Jeremy Forrest Sentenced – 5½ years (updated)

Jeremy Forrest Sentenced – 5½ years (updated)

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Introduction

Jeremy Forrest was sentenced on 21st June 2013 to one year for an offence of Child Abduction. He was convicted the day before (our coverage is here).

In addition, he pleaded guilty to five counts of ‘Sexual Activity with a Child‘. He was only charged with these offences this morning. He received 4½ years for those offences, consecutive to the 1 year for abduction, making 5½ in total.

The Judge’s sentencing remarks have been published.

Sentence

The maximum sentence for Abduction is 7 years. Mr Forrest had a trial, so there could be no ‘credit’ for a plea of guilty. This sentence seems about right in the circumstances, although regard would have had to been had to ‘totality – the idea that when you step back and look at the whole sentence, it should be the right one.

There are guidelines for the offence of Sexual Activity with a Child (see page 50). The maximum sentence is 14 years.

The sexual activity appears to have been in the highest category with a starting point of 4 years after a trial and a range of 3-7 years after a trial. This would appear to be (having regard to the plea of guilty) the maximum sentence.

The Judge identified the fact that Mr Forrest was a teacher, with the responsibility that that entails was an aggravating feature – he was someone who should have known better. Also, the history of the relationship and the fact that Mr Forrest had lied to friends and colleagues to cover up the blossoming relationship and had turned down offers of help.

Dealing with the fact that the offences were undoubtedly (factually) consensual, the Judge considered whether that was a mitigating feature, but “to urge that argument is to ignore the rationale for the ‘age of consent’ rules. It was your duty as a teacher to stop her infatuation, not to fuel it“.

The Judge, in effect, described Mr Forrest as a predatory groomer who was still manipulating X. Commenting on the evidence that X gave, he said: “Where is that genuine care for her welfare that is the hallmark of a truly loving relationship?

The Judge then made a slight reduction of the sentence to take account of totality and imposed the sentence of 4½ years for the sexual offences.

Child Abduction is NOT a listed offence for the purposes of the Sex Offenders Register. Therefore Mr Forrest would not have been subject to the requirements due to the conviction for abduction (although I would not be surprised if there was a demand in the media for that to be changed). He will be subject to the conditions for the other sexual offences however.

Why did the other sexual offences only get charged today?

Mr Forrest was returned to the UK by virtue of the European Arrest Warrant. Contained within that is the principle of ‘Specialty‘. It’s a complicated area of law, but the main principle is that the requesting state (here the UK) has to state all the offences for which they wish to extradite the suspect.

In this case, the extradition request was only for the offence of Child Abduction. As a consequence, he could not have been prosecuted for other sexual offences that may have been committed in the UK (certain exceptions do apply under s146 Extradition Act 2003, but none seem to fit this case).

It is likely that the evidence relating to the sexual offences had not been collected by the time the extradition request was made (it seems to have come from X’s mobile phone) which is why it was not included.

It seems that after the trial Mr Forrest waived his right “not to be dealt with for the [sexual] offence.” For that reason, he could then be charged with the sexual offences, which he thereupon pleaded guilty to.

It seems, therefore, that Mr Forrest should receive full credit for the plea of guilty (he was entitled to stand upon the law in relation to the extradition – also, there is no suggestion that he denied the sexual offences at any time).

Did Mr Forrest commit any other offences?

The age of consent in France is 15 (unlike the UK) and therefore no offence would have been committed by Mr Forrest and X having sexual intercourse whilst in France.

Will there be an appeal?

Almost certainly. The sentence of 4½ years appears to have been based on a starting point of 7 years (allowing for full credit for the plea and the ‘slight reduction’). This is the top of the suggested range. Whilst there were aggravating features of Mr Forrest being in a position of trust and a vulnerable victim (and possibly the age of Mr Forrest – he wasn’t a teenager), the fact that the victim was close to the age of consent is seen as a mitigating feature, as is, possibly, the factual consent.

The sentence for the abduction does seem correct. Given the other offences, it does raise the question of whether it was necessary to have a trial for that, with all the distress caused, as well as the expense of an 8 day trial, but that is perhaps something best considered at a later stage.

Putting that together, whilst this was a serious offence and a custodial sentence was necessary, it does seem to me that the sentence as a whole was too high. Had all the sentences been concurrent (so the total was 4½ years) it would still have been on the high side, but probably not manifestly excessive.

The high profile nature of the case means that any appeal will be watched closely. The Court of Appeal will be reluctant to interfere with the sentence. My ‘feel’ (and obviously I have not read the evidence or seen the trial) is that a sentence in the region of around 4 years would have been appropriate. But, then what do I know? I’ve certainly been wrong before…

*NOTE – There is a lot of (mis)information flying around, so this post will be edited for accuracy.

