Suspended sentence for babysitter who had sex with 11 yr old child

Suspended sentence for babysitter who had sex with 11 yr old child

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One of the bigger stories in the press on 5 October 2015 was the story of Jade Hatt, aged 21, and her conviction for sexual activity with a child, contrary to s.9 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

What happened?

It appears that Hatt was babysitting an 11 year old child. The news reports state that she removed the child’s clothes, removed her own clothes and then sat astride him whereupon they had sexual intercourse. The prosecution described the incident as lasting for 45 seconds and that afterwards, Hatt had said that she had “enjoyed it”, but the child had said he had not as “it was wrong”.

The child’s father said: “I know he told her he was 15. He looks older than his years…He is sex mad. He would have been fully up for this experience and in many ways sees it as a notch on his belt and is totally unaffected by it.”

In a further twist to the tale, the child’s father had previously had a sexual relationship with Hatt.

As the victim of a sexual offence, the child automatically receives lifetime anonymity. That extends to naming his father as to do so would result in the child’s identity being more easily discoverable.

Sentence

The judge imposed a suspended sentence – 6 months’ custody suspended for two years, with a supervision requirement. He also imposed a Sexual Harm Prevention Order prohibiting her from having unsupervised contact with male children under the age of 16 for a period of two years.

During the sentencing hearing, the judge said:

“Having read everything before me, it was quite clear he was a mature 11-year-old and you were an immature 20-year-old so that narrows the arithmetic age gap between you.

“I have read the comments of the boy’s father to the police where he doesn’t consider you a typical 20-year-old. I have also read what he has said about the effect on the victim.”

Comment

In some quarters of the press – and of course on Twitter – there was outrage at the “leniency” of the sentence.

Looking at the sentencing guidelines (see p.45), a strict application of the guideline would see this offence as placed within Category 1 A on the basis that there was penetration (albeit that it was the child who penetrated the defendant) and that there was an abuse of trust (in that the child’s father had trusted the defendant to care for his son). There is also arguably the “significant disparity in age” which adds to the seriousness. That would result in a starting point of around 5 years’ custody.

The Coroners and Justice Act 2009 s.125 enables a court to not apply the guideline where it would be in the interests of justice to do so. However, in this case, that was not required. The legislation requires a court to impose a sentence within the offence range – not the category range. The offence range is a community order to 10 years.

The sentence in this case is a custodial sentence, albeit that it is suspended. That is firmly within the offence range and therefore the question is simply is the sentence too lenient given the circumstances of the offence.

While this is no doubt a serious offence – particularly so because of the child’s young physical age and the abuse of trust element – one wonders what good would come of sending Hatt to custody. Taking the judge’s view that the child was mature and the defendant immature, their mental and developmental “ages” are far closer; would two 15 year olds who had sex be prosecuted? Unlikely, but if they were, would the press be calling for one of them to be sent to prison? Highly unlikely.

My personal view is that in cases such as this, the courts should think long and hard before imposing immediate custody. The judge has clearly taken the view that the SHPO is sufficient to protect young male children from her and that the cause of the offence can be explored through the community element to her sentence. Is it not overwhelmingly likely that the experience of being in court, facing an immediate custodial sentence (as she will no doubt have been advised) and being named in numerous national papers is an additional level punishment and likely to make her seriously consider her actions?

One of the aims of sentencing is of course punishment. Another is rehabilitation. With something in the order of 50 prisoners on whole life tariffs, 99% of prisoners will be released from prison at one point or another – the aim of the system has to be to rehabilitate and reduce offending. In this case, it would seem that the judge has taken a sensible approach, avoiding Hatt having an immediate custodial sentence on her record, losing her job (assuming she is employed) and saved the public a large chunk of cash.

We should be congratulating the judge on a sensible and brave decision, not criticising.

33 COMMENTS

  1. Imagine if the genders were reversed, a male babysitter of 20 having “consensual” sex – and the quotes are there for a reason – with a girl of 11?

    Sorry, but I don’t think his sentence would have been suspended and neither should hers have been.

    • For what reason? The offence is too serious? She needs punishment? The public will only be protected by a custodial sentence?
      What of the argument that rehabilitation is better than punishment by incarceration? Do you propose that imprisoning her, with the concomitent harm to employment prospects, social development, financial status, is a better use of the scarce funds of the criminal justice system?

