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Sentencing for sexual communication with a child

What is the sentence for sexual communication with a child in 2020?

Sentencing for sexual communication with a child can be harsh. This is considered a sexual offence and is therefore taken seriously by the courts.

child grooming

This offence could be defined as the act of building an emotional connection with a child to abuse them sexually, exploit them sexually or traffick them. A male or a female can commit the offence and it can be done online or face to face. Sexual communication with a child is typically planned in advance and takes place over an extended period of time with the ultimate goal being to meet the child to commit a sexual offence.

Sexual communication with a child offences have attracted substantial negative press coverage. Those accused, though innocent by law, are humiliated beyond repair in national newspapers. The impact of such allegations is catastrophic, requiring exceptional damage limitation planning.

Those being investigated and prosecuted will fear the wrath of the media and always be concerned about their safety and the safety of their loved ones. While the Rule of Law and the Human Rights Act follow the principle of everyone being ‘innocent until proven guilty’, those accused of Child Grooming Offences will inevitably feel they are being assumed to be guilty until they prove their innocence.

To help you to understand what the outcome might be as a result of being convicted of sexual communication with a child, we’ve detailed the sentencing guidelines below.  Please note that a competent and experienced solicitor may be able to get any prison sentence reduced or even avoid it entirely.

Read more information about the offence of Sexual communication with a child

Have you been charged or arrested for sexual communication with a child?

If you or somebody close to you has been charged or arrested in connection to a sexual communication with a child case, you will be feeling very confused, worried, stressed and concerned about what’s going to happen.

For the prosecution to prove that sexual communication with a child has occurred, they must prove your guilt.

There may be a chance that the outcome of the trial means you will be convicted. This means you are likely to be imprisoned and placed on the sex offenders register.  Being on this register means that you need to notify the police of specific details, either for a time or for life.

Being on the register or being imprisoned could affect the wellbeing of your family. If you can’t make an income, they may find it challenging to access the required finances to pay the rent or mortgage, pay bills and buy the food they need.

What type of actions are considered sexual communication with a child?

The actions that take place to create an offence of sexual communication may include:

Sexual communication on a device – this is when a mobile phone, tablet or email is used to communicate with a child sexually. It involves using an SMS text message or chatting with a child in a chat room.

Handwriting – this offence does not have to take place digitally using any of the above methods but can include writing by hand to the child in a sexual nature.

Any other sexual activity – If you are being investigated for any of these offences, it’s critical that you take professional legal advice as quickly as possible.

The actions that take place to create an offence of sexual communication may include:

Spending time in chatrooms to find children for child grooming – for example, using an alter ego or anonymity to make contact with children. This may also happen on a social media platform.

Being caught in the act by an undercover police officer – for instance, the undercover police officer will pretend to be a child and contact may include sexual exchanges or even details about the arrangement of a meeting.

If you are being investigated for any of these offences, it’s critical that you take professional legal advice as quickly as possible.

What is the average sentence for sexual communication with a child? 

Depending on what you are charged with, you may receive anything between a community service order and the maximum of 2 years imprisonment.

How does a court decide on the seriousness of the sexual communication with a child offence for sentencing purposes?

The information that judges are given with regards to sentencing are only guidelines, and each case will be looked at individually. One of the factors judges consider in every case of this nature is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse.

The following factors are considered when the court decides which sentence to give. They will look at:

  • Your previous conviction
  • The age and level of vulnerability of the depicted child
  • Whether the child has suffered any discernible pain or distress
  • The period over which the images were possessed
  • How many images were possessed?
  • Where the images were placed and whether there is the potential for a high volume of viewers
  • Whether the image collection included any moving images
  • Were there attempts made by the suspect to dispose or conceal the images?
  • Was trust abused?
  • Is the child known to the offender?
  • Is the suspect actively involved in a network or process that pays for the creation or sharing of indecent images?
  • Is there commercial motivation behind the exploitation?
  • Has there been deliberate or systematic searching for images of young children, familial abuse or category A images?
  • Is there a large number of children involved?
  • Was the child in an image drugged or intoxicated?

