I got rebuked a few weeks ago for saying “in the current climate” it was hard to know whether an appeal against sentences for sexual offences would succeed. Maybe I shouldn’t use those words, maybe I should, but I stand by the point that sentencing on sexual offences has gone somewhat askew, with new principles being developed on the hoof. There are perfectly respectable arguments as to whether this is principled or welcome, indeed, different writers of this blog have different views.
But a further example of this was given on 11th December 2014 when Ray Teret, who would probably be described by a newspaper as a ‘disgraced former BBC DJ’ was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment for various sexual offences. We had previously covered this, in brief, when he was convicted.
Facts and Sentence
We have the Sentencing Remarks. They are brief, and certainly worth a read. Essentially, Mr Teret groomed the victims (‘In the main you did not have to use force to abuse these girls, as the combination of their naivety and your celebrity was such that they willingly came with you to the various locations where you abused them‘), who were all girls aged between 13 and 15.
We don’t have the exact dates (relevant for the maximum sentences at the time), but the offending appeared to be between the mid-60s and mid-70s. He was convicted “of having sexually abused 11 different girls during this period of time, 6 of whom you raped and 5 of whom were, as I have said, so awed by your celebrity status that they consented to having sexual intercourse with you. Some of those you raped were forcibly penetrated by you“.
We don’t really have any more details than that. For 5 of the indecent assaults he received 12 months, for the other 6, 18 months. These were concurrent, and concurrent with the 25 years he got for the 7 counts of rape.
The Judge said that, had he been convicted of this at the time, he would have got a life sentence, but accepted that given his age (73) and the length of the custodial sentence, he was no longer a risk.
Why 25 years? Here, the brevity of the sentencing remarks we are left somewhat in the dark. The starting point is the current Sentencing Guidelines (starting at page 9). This gives a range of up to 19 years for the most serious cases.
A Judge is perfectly entitled to go above that in a suitable case, but s/he should really explain why this is the case.
It is clear that it is Culpability A. Given the sentence passed, we assume that the Judge put the Harm as Cat 1, although it is not clear why this should necessarily be the case.
It should be remembered that the sentence of 25 years is a ‘global’ sentence, so has to reflect the multiple counts of rape as well as all the indecent assaults. Even then, the sentence seems much higher than what we would expect. We would have expected a sentence in the region of 18 years. It could be said that we didn’t hear the trial and therefore the Judge saw much more than we did. That is absolutely true, and the Judge – Baker J, certainly knows what he is doing, but one of the purposes of the Sentencing Remarks is to give us – the public – a view of what is being done in our name, and why.
We imagine that there will be an appeal but, and I hesitate to say it, in the current climate if I were Mr Teret I would not get my hopes up.