Former Naval chief petty officer sentenced to 14 years for rape of...

Former Naval chief petty officer sentenced to 14 years for rape of 6-month old child

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We frequently get Tweets and emails asking us to look at particular cases in the press and we’re always happy to take a look.

On Fridat 23 January 2015, BBC News covered the sentencing of former Naval chief petty officer, Geoffrey Rooney.

Rooney pleaded guilty to offences including:

  • rape of a child under 13
  • sexual assault of a child under 13 (x2)
  • sexual assault of a male child under 16
  • possession of indecent photographs of children
  • taking indecent photographs of children (x3)
  • distributing indecent images of children (x2)

So, what happened? Well Rooney was arrested following the arrest of another man whose wife had found indecent images of children on his mobile phone. Rooney had asked the man to make his children available for him to sexual abuse. It appears that Rooney had then abused the victims, recording some of the incidents on his mobile phone. The victim of the rape was 6 months old.

EDIT: It appears that the two children Rooney abused were not the children of the man whose wife discovered the indecent images on his mobile phone. Whilst Rooney asked the man to make his children available for him to abuse, it appears he did not do so, and the victims were two different children. 

We’re not entirely sure of the facts of the offending, such as how many victims, how many instances of abuse, the period of time over which the offences were committed etc.

EDIT: It appears that there are at least three victims: a girl under 13 who was raped, another girl under 13 who was sexual assaulted and a boy under 16 who was sexually assaulted.

Harm

The father of two of the victims described how he has had to hold his crying children down as doctors subjected them to  medical tests to ensure they had not contracted sexually transmitted diseases. The harm caused, therefore, appears to be very high.

However, a local newspaper noted that Rooney’s representative questioned the “harm” caused to the victims due to their very young age. The judge responded ““For the moment, [but] who knows what may come back to haunt them.”

Additionally, it was said (EDIT: in mitigation) that Rooney volunteered many of the offences to the police and had no previous convictions.

Sentence

Rooney was sentenced to 14 years for the offence of rape, with sentences on the other counts being made to run concurrently. He was also made to pay the £120 victim surcharge.

A spokesperson for the police criticised the way in which Rooney had “gloried” in his offending.

Comment

The starting point is the sexual offences guideline (see page 27). We’re only going to look at the rape guideline because that is really the only sentence that matters.

This is clearly a category 2 (harm) offence, due to the extreme youth of the victim. It’s possible that there are further factors of which we are unaware that could raise the offence to category 1.

Again, we don’t know all of the facts, but this appears to be a culpability “A” case, on the basis of the recording of the abuse on Rooney’s mobile phone. There may be (and we suspect are) further factors increasing the culpability in this case, such as planning and acting with others (how else did he come to have the opportunity to abuse a 6 month old child?)

That gives a starting point of 13 years’ imprisonment. He was given a final sentence of 14 years, which, accounting for the guilty plea (which we assume he received full credit), means a starting point of 21 years’ imprisonment. That represents an 8-year uplift for the other offences.

As we dont know the details, we can’t really comment as to whether that is too much, particularly as we dont know whether the other offences were committed against the same or other victims (and therefore we dont know whether the sentences would have been expected to have been made concurrent or consecutive).

So, in conclusion, we can’t say much, other than, whilst the 14 year sentence appears to be low – certainly in comparison to the Ian Watkins case, applying the guidelines, it doesn’t seem unduly lenient. The important difference between the two cases is that Watkins was found to be “dangerous” whereas in this case Rooney was not found to be dangerous. Additionally, we assume that the period of time over which Rooney’s offences were committed was significantly shorter than Watkins.

If we come across any further information, we will update the post.

EDIT: With a 14-year sentence for rape with the other sentences being made to run concurrently, we are led to believe that the judge passed what is known as a global term to reflect all the offending. This involves inflating the “lead” sentence above what it would be worth on its own, to account for the other offences. For example: Offence 1, 2 and 3, deserve a sentence of 10 years. The sentence could be structured either 10 years on count 1 with 2 years each on counts 2 and 3, concurrent (total: 10 years) or 6 years on count 1, 2 years on count 2 and 2 years on count 3, consecutive (total: 10 years). Here, with separate victims, we would have expected consecutive sentences as that is the usual practice, marking each separate offence. However, the only reason why the Court of Appeal would intervene is if the overall sentence is too low. On the facts, it appears the sentence is a little on the low side but without further details as to the nature of the sexual assaults, it is still impossible to say with any certainty whether we would expect the Court of Appeal to intervene, if there is an Attorney General’s reference.

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Lyndon is the General Editor of Current Sentencing Practice and the Criminal Appeal Reports (Sentencing)

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