  2. Because there are some offences which are so serious that only the clang of the gates will adequately reflect the depth of criminality, and using a child’s body for your own sexual gratification is one of them. Whatever your gender; and whatever your personal problems.

    • And so your view is that no child sexual offence should have a non-custodial sentence as an option? I’m afraid I can’t accept that view. Some offences are too serious for a suspended sentence; in my view, this is clearly not such a case.

  3. I would suggest that a suspended sentence suggests that the press reports have underplayed, unreported or misreported aspects of the probation report and/or evidence of the defendant’s mental state. Any report for this matter would have had to address the sexual offenders rehabilitation requirement:- a community element not able to be imposed in a suspended sentence. I would strongly suspect that with this requirement not being imposed that the Defendant was considered either incapable or too vulnerable to participate in that rehabilitation requirement. This would also coincide with the judge’s comment about “everything” he had read. This would appear to suggest that rather than the judge not imposing immediate custody because the defendant was female, it was because her “immaturity” is actually a sign of developmental impairment.

  4. I suggest that if it were an 11 year old girl (or boy) being penetrated by a penis there are also greater risks of other damage to that child aside from the emotional: including HPV, HIV and physical harm too. I’m not condoning what the babysitter did.

  5. “While this is no doubt a serious offence”.
    No, not serious to those who ask – who was ‘a victim’. What ever happened to the the good old English Common Law edict that we as free people could do as we like as long as it did not affect or harm others?
    This caused no harm what so ever to a third party – indeed it could be argued that it was an expression of love and affection (much lacking in today’s violent world).
    Gosh, how I wish I had met such an understanding and caring teacher when I was eleven.
    Instead I was left with frustration, a craving and being cross-legged until I was eighteen!

  6. You miss the point. What makes people so angry is that the sentence was partly justified on the basis of testimony referring to the 11 year old boy as ‘mature’; drawing on his own father’s testimony that he was ‘sex mad’. This trivialises rape of children, and clearly implies that they are complicit. Do you really think the judge be applauded for those comments, for condoning this warped point of view????

    • In the case of a 21 year old shop thief, is a judge not entitled to observe that he is immature for his age? Or a 15-year-old charged with having sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend, is the judge not entitled to observe that the pair appear to be in a mature, loving relationship? I fail to see how a disparity between chronological age and mental age (“maturity” etc) is not relevant. On the contrary, fairness requires the judge to consider the level of harm. For an 11 year old victim in these circumstances, the harm could have been very grave indeed. However, fortunately, it appears that there was little or no harm. Fairness requires the sentence to reflect that. You wouldn’t expect a driver who knocked down an old lady, causing a broken hip to be sentenced on the basis that he had killed her, so why sentence this defendant on the basis of harm that is not supported by the evidence?

    • I don’t agree with the idea of ‘complicity’ on the part of the father, but he was presumably very torn given that it has his son and his ex (of some sort) involved. Given that the father seems to have expressed his view that Ms. Hatt was ‘not an average 20 year old’ (presumably meaning relatively immature for her age) and had had a prior relationship with her I would of thought this would cast some doubt on the reliability of his assertions concerning the harm that was done. If Ms Hatt is considered immature then there surely is an element that the father too has done something morally (if not legally) wrong prior to these events in carrying on some sort of relationship with her? I’m surprised there’s no mention of any independent testimony as to the young boys welfare/state of mind being taken into consideration by the judge.

  7. L-E-S Certainly a male assailant could do more immediate physical harm than a female assailant; but HIV and other STD’s can pass in both directions. I don’t think there is much in your distinction.

    This is going to be a cliff-hanger: she will go into the dock in great doubt about how she will be leaving the court building. Very sad in either event.

  8. “The judge imposed a suspended sentence – 6 months’ custody suspended for two years, with a supervision requirement. He also imposed a Sexual Harm Prevention Order prohibiting her from having unsupervised contact with male children under the age of 16 for a period of two years.”

    What purpose does this Sexual Harm Prevention Order serve if, as it seems, that the UK criminal justice system is so reluctant to acknowledge women as sexual offenders in their own right? Given the message sent out and the “assumption” that there was little or no harm done in this case, the Sexual Harm Prevention Order is rendered completely ineffective as the defendant is unlikely to consider her offending behaviour as potentially harmful to children and offers little comfort to the ongoing welfare and protection of the male victim in the case.

