates to a sentence (before the credit for a plea of guilty) of 4 years – the starting point for a 1A offence.

It may be that there are therefore various matters that we do not know about that push this up to such a high sentence.

The defence lawyer was asking for a non-custodial sentence, and it may well be that there will be an appeal against the sentence. On the face of it, it does seem too long given the facts, the plea of guilty, and the important point that the attacker was a youth at the time.

Why haven’t you named the victim?

The law is clear that for the duration of their lifetime, a complainant in a sexual offence is entitled to anonymity.

There is power for this to be disapplied, but it requires the judge to make an order before or during the trial. There is also the power for the victim or complainant to waive their anonymity but this has to be (a) in writing and (b) in relation to a specific publication. We have had no contact with the victim and so we will not name her.

We are well aware that the victim has been named extensively in the press, of her own volition as she wished to bring attention to her ordeal, and has written the powerful letter to her attacker about this (google #NotGuilty for further details of her campaign).

Whether or not the open letter would constitute the waiving of anonymity in writing as required by the Act is unclear. However, it is very unlikely that anyone will be prosecuted, given the law is for the benefit of the victim, but it is still an offence.

So, although it appears a nonsense, that is why we have not named her.

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

2 COMMENTS

  1. I’m curious Dan you say that 24 months seems high for the offence, in your view, therefore what would he have needed to have done to merit the sentence received bearing in mind he was apprehended shortly afterwards, apparenntly undeterred, following another woman – presumably lining up his next victim.

    • LES – I think you start with the guidelines and work back. The sentence he got was pretty similar to what he would have got for rape. We can argue whether sentences for rape are too low or not, and what the sentencing difference should be between Sexual Assault and Rape, but the law makes that distinction and, on the Guidelines, I’m not sure if the sentence was on the right side of the line.

      Of course, there may be more facts that we don’t know about that make it more serious.

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