Every so often, we get a ‘listener’s query’. Today, we got an (indirect) request to have a look at the case of an amorous couple who got a bit carried away on the London to Clacton-on-Sea train on 7th June 2015.
Gavin Maguire and Alison Jennings, both in their 40s, had been on a first date. It seems to have gone well – when they were waiting for the train, they were engaged in ‘heavy petting’. As soon as they got on the 9.20pm train at Liverpool Street, they got down to business.
The heavy petting progressed with “Jennings’ skirt ‘hitched up’ to her waist as she was ‘bouncing up and down’ on Maguire’s lap“. She “‘was leaning against the man’s chest and the man had his hands over the woman’s dress rubbing her vagina area“.
Apparently, it was clear that Ms Jennings “seemed to be enjoying what was going on’ and was ‘making loud noises’, before licking her hand and putting it down Maguire’s trousers.”
One man voted with his feet, going off to a different carriage. At Stratford (the first stop, only a few minutes away) a family with young children got on. It seems that one of the children, “an eight-year-old boy, was ‘continually looking around at what they were doing’.
Mr McGuire got a Community Order with a 100 hours unpaid work requirement as well as a £180 fine and £80 costs (no mention is made of the Courts Charge, but as this would be payable in the amount of £180, we imagine that this is what the Metro referred to as the ‘fine’, as well as the Victim Surcharge).
Ms Jennings got a 12 month Conditional Discharge (and presumably similar ancillary orders).
There are no guidelines for this offence. It’s an either way one and is very much fact specific.
The sentences passed were in the right range, although Mr McGuire’s was more in line with what we would have thought in the sense that it was necessary perhaps to mark the behaviour with something more serious than a Conditional Discharge.
But the real question is why the big difference in sentence?
The short answer is that we don’t know. There are many reasons why two people charged with the same crime may get different sentences
The most obvious reason is that they play different roles. That is not the case here – they were equally culpable.
Another common reason is that different people have different backgrounds by way of previous convictions. Nothing is mentioned here, but that is a possibility (although we would be surprised if either of them had significant previous, especially anything for similar offences).
There may be a clue in that Ms Jennings seems to have pleaded guilty earlier than Mr McGuire (although it is hard to see what defence Mr McGuire could have had). Even then, that is not really enough to explain the wide difference.
The only other possibility is in different mitigation that they have. This will always be hard to know without having more details. Again though, on the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much.
So, we don’t know. It is sometimes said that women are treated more leniently than men in the Criminal Justice System, a view that most lawyers do not think is entirely incorrect, although it is very difficult to test. Even if that is the case though, it wouldn’t normally be the case with co-defendants.
Ultimately then, we’re sorry about this, but it’s impossible to say. It does seem odd, but we would imagine that there is a proper reason.