In October 2015 we covered the case of Jade Hatt, a 21-year-old woman who had pleaded guilty to sexual activity with a child, contrary to s.9 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.. She received a suspended sentence order of 6 months’ custody suspended for two years, with a supervision requirement.
You can see our full write-up of the story here.
It appears that Hatt was babysitting an 11 year old child. The news reports state that she removed the child’s clothes, removed her own clothes and then sat astride him whereupon they had sexual intercourse. The prosecution described the incident as lasting for 45 seconds and that afterwards, Hatt had said that she had “enjoyed it”, but the child had said he had not as “it was wrong”.
The child’s father said: “I know he told her he was 15. He looks older than his years…He is sex mad. He would have been fully up for this experience and in many ways sees it as a notch on his belt and is totally unaffected by it.”
In a further twist to the tale, the child’s father had previously had a sexual relationship with Hatt.
As the victim of a sexual offence, the child automatically receives lifetime anonymity. That extends to naming his father as to do so would result in the child’s identity being more easily discoverable.
As is predictable when an adult is sentenced to a suspended sentence for a child sexual offence, there was uproar on social media and in the press. The Attorney General referred the sentence under the unduly lenient sentence scheme.
On 8 December 2015, the case came before the Court of Appeal, let by Lord Justice Treacy, chairman of the Sentencing Council.
“Looking at the sentencing guidelines (see p.45), a strict application of the guideline would see this offence as placed within Category 1 A on the basis that there was penetration (albeit that it was the child who penetrated the defendant) and that there was an abuse of trust (in that the child’s father had trusted the defendant to care for his son). There is also arguably the “significant disparity in age” which adds to the seriousness. That would result in a starting point of around 5 years’ custody…The sentence in this case is a custodial sentence, albeit that it is suspended. That is firmly within the offence range and therefore the question is simply is the sentence too lenient given the circumstances of the offence.”
And concluded that the judge should be congratulated, not criticised, for his decision not to send Hatt to prison.
So how did we do?
The court dismissed the reference concluding that although the offence fell in category 1A of the guidelines, Hatt’s culpability had been significantly reduced; her level of maturity had been significantly below her actual age, she had admitted the offence before her arrest, shown remorse and had had a traumatic childhood. Therefore, the suspended sentence remains.
The judgment hasn’t been released yet, however when it is, we’ll take a closer look at what the court said.
The Attorney General (perhaps not him personally) has a habit of tweeting about his victories in the Court of Appeal. We haven’t yet seen a tweet about this loss…