    • The purpose of the order is to prevent offending. Such orders must be specific and targeted at the individual in question; in this case that is in respect of male children. I fail to see how this case demonstrates that the system is reluctant to acknowledge women as sexual offenders – she was prosecuted and given a custodial (albeit suspended) sentence.

      I think it is ironic that you criticise the “assumption” that there was little or no harm (in fact, the judge would have undoubtedly have received evidence about this and would not have simply assumed there was no harm) and then go on to make an assumption as to the way in which the offender thinks about her behaviour and how she will (or will not) participate in attempts to rehabilitate her!

      The blog post was based on news reports which – as we all know – are often inaccurate or misleading. I can confidently say however, that the SHPO is an additional layer of protection, without which a suspended sentence might have been harder to accept.

  9. I’m often critical of judicial decisions on this blog, but in this case I think some common sense was applied. It would seem that both were willing participants and their relative maturity played a part. I even find myself agreeing with L-E-S in that if the genders were swapped there could be physical damage if the older participant were male.

    However I do promise never to agree with L-E-S again.

  10. If the boy was 15 (as in your example of two 15 year olds having sex) then a suspended sentence would certainly be justified. But he was 11. This isn’t simply a case of sex with a slightly underage teenager, this was surely a case of rape of a child since he was 12 or under?

    Another “child sex” case in the news recently is Jeremy Forrest, having been released halfway through a 5.5 year sentence for consenting sex with a 15 year old. Why did none of this logic apply to him? Because he’s a man? And she was 15 not 11.

    You also seem to have skated over the fact that the boy himself said he didn’t enjoy the experience as “it was wrong”.

    • You also seem to have skated over the fact that the boy himself said he didn’t enjoy the experience as “it was wrong”.

      On the contrary, I expressly included that in the summary of the facts. The point was that notwithstanding that evidence, the judge had clearly considered low or no harm was present, which, among other factors was sufficient to justify a suspended sentence.

      It isn’t rape of a child as rape consists of penetration of the mouth, vagina or anus by a penis. As in this case the victim penetrated the offender, there could not be a conviction for rape.

      As for your Jeremy Forrest example, I think the offences are entirely different; the abuse of trust element is far more serious in a formal teacher/student relationship than in an informal babysitter/child scenario. Further, this was one incident whereas the Forrest example occurred over a period of time, included deception and other aggravating features.

      • Lyndon Harris writes: “the abuse of trust element is far more serious in a formal teacher/student relationship than in an informal babysitter/child scenario.”

        Really? Does the court think that it is far more of an abuse of trust for a teacher to fall in love with a 15 year old pupil and have an affair with her, than for someone whom you invite into your own home in order that your 11 year old child may be safe, to then have sex with him? If the court thinks that then the court is an ass.

        They are both abuses of trust, but surely sexual intercourse with an 11-year-old by a babysitter is a far more serious abuse of trust. I really hope that the Court of Appeal makes this clear by giving Jade Hatt the longest possible custodial sentence.

        • You say that “surely” the abuse of trust in the instant case is far more serious than in the teacher/pupil example, but offer no justification. My justification, as seen in the previous comment, is that a key difference is the formal nature of the relationship. Teachers are not permitted to have sex with their students; there is a specific criminal offence of such. The baby sitter scenario is prohibited only by the general law about sexual activity. There is an abuse of trust element but in my view it is clearly not on the same level.

      • “notwithstanding that evidence, the judge had clearly considered low or no harm was present”

        Notwithstanding that evidence? Seriously? Notwithstanding the actual words of the 11 year old boy about the incident of which he was a victim? So it’s fine to discount his feelings on the matter and instead believe a father who calls his son “sex mad” and says he’s “unaffected”? I don’t even know where to start with that train of thought.

        I’m also baffled at how you – or the judge – could possibly come to the conclusion that “low or no harm” was done to this boy. Do you really think he’s unaffected by this? Truly?

        An 11 year old, under law, is not capable of ANY form of consent to a sexual relationship with an adult, even an immature adult. There have been 15 year olds convicted of child rape for sex with 11 year olds, and rightly so. There is a reason why the law makes a distinction at age 13. Children below that age do not usually voluntarily engage in sex (unless they’ve been previously abused), nor is it healthy for them to do so.

