Stuart Hall was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment on 17th June 2013 for a series of sexual offences committed between 1967 and 1985 (or 1986, the Prosecution were unable to say which). We covered the background to this offending here and the issues thrown up by historic sexual offences here.
The starting point is the sentencing remarks, which are here. They are worth reading in full (especially if you are of the view that the sentence was too short).
There were 14 separate offences (relating to 13 separate victims). The ages of the victims were between 9 and 17 years old. The offences vary in seriousness, with the Judge noting that some of them, had they stood in isolation, “is by no means the worst example of sexual abuse of children to come before the Court“
The maximum sentence for indecent assault was originally 2 years, later to 5 (for children under the age of 13) and then to 10 years from 16th September 1985 (s3 Sexual Offences Act 1985).
The most serious offences were Counts 6, 15 and 16. Briefly, Count 6 involved a 13 year old girl who had been drinking. Mr Hall accepted touching her breasts and inserting a finger in her vagina. Counts 15 and 16 involved far less serious offending, but also attracted the highest sentence as the girls were so young (10 and 9 respectively).
It should be noted that the offence in Count 6 would today be charged as Assault by Penetration with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Given the facts of the offence, the starting point today would be in the region of 5 years (page 29).
The Judge has to look at all the offending taken together, and here decided that the appropriate starting point was a sentence of 20 months. Looking at the history of the matter, the Judge gave credit of 25%. This gives the total sentence of 15 months.
Mr Hall will also have to pay £11,522 in prosecution costs. He will also be subject to the requirements of the Sexual Offenders Register for 10 years.
Had the offences been committed now, the sentence would have been considerably longer. I would imagine a sentence, after allowing for credit for the plea of guilty, of around 4 years imprisonment. The shadow Attorney-General has already called for the Attorney General to review the sentence to see if he will ask the Court of Appeal to increase the sentence. Is she right? Is the sentence too short?
In a word, no. The last thirty years has seen a huge increase in sentences handed out, sometimes more than double. In no area has this been seen more than in relation to sexual offences (this is partly due to the general increase in sentencing and partly due to a shift in the attitudes of the public to sexual offending).
It seems that the most serious offending were all committed where the maximum sentence was two years. In light of that, the sentence was, if anything, slightly on the high side. Mr Hall is an 83 year old man who is not in great health, this is his first time before the Courts and he had stopped offending of his own accord 25 years ago. There is no suggestion that he currently presents a risk to the public, so there is no question about protection of the public – the sentence is all about punishment. In light of all that, whatever one thinks about the sentence, it is hard to say that the sentence was ‘unduly lenient’.
Looking at twitter, there appears to be a general view that the sentence was not long enough. As I say, given the law at the time, this is a view that is perhaps understandable, but is (in my view) wrong. I hope that the public do not have to pay many, many thousands of pounds for a Prosecution appeal which should not succeed.