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

17 COMMENTS

  1. Fresh evidence from the Complainant’s ABE interview maybe? I would’ve been tempted to plead not guilty. Put a real spanner in the works.

    • any chance you could elaborate here? the judges ruling seems pretty damning and showed clear indication of grooming IMO

      • Hello Neil, I was speculating as to why JF was only committed this morning rather than being arraigned on a consolidated indictment before trial. I thought it was fresh evidence post extradition but in fact it was to do with the age of consent in France.

  2. I was more interested in the comment from Criminal Barrister. What was the fresh evidence from the ABE interview that would have suggested a not guilty plea?

  3. It certainly should not be reduced where pupil and teacher are concerned, Hugo. Teachers must not do it, and that’s the end of it.

  4. Here’s another oddity. Under the Sexual Offences Act 1956 sex with a girl who was thirteen but not sixteen was called “unlawful sexual intercourse” – USI for short – and the word “unlawful” had a meaning: sex within marriage is lawful, so if the parties were married there was no crime. That of course could only arise if they were domiciled somewhere where the age for marriage is below sixteen – such as France or Denmark.

    There was also a separate defence for a man who believed he was married to the girl, which could arise if she had pretended to be sixteen and gone through a ceremony of marriage with him.

    Under the new law the defence of “lawfully married” has been abolished. The Minister in charge of the Bill in the House of Lords (Lady Scotland) made a very aggressive and jingoistic speech to the effect that “whatever those foreigners may allow, we don’t want that sort of thing here” – shades of No Sex, Please, We’re British – if I remember I will try to find it and post a link. The defence for a man who thought he was married remains, perhaps subsumed into the general defence of “reasonable mistake about her age” which the new Act – quite rightly and not before time – introduced.

    Is this not absurd? If Jean and Marie from France or Jens and Elisabet from Denmark, newly and lawfully married, want to honeymoon here, whose business is it that they consummate their marriage? Who cares?

  5. I think it is hopelessly paternalistic and inappropriate to disregard the girl’s feelings in regard to all the charges against Jeremy Forrest. To call this (admittedly immature) man’s behavior “grooming”, comparing it by this term to the despicable conditioning and manipulation that certain Muslims have recently been convicted for elsewhere in England, is to exalt a mere legal technicality (age of consent, school context) into an utterly unrealistic truth. If there is still any sense of equity or fairness in England, or of the rights of free men and women in the English Courts, they should look beneath the labels at the real flesh-and-blood people involved here, and give credence to a very mature young lady’s expressions of love and desire for this (again, admittedly immature) man. I find this case very disturbing for it’s complete disregard of social and cultural reality in favor of placing people on a legally procrustean bed: stretching them and then severing their extremities. I cannot believe ANYONE would think Jeremy’s conduct, in light of XXX’s conduct, was paedophilic or criminal in any way. Jeremy was and is undoubtedly guilty of nothing more than (a) lack of self-control faced with an attractive and aggressive young lady who fell in love with him and he with her, (b) inability to handle and plan for an awkward situation, (c) general bad judgment. Such is the nature of love, to deny that this is a fact is to deny that the law is made to serve man, not man to serve the law. A great Jewish Rabbi said something like this about 2000 years ago, and I am sure he would have chided Jeremy for not marrying the girl the moment they were in France, but he would have forgiven them because they were in love, and so should the English Public.
    I hope that Jeremy Forrest will find an attorney capable of mounting a meaningful constitutional challenge to the application of these laws to him under these circumstances. In the USA, I would submit that the laws as applied to Jeremy Forrest should be found either overbroad or void for vagueness, and possibly both.
    http://charleslincoln3.com

  6. Not the worst, not the defilement of a child, but he was a teacher and it was a gross breach of trust. Heloise loved Abelard and look what happened to him!

    They could not have married in France:

    She is domiciled here where the age for marriage is 16 with parental consent and 18 without it – and it is the law of domicile which determines capacity to marry.

    He is already married, although I doubt he will be much longer.

    And the French have a reputation (how true it is I don’t know) for making getting married a bureaucratic nightmare especially for foreigners.

    Of course when he is released he will be single and she will be 18 – if they want to marry then good luck to them and I hope they live happily ever after. When I was a child – and I am in my sixties – I knew of a couple who married as soon after her sixteenth birthday as the formalities would permit, and had a rather big baby after a rather short pregnancy, and didn’t the tongues wag! Not the best start to a marriage but they went on to have another child and seemed to be entirely happy together until she died in her forties.

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