        The only thing we can agree on is that the Jeremy Forrest example is indeed very different. Teenagers are considered capable of consent, albeit their consent is not legally valid until the age of 16. Teenagers do voluntarily engage in sex and there’s nothing unhealthy about them doing so (no more so than for the rest of us, anyway!). In the Forrest case it is reasonable to conclude that low or no harm was done to the girl. It is not in any way reasonable to conclude that no harm was done to an 11 year old boy who was stripped and mounted by his babysitter and told her he didn’t enjoy it because it was wrong.

        Forrest could possibly have merited a suspended sentence but there is no way Jade Hatt does, unless there is something about her mental condition beyond simple “immaturity” that hasn’t been reported. Even then, her SOPO should be longer.

  11. I am pleased that the Attorney General has decided to review this sentence, and am confident that he will refer the case to the Court of Appeal, and that they will impose a significant custodial sentence.

    Am I the only one to be puzzled that the babysitter is supposed to have believed that the boy was 15? If he were 15 why would he need a babysitter?

  12. I said “This is going to be a cliff-hanger: she will go into the dock in great doubt about how she will be leaving the court building” – which was wrong when I said it because she had been sentenced – but may become correct if there is a reference. Of course she won’t have to be there but if it goes against her she will be ordered to surrender to a named police station the same day.

    Patrick makes a good point about a 15 year odl not needing a babysitter.

    • I am somewhat surprised to find a father endorsing the fact that he has a “sex mad” 11 year old and no-one appears to raise an eyebrow about who sexualised this child and so young?

  13. The Sentencing Council Guidelines for the offence of Sexual Activity with a child under 13 show that this offence is Category 2, with the extra culpability of abuse of trust. The starting point is a sentence of 4 years custody, with a category range of 3 to 7 years.

    • And it is such a mechanistic approach to applying sentencing guidelines that destroys their utility. They cater – very well – for the middle of the road cases, but not so well for cases on the periphery. Is it in the interests of justice to send an immature 21 year old woman to prison? I think not. And neither did the judge. The Attorney General will no doubt suggest it is, but I would hope a sensible Court of Appeal would see the merit in not sending another young person to custody because of an error of judgement. Clearly this conduct is not acceptable and she needs to understand that fact, and why that is so, but there are far better (and cheaper!) ways of achieving that end. If this makes it to the Court of Appeal, we shall no doubt see more detail in support of a short suspended sentence.

  14. This is not peripheral and it is not an error of judgment. She used an eleven-year-old’s body for her own sexual gratification. I hope there is a reference and that she goes down though it need not be for very long; I would go below the three years, perhaps down to two. Why? partly because of her immaturity and partly because as L-E-S says: assuming she was not suffering from an STD the physical harm is less than it would be the other way round.

  15. All this talk of ‘harm to the boy’ is bunkum, as the whole thing is relative and depends on when the child becomes ‘sexually active’. I agree 11 is a tad too young, but IMHO it is not a serious crime.
    ……
    In Europe, countries who have the age of consent set at 16 include Cyprus, Finland, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland.
    For Austria, Germany, Portugal and Italy it is 14, and in France, the Czech Republic, Denmark, and Greece it is 15.
    Spain did have one of the lowest ages of consent on the continent at just 13, but recently agreed to raise this to 16.
    Throughout the rest of the world, there are big variations.
    In Bahrain, it is set at 21 for women who want to marry without their father’s consent, while in nearby Saudi Arabia, all sex outside of marriage is illegal but there are no laws limiting the age at which you can get married.
    In China, the age of consent is 14, in Iraq it is 18, while in Japan it is five years lower at 13.
    The likes of Brazil, Peru, Paraguay, Ecuador and Colombia all have it set at 14.
    And in some countries – such as Chile – the minimum age of consent is 14, but there are legal restrictions on sexual activities up to the age of 18, and homosexual sex is illegal before that age.
    Australia’s age of consent varies between 16 and 17 depending on which territory you are in, and the same goes for America where it ranges from 16 to 18 between different states.

    In Angola, the age of consent is just 12.

  16. This is one of them awkward and fairly rare cases of a serious sexual offence, but where the offender is a female. I can understand a judges feeling and slightly more “deep thinking” in a case like this. I think there are so many different feeling and options in cases like these, that there will always be upset and anger at a lenient or severe sentence.

