Recently we wrote about John Allen, found guilty of 33 sexual offences, spanning almost 30 years.
Today he was sentenced, to life imprisonment, with a minimum term of 11 years. In sentencing Allen, Mr Justice Openshaw said:
“There have no doubt been more prolific offenders but seldom can there be so many grave offences committed on so many victims over a long period of time, causing so much anguish and misery.”
The Court heard how the system of monitoring at the care home was wholly inadequate.There were no complainants, because the boys knew it was pointless to do so, and that “gave the defendant the belief that he was untouchable“.
The Judge said there was a common theme of Allen targeting boys who were more susceptible to grooming with gifts given as “inducements” or to “keep them quiet”.
Allen, who is now aged 73, faces a minimum term of 11 years in prison. Thereafter he will be assessed by the parole board and will not be released until the time comes that he is no longer considered to be a risk of harm to the public.
Will Allen appeal? It seems likely, as he has little to lose.
The sentencing remarks have not been made available publicly, but we understand that they will be.
Taking it shortly, there were 19 different victims that Mr Allen had abused, having groomed them over a period of time. This was against a background of abuse of trust. The offending included five victims who were subject to what is now classified as rape (at the time, buggery covered consensual and non-consensual anal sex).
This case raised a couple of interesting issues. Firstly, as noted, there were previous convictions. The judge considered the arguments and concluded that they could not be considered an aggravating factor.
On the other hand, no allowance was made for the fact that he was sent to prison in 1996.
This is pretty much as we would expect, and the judge seems to have struck a proper balance.
More controversial would be the length of the sentence itself. The starting point of 22 years is undoubtedly severe, and more than double he would have got at the time of the offending, but is unlikely to be considered ‘manifestly excessive’, which is the test for the Court of Appeal. It seems that thinking has moved now to sentencing offenders purely as they would be sentenced today, unless that exceeded the maximum sentence available. it is worth comparing with the sentence that Myles Bradbury received on the same day however.
More controversial would be the life sentence itself. The judge recognised that me Allen was no longer ‘dangerous’ so as to require an extended sentence. But he passed a life sentence nonetheless due to the nature of the offence and to mark the severity of it. I would question to what extent it is appropriate to pass a life sentence as a punishment rather than because the offender is dangerous.