John Cowen, a 72 year old man, was sent to prison for 8 years on 28th November 2014 for nine counts of indecent assault and two of indecency with a child. He had been convicted after a trial in relation to all the victims.
There were 6 victims who gave evidence. It is a bit unclear, but it seems that all the abuse happened in a care home in Ealing where Mr Cowen worked from 1971 until 1973. The first complainant went to the police in the beginning of 2013, and the police traced other people who also made complaints.
One point to note is that Mr Cowen was convicted of sexual offending against children in 1994, to which he was sentenced to 12½ in prison. The details of that are not know, but the sentence is a very heavy one, which indicates that it must have been pretty serious.
We don’t have, unfortunately, any real idea of what the actual offending entailed. It is worth bearing in mind the maximum sentences for these offences – 5 years for the indecent assaults (which covers all sorts, up to the sort of offending that is now legally defined as rape) and 2 years for the indecency.
The Sentencing Guidelines for sexual offences apply. This isn’t much help without knowing the nature of the offending, but it is safe to say that the starting points now would be much, much higher. We have covered this in our fact sheet on historic sexual offences.
Here, we would tentatively suggest that this sentence indicates that the sort of approach that we have seen in celebrity cases such as Max Clifford are carrying through into sentencing for other cases.
One question that arises here – is the conviction in 1994 an aggravating feature? It’s a tricky one. An offence convicted by someone with a criminal record makes an offence more serious. But this is only the case if the second conviction is for an offence that post dates the first. Here, it is not the case, so it may well not have added anything to his sentence, counter-intuitively though that may seem.