Sexual Offences – Can the government afford its sentencing proposals?

The government is legislating to ensure that anyone sentenced for the offence of rape, and certain other serious sexual offences, no longer receives a determinate custodial sentence.

Where neither a life sentence nor an extended sentence (‘EDS’) is served, the sentence will fall into the Sentence for Offenders of Particular Concern regime (‘SOPC’).

A SOPC is made up of an appropriate prison term and an extended licence period of one year and is currently applicable to specified terrorist offences and the two most serious child sex offences.

The government is also planning to alter the release provisions for offenders who receive an EDS or SOPC so that they will serve the entirety of the appropriate custodial term in custody, with no referral to the Parole Board at the two-thirds point of the term.

Which offences will this apply to?

The changes will apply to the following offences in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (and abolished legislation such as the Sexual Offences Act 1956):

  1. Section 1 (rape)
  2. Section 2 (assault by penetration)
  3. Section 4 (causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent) in circumstances involving penetration.
  4. Section 8 (causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity) involving penetration.
  5. Section 30 (sexual activity with a person with a mental disorder impeding choice) in cases involving penetration.
  6. Section 31 (causing or inciting a person with a mental disorder impeding choice, to engage in sexual activity) in cases involving penetration.
  7. Section 34 (inducement, threat or deception to procure sexual activity with a person with a mental disorder) in cases involving penetration.
  8. Section 35 (causing a person with a mental disorder to engage in or agree to engage in sexual activity by inducement, threat or deception) in cases involving penetration.
  9. Section 47, (paying for sexual services of a child) in cases involving penetration where the offence is committed against a person under 13)
  10. Section 62 (committing an offence with intent to commit a sexual offence) where the offence is committed by kidnapping / false imprisonment.

Inchoate offences, such as attempts, will also be included.

Will these changes also apply to young offenders?

These amendments to EDS and SOPC sentences will apply to offenders under the age of 18.

What is the likely cost of the proposals?

The key cost associated with this policy is the increase in overall prison population. In the Best Estimate scenario, there will be an additional 1500 prison places required by March 2034 and a further 2,850 required by March 2048, with an additional running cost to the prison service of £123.7m per year. Extra prison capacity will need to accommodate the increased prison population. The construction costs would cost the cost the prison service a minimum of around £1,153m over the next 40 years.

The total net present cost over this period is estimated to be over £3 billion.

Given the other demands on the justice system at present, it is difficult to know whether these proposals will be brought into force.

How can we help?

We have over 30 years’ experience of representing individuals facing investigations or charges for serious criminal offences. We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to give the best possible advice. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact Tarsem Salhan on 0121 6056000 or