What are some of the mitigating factors that might reduce the sexual communication with a child sentence?

Certain aspects of a case are known as the mitigating aspects which can influence the sentence that a judge gives. In sexual communication with a child case, they may include:

  • Whether the defendant is disabled or mentally ill
  • The age of the defendant, i.e. if they are particularly young their age may affect their level of responsibility
  • If there are previous, relevant or recent convictions
  • Suspect shows a considerable level of genuine remorse
  • A previous good character with exemplary conduct
  • If there is a learning disability or mental disorder linked to this offence
  • There have been demonstrative steps made to address this behaviour

Is it possible to reduce a sentence for the sexual communication with a child offence with a guilty plea?

In recent years, a number of changes have been made to the sentencing system in the UK to save the court time and cost and to protect witnesses from the stress of needlessly going through a trial. For offenders aged 18 and over, pleading guilty early on in a case can reduce a sentence by as much as one third (maximum). The later the plea is entered, the smaller the reduction.

‘Early on’ refers to ‘the first stage of the proceedings’ and means anytime up to and including the first hearing at the Magistrates Court or Crown Court for indictable offences.

If a plea is entered 14 days after the first hearing, for example, the maximum level of reduction is just 20% or one-fifth of the sentence. For indictable offences, the limit for a guilty plea to be made is within 28 days after the prosecutor has stated compliance with section 3 of CPIA 1996 and serving disclosure; although the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Judge who has the discretion to apply whatever credit is deemed appropriate.

After these times there is a sliding scale of credit applied. This goes down to one-tenth on the first day of the trial and to zero if entered during the course of the trial. In theory, the ten per cent could be given if the plea is issued after the opening speeches on the first day, but prior to any witness evidence being heard.

If the accused does not want to plead guilty, then it’s essential for the solicitor to regularly inform the court throughout the trial of the reasons why the client’s plea is not guilty.

 What are some of the other consequences of the sexual communication with a child offence?

Ancillary Orders

A court can also make ancillary orders on a defendant if they are found guilty and convicted of an offence. These are extra elements that can be added to a sentence and include additional restrictions or requirements that affect a dependent’s finances, property or activity.

The range of ancillary orders for sexual communication with a child convictions include the following:

Public Interest and Out of Court Disposals

Usually, a prosecution will take place unless there are public interest factors that outweigh those in favour.

In such cases, the police may administer a caution in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service. Each case is decided upon on its individual facts and circumstances.

In some cases, a conditional caution may be given, although it’s less likely. The starting point on sentencing guidelines is a high-level community order, whereas the starting point on a conditional caution is at a medium level or below.

The role of the prosecutors is to consider whether it’s in the public interest to prosecute or use an out of court disposal when those involved are youth offenders. This situation is likely when a child shares images of themselves, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case.

Engaging a sexual offences solicitor who has deep experience and knowledge of this area of the law, means you will have access to information on the typical sentencing for the offence with which you may have been charged.

In addition, the court may demand payment of the following if the accused is convicted:

Payment of costs applied for by the prosecutors

Although the police meet some of the costs involved in the prosecution, the costs of investigation are typically sought from the convicted. These may include the costs of:

  • The work done in obtaining sufficient evidence for prosecution either at the initial stage or later at the request of Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
  • Seeking medical or expert evidence as part of the investigation, (where a witness is required to attend Court, the cost of the attendance falls on the CPS).
  • Re-interviewing witnesses
  • The entire costs of the prosecutor, including fees for the use of external Barristers used by the CPS, can be recovered from the defendant, subject to means. At the end of the case, the prosecutor under The Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 will request the Judge to order a sum to be paid for the costs incurred by the prosecutor in bringing the prosecution.

Victims surcharges

The term victims’ surcharges can be explained as paying compensation to a fund for victims and can range between £20 to £170 depending on what sentence you were given at conviction.

