Judge feels sorry for young sex offender and criticises CPS

Judge feels sorry for young sex offender and criticises CPS

8
SHARE

On Friday, The Telegraph covered the story of Connor O’Keefe, aged 18.

What happened?

When aged 17, O’Keefe had had consensual sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old girl following a music festival. The victim – who was “nearly 16” – was part of a group of people who had gone to a supermarket car park after attending a music event. O’Keefe and the victim then had sex in the car park.

O’Keefe had originally been charged with rape, however he offered a plea of guilty to a lesser offence of sexual activity with a child. This is on the basis that the activity was consensual and that O’Keefe did not reasonably believe that the victim was aged over 16.

The judge’s comments

The Telegraph reported that the judge said:

“I don’t know what the world has come to when I am asked to deal with two teenagers who got drunk and had sex.”

“So what I’m dealing with is consensual sex between two teenagers.

“I have to deal with this on the basis that a 17-year-old had sex with a girl who was almost 16, and they had both had too much to drink. What are we doing here?

“But still the prosecution wanted to press on.

“I don’t know what the world has come to when I am asked to deal, in a serious criminal court, with two teenagers who got drunk and had sex.

“If it had been rape, that would have been a different matter.

“I feel extremely sorry for you having to end up in this position.

“Clearly this started as a very serious case, but what it comes to is simply a teenage incident which should never have come near the courts at all.

“These sort of cases have no place in this kind of court.

“I want you to go away with that ringing in your ears and for it not to cast a shadow over the rest of your teenage years.

“You have been through a great deal as a result of this.

“I hope you can now put it behind you. I don’t think this matter should be here at all.”

Sentence

The judge imposed a conditional discharge of one month. This is way outside of the guidelines, with penetrative activity with no “culpability factors” present attracting a starting point of 12 months’ custody (see page 45 et seq.).

The result of this is that the period for which the notification requirements (the “sex offenders’ register”) apply is two weeks only; this is because for those under 18 the periods are halved. For a conditional discharge, the period is for the length of the discharge, so in this case, that is one month, divided by two.

Appeal?

It is possible that the Attorney General could refer this sentence as being unduly lenient on the basis that the judge should not have sentenced outside of the guidelines. That would, however, appear to be unlikely given the circumstances and the judge’s comments.

As for O’Keefe’s conviction, he pleaded guilty and in so doing, accepted that he had not reasonably believed that the victim was over 16. We’re unaware whether or not there was an application to stay the proceedings as an abuse of process. However, it might be possible to appeal if:

a) there was an application to stay proceedings, and it was refused by the judge. O’Keefe could appeal against the refusal to stay proceedings, or

b) if there was no application to stay proceedings, then O’Keefe could appeal on the basis that there should have been an application. Such a submission would be difficult to maintain at the Court of Appeal and would involve instructing new solicitors (as inherent in the submission is that his legal advice was not appropriate).

As for the CPS’ decision to continue with the prosecution, one has to asked why the decision was made, and on what basis. Surely there are better ways of dealing with teenagers having underage sex after drinking alcohol than this?

8 COMMENTS

  1. Is there any chance you could talk more about why this could be an abuse of process? I’ve read some case law about it, but they have always been to do with things like people acting in accordance to advice from the state, or by cases persuaded in generally unfair ways. I’ve read case-law which says you cannot claim abuse of process on the grounds of lack of public interest (however, I think this was a case against a company, not an individual, so perhaps it is different.)

    This is a bit different, because what he did was genuinely illegal. It may be that there isn’t any requirement to punish, but isn’t that what discharges are for?

    Relatedly, something which I put some thought into is that Parliament declared that this is illegal because they feel it is harmful in some way, and the victim doesn’t have to agree with that (the victim could be society or whatever), so by discharging isn’t the judge making a political decision against that? That is, by giving a discharge when a clear offence has been committed, which isn’t mitigated by circumstance, isn’t a judge defeating statute? (This isn’t clearest in this case, as it is clearly the best course of action, but I wondering if it is something that judges are mindful of)

    • In essence, the CPS have to apply the evidential test and the public interest test. There is an argument that to prosecute someone where the case doesn’t meet the public interest test is to prosecute in breach of their own policy which should not be allowed.

      There’s a few cases that deal with this, and it’s certainly harder to argue it, but should still be possible.

      Discharges still go on your record. You won’t be able to travel to other countries (most significantly America), it has to be declared in an enhanced CRB check, so possibly stops him from being a police officer, teacher, lawyer, doctor etc, and you still have the stigma of being a sex offender.

      I don’t think it’s a political decision. There is an important constitutional point at play – you don’t have to prosecute in every case (as the courts would fall apart in a week). It is discretionary and the Judge has a legitimate role to ensure that the CPS stay within their proper bounds.

  2. * As for the CPS’ decision to continue with the prosecution, one has to asked why the decision was made, and on what basis. Surely there are better ways of dealing with teenagers having underage sex after drinking alcohol than this? *

    But from what you have said, the judge sentenced “way outside the guidelines”, so surely the judge was wrong and the CPS were right. Or are you just reminding the readers that the law is as big an ass as it always has been.

    • I don’t follow why you think just because the judge sentenced way outside of the guidelines that it follows that the CPS was right to prosecute and the judge wrong to impose such a lenient sentence.

  3. IMO the CPS aren’t interested in justice, common sense or proportion between crime and punishment. They’re only interested in ratio of charges turning into convictions.
    They got one here so it looks good for the stats. Glad the judge put some common sense into this.
    No doubt some pitch fork waving terminally offended leftards will write to the AG complaining.

  4. @Lyndon
    You wrote

    “O’Keefe had originally been charged with rape, however he offered a plea of guilty to a lesser offence of sexual activity with a child. This is on the basis that the activity was consensual and that O’Keefe did not reasonably believe that the victim was aged under 16.”

    That second sentence doesn’t seem to make sense though. Did you mean to say “This is on the basis that the activity was consensual and that O’Keefe did not reasonably believe that the victim was aged 16 or over.” If it was the way you expressed it then he should not have pleaded guilty because if he did NOT reasonably believe that she was under 16, then presumably he would have believed she was 16 or over, which would have been a defence against the charge to which he pleaded guilty.

      • Sorry, but I think it is still wrong. What you have now is “did not reasonably believe that the victim was aged over 16”. I think it should be “did not reasonably believe that the victim was aged 16 or over”.

LEAVE A REPLY