    My personal options on the mitigation and aggravating factors,

    My view on her “mitigating” factors would be… 1) The offence accrued she was an “immature” 20 year old, which is still under 21, and only literally a few years older from being 17, 18…
    2) At 20 she was also still a “young offender”, and not an “adult offender” until 21…
    3) It appears she has no criminal record…
    4) She does not have making or stance to a “repeat” offender, and after being arrested, charged and then appearing in court, it would hopefully of woken her up to the seriousness of the case and offence, and deterred her thinking away from engaging in sexual activity with persons under 16…

    My view on her “aggravating” factors would be… 1) The victim was not only under 16, but also under 13…
    2) Although she was under 21, she was over 18 at the time…
    3) By the offender previously having a sexual relationship with the victims father, it makes me think that the offender may of used the previous relationship with the father, to get to the victim.

    Can’t decide if this should be mitigating or aggravating,

    1) The victim was 11, the father told the offender that the victim was 11, the victim told the offender he was 15, the victim’s father stated that “He (the victim) looks older than his years”…

    My sentencing option would be, 18 months custody in total,

    but reduced to 15 months for the mitigating factors,

    but not reduced to 12 months due to the aggravating factors,

    suspended for 2 years,

    banned form having any unsupervised contact with any male under 16 for 5 years,

    banned from having any contact (not even supervised) with the victim until he reaches 16,

    and made to attend a sexual offender treatment program for women (SOTP).

    My feelings on the actual sentence,

    I think for an offence of which the sentencing guidelines carry a 5 year starting point, with a range of 4-10 years, the 6 months imposed the judge is not be enough. Especially if the offender would be released after serving 3-4 months of the sentence. Hence why I would of still suspend it, but increased the custody from 6 months, 15 months after all factors considered.

  17. This is one of them awkward and fairly rare cases of a serious sexual offence, but where the offender is a female. I can understand a judges feeling and slightly more “deep thinking” in a case like this. I think there are so many different feeling and options in cases like these, that there will always be upset and anger at a lenient or severe sentence.

    My personal options on the mitigation and aggravating factors,

    My view on her “mitigating” factors would be… 1) The offence accrued she was an “immature” 20 year old, which is still under 21, and only literally a few years older from being 17, 18…
    2) At 20 she was also still a “young offender”, and not an “adult offender” until 21…
    3) It appears she has no criminal record…
    4) She does not have making or stance to a “repeat” offender, and after being arrested, charged and then appearing in court, it would hopefully of woken her up to the seriousness of the case and offence, and deterred her thinking away from engaging in sexual activity with persons under 16…

    My view on her “aggravating” factors would be… 1) The victim was not only under 16, but also under 13…
    2) Although she was under 21, she was over 18 at the time…
    3) By the offender previously having a sexual relationship with the victims father, it makes me think that the offender may of used the previous relationship with the father, to get to the victim.

    Can’t decide if this should be mitigating or aggravating,

    1) The victim was 11, the father told the offender that the victim was 11, the victim told the offender he was 15, the victim’s father stated that “He (the victim) looks older than his years”…

    My sentencing option would be, 18 months custody in total,

    but reduced to 15 months for the mitigating factors,

    but not reduced to 12 months due to the aggravating factors,

    suspended for 2 years,

    banned form having any unsupervised contact with any male under 16 for 5 years,

    banned from having any contact (not even supervised) with the victim until he reaches 16,

    and made to attend a sexual offender treatment program for women (SOTP).

    My feelings on the actual sentence,

    I think for an offence of which the sentencing guidelines carry a 5 year starting point, with a range of 4-10 years, the 6 months imposed the judge is not be enough. Especially if the offender would be released after serving 3-4 months of the sentence. Hence why I would of still suspended it, but increased the custody from 6 months, 15 months after all factors considered.

  18. Nobody seems to have listened to the child in this case. The boy did not like what happened and thought it was wrong. The boys father appears to have been afforded unreasonable manipulative power of influence over the the judge’s mind. The boy’s father was having sex with a woman he believed to be immature (which suggests the father’s predatory nature) and regardless of what the child has said the court preferred the fathers view that the boy must have loved it. One wonders how this case ever came to court if it was all happy days for those involved?

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