How sentences can be added to national information databases

There are several national databases that hold information about individuals and any allegations made about them, their criminal and court records. These include the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) which was previously known as the CRB (Criminal Record Bureau) and the Police National Computer (PNC).  Depending on what happened, whether the accused is convicted and what sentence was issued, the accused may be added to one or all these databases. Their purpose is to provide information to potential employers and to regulate the ability to take part in certain activities.

If your case progresses to court and you are convicted of sexual communication with a child, your conviction will be noted on your CRB / police record. The period of the endorsement will depend on the nature and length of your sentence.

Below are details on how long you will be listed as holding a criminal record if convicted. This is something very serious to consider when it comes to future employment. The term ‘spent’ refers to when your name can be removed from the databases.

Rehabilitation Period
(the time it takes for the sentence to become ‘spent’)
Sentence Adult (aged 18+) at time of conviction Young person (aged under 18) at time of conviction
Prison sentences of more than 4 years Sentence is never spent Sentence is never spent
Prison sentences of more than 2.5 years (30 months) but less than 4 years Sentence length 7 years Sentence length 3.5 years
Prison sentences of more than 6 months but less than 2.5 years (30 months) Sentence length +4 years Sentence length +2 years
Prison sentences of less than 6 months Sentence length + 2 years Sentence length +18 months
Conditional Discharge Length of order Length of order
Absolute Discharge None None
Conditional Caution 3 months 3 months
Simple Caution / Youth Caution None – immediately ‘spent’ None – immediately ‘spent’
Other Including Compensation Order, Supervision Order, Bind Over, Hospital Order Length of the order / once compensation is paid Length of the order / once compensation is paid

In cases of this nature, sentencing can be influenced by the lawyer. The court can be convinced by using arguments such as there will be damage to business, loss of job or loss of revenue to employer for the absence of the employee. If there is a spouse disability or dependency, then the lawyer should put this forward to influence the outcome more positively. It’s important to stress the fact that the accused can be rehabilitated and attend a sex offender treatment programme as an alternative to a short or a moderate-term custodial sentence.

Below are notification periods for the convicted to be included in the Violent and Sex Offender Register (ViSOR).

How Can Stuart Miller Solicitors Help?

Specialist prosecution teams with endless resources take on sexual communication with a child cases. Every detail will have been thoroughly analysed and preserved so it can be used as evidence against you. It is therefore of greater importance to be defended by those who not only possess the expertise and the knowledge but also have the tenacity to protect you.

Our sexual offence solicitors have successfully defended high-profile sexual communication with a child cases.  We understand the defences available to you and can work with you and your circumstances to extract and present the information needed for success. We methodically analyse the prosecution case, contest the admissibility of illegally obtained evidence, draw out crucial evidence which the prosecutors may not have disclosed, and we challenge the credibility of those witnesses you tell us are lying.

We work with renowned and award-winning Barristers who stand with us side by side throughout your case. We have excellent relationships with forensic experts and digital communication analysts who can be called upon to give evidence in your favour.

If you are being accused of sexual communication with a child offences then it is of utmost importance that you contact us immediately. The faster you get your legal team engaged, the better your chances of success. Our team are here to listen to your side of the case, to talk you through the process, and to put together a defence that will be in your best interests.

At Stuart Miller Solicitors, we are incredibly proud of the long-established reputation we have in the child grooming and sexual offence fields. We provide highly trusted legal advice but also ensure that every member of our legal team is approachable and open-minded.

Would you like to discuss your case before instructing us?

If you’d like to have a no-obligation chat with us before you instruct us to take your case, then call us today.

In addition to giving you a free consultation, we can also represent you at the police station if you’ve been arrested. We can look at securing your legal aid.

Please Contact Us and ask to speak to our sexual communication with a child lawyers and sexual offences solicitors to arrange a meeting in person, online or by telephone. If you prefer, you can WhatsApp us from the link you will find at the bottom banner if you open this page on your mobile phone device.

Get in touch with us now for sexual communication with a child legal help.

 

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