Richard Huckle, aged 30, – described as a “prolific paedophile” by Sky News – pleaded guilty to numerous child sexual offences on 1 June 2016.
There is plenty of detail in this Sky News report however in essence, the facts are as follows. Huckle:
a. raped numerous children of varying ages, from infant children, toddlers and pre-teen children;
b. he filmed and photographed many of his offences and shared the images with other sexual offenders via the dark web;
c. he possessed 20,000 indecent images of children (still and moving);
d. used images of him raping a young girl aged 3 to raise money on a crowd-funding website; and
e. produced what was described as a “paedophile’s handbook” advising others how to avoid having their criminal activities detected.
He worked with churches and schools having undergone a teaching course with the British Council. He committed many offences in Malaysia and Sky News reported that he used the teaching as a cover to commit many of his offences.
In relation to his activity on the dark web, he was found to have commented:
“It’s quite amazing to have stuck with the same child lover for so many years and I hope, from the images you have seen, enjoyed watching her grow.
“It’s not often in child porn you can compare the bodies of a 5yo and a 12yo that are the same girl. I’m sure I’ll have plenty more sex with (her) in the future.”
Huckle was reportedly due to stand trial at the Old Bailey, however he subsequently pleaded guilty to the offences. As the offences were committed (largely) abroad, the question arises as to how he can be prosecuted and sentenced in the UK.
In 2003, Parliament changed the law, enabling the prosecution of offences committed outside of the UK where they would constitute offences under English law.
Huckle has pleaded guilty to many counts (we’re not sure how many) including rape of a child under 13.
The guidelines are the starting point, however the gravity of these offences cannot be met with a sentence within the ranges suggested by the guidelines. We would expect a life sentence, on the basis that Huckle satisfies the statutory test for dangerousness – in that he poses a significant risk of serious harm. An extended sentence is a possibility but we would expect that on the basis of the seriousness of the offences, a life sentence is the only option here. Setting the minimum term is a difficult task and can only be done when in possession of the full facts (numbers of counts, period of time over which the offending occurred, impact of his sharing images etc., effect upon victims, details of the individual offences etc.).
Considering that in the Ian Watkins case, a 35-year extended sentence (with a 29-year determinate term) was upheld by the Court of Appeal, we would expect a minimum term north of 15 years.
We’ll return to the case when the sentencing hearing is concluded.
EDIT: This Daily Mail article – if correct – reveals that Huckle pleaded to 71 charges pertaining to offences committed against 200 hundred children. In light of that information, we would amend our original view and suggest that a minimum term greatly in excess of 20 years is appropriate.