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What is the average sentence for Rape in England & Wales?

falsely accused of rape

Rape is one of the most serious criminal offences in existence and a successful conviction carries a hefty sentence. If you or someone you care about has been charged with rape, one of the many questions you may be thinking about is what kind of sentence you might receive and the impact it would have on your life. If this is you, know this is normal. This article looks at the average sentence for rape in England and assesses the likelihood you will receive a life sentence. The article also covers some of the factors courts will consider when deciding on your sentence should you be found guilty.

Use our rape Sentence Finder App

What does this app do?

This app will show you the actual sentences received by those found guilty for this offence. You will not be asked to supply any personal information.

The data used in the app has been supplied by the Ministry of Justice for adult sentencing outcomes in England & Wales between 2004-2017.

How do I use this app?

Select a rape offence from the list below. You can also (optionally) choose to select the age, sex, ethnicity of the offender and the court in which the case is being heard. The app will display the most frequent outcomes for cases that match the criteria you have selected.

When selecting items from the list click/tap once to select it and then click/tap again to activate your selection.


An indeterminate sentence is one that does not specify a fixed length of time in which the offender will remain in custody. Sentence durations are not provided for indeterminate sentence

What is rape?

Rape is the intentional penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth with a penis of a person without their consent, where the alleged perpetrator does not reasonably believe the victim consented. Penetration by other means would be classed as another sexual offence and deserve a slightly different sentence.

The person consenting to sex or penetration must be able to consent. In other words, people with learning or mental disorders may not be able to consent, and children under 16 are deemed unable to consent, to any sexual activity with an adult. In these cases, sex with such a person will be considered rape (or what is often known as ‘statutory rape’).

What are the possible sentences for rape? 

As mentioned, rape is a very serious offence. As such, options for community service or fines are not possible. Imprisonment is the only possible sentence that may be given for a conviction of rape. Life imprisonment is the maximum sentence that may be given.

Typically, sentences for rape range from 4 to 15 years in prison. An important point to note is that this is the charge for one guilty count of rape. In the case of several counts of rape, each will be considered separately and attract their own sentence of 4 to 15 years in prison each.  There is a lot to consider between these points, however. It is natural to think that in the least serious cases, 4 years will be given and in the most serious cases, 15 years will be given, but in reality there are many factors taken into account by judges in sentencing.

What is usually given is a more difficult question. This involves assessing statistics over the years, which don’t always reflect factors that increased or decreased the sentence (as the circumstances are very specific to the given case). That said, it is clear from government statistics that the average sentence for various different types of rape is around 59 months, which is about 5 years. Sentencing of rape has received a lot of attention in public discourse due to the fact that many think that 5 years on average is going too easy on convicted rapists, and harsher sentences should be given.


Type of Rape Offence Average Sentence (Months) Cases Tried
Rape of a female aged 16 or over 60.36 12,798
Rape of a female under 16 61.78 6,158
Rape of a female child under 13 by a male 59.41 2,039
Rape of a male aged 16 or over 52.91 362
Rape of a male aged under 16 56.55 478
Rape of a male child under 13 by a male 57.66 501


The data demonstrates that the younger the victim of the crime, the harsher the sentences are in general.

What are the factors that increase or decrease a sentence?

After the criminal trial, if and when a court has decided that a person is guilty on one or more counts of rape, they must then determine the sentence they are going to impose. To do this, they must do two things:

  1. Decide on the seriousness of the offence in question
  2. Consider mitigating and aggravating factors

Seriousness of the offence

The court will first ask whether any of the following are present, and how serious they are:

  • Severe psychological or physical harm due to the rape
  • Pregnancy or sexually transmitted illness as a consequence of the rape
  • Additional degradation/humiliation
  • Abduction involved
  • Prolonged detention or sustained incident
  • Violence or threats of violence (beyond that which is inherent in the offence of rape)
  • Forced or uninvited entry into the victim’s home
  • Victim is particularly vulnerable due to personal circumstances

If one or more are present in a very serious way, it is a category 1 offence. If it is not very serious, it is a category 2 offence. If none of the above factors are present, it is a category 3 offence.

Each category has a starting point and range of sentencing options, which can be found here.

The court then also considers the wrongdoing of the accused person, based on several components such as whether there was an abuse of trust, whether alcohol and drugs were used in committing the offence, whether the rape was recorded, and more. If so, the extra wrongdoing makes the starting point and range of sentencing higher.

Mitigating and aggravating factors

It may be obvious, but it bears repeating: mitigating factors decrease the potential sentence while aggravating factors increase the potential sentence.

Aggravating factors include whether there are previous convictions, specific targeting of a vulnerable victim, location and timing, use of weapons, compelling victim to leave their home, committing the offence in front of others (like children), attempting to get rid of the evidence, and committing the offence under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Mitigating factors include whether there are any previous convictions, whether the accused person shows remorse, whether there is previous good character, and age, lack of maturity, mental disorder or learning disability that affects the responsibility of the offender or linked with committing the offence.

Can I get a reduced sentence by admitting that I am guilty?

A criminal trial can be avoided by pleading guilty. Prosecutors have some discretion to make ‘deals’ with defendants. Oftentimes, a prosecutor will offer a deal to the accused person that if they plead guilty, they may get a reduced sentence. However, it is ultimately up to the court to decide on the sentence. When a court is faced with a person who has pled guilty, they are still dealing with someone guilty of rape. So, the court will look at all the circumstances of the case, including whether the person who pled guilty shows any remorse for their actions, are being genuine in their plea, and whether it is for any ulterior motives.

Will my name go on the Sex Offenders’ Register?

Quite apart from a sentence of imprisonment, a convicted rapist must register their name and information with the sex offenders register, which will affect their lives in a myriad of ways, beyond their prison sentence. Being registered on the register limits where one may live, when and how they may travel, and will seriously hinder job opportunities. It is important, therefore, to keep this in mind when thinking about sentences for rape.

What are some real-life examples?

Rape sentencing is very vague because there are no standard cases. Every case is different and will be given a different result. It is more often than not that the serious and disturbing cases that reach the news, while the ‘ordinary’ and less severe cases go unreported.

In 2019, three men broke into a home of two women who they then raped and robbed. Two of the men were subsequently found guilty of rape, one receiving 18 months’ imprisonment for rape and the other receiving 15 years’ imprisonment for rape. On one hand, this case is a prime example of where breaking and entry increases the starting point of the sentencing exercise. On the other hand, the vast difference between the two sentences can be hard to explain and reflects just how difficult it is to pin down what makes the courts tick when it comes to sentencing those guilty of rape.

In another case, a man was given a 20-year minimum sentence for the rape and murder of an elderly lady. This shows clearly how extra offences and extra wrongdoing affects sentencing. This also reflects how sentences can be stacked on top of each other when they are very serious. However, courts will often be clear on what sentence is being given for rape and which sentence is being given for murder. What courts will sometimes do, depending on the circumstances of the case, is give down sentences that run concurrently (meaning at the same time, so the longer sentence is the only sentence they serve) or subsequently, so they run one after the other. This is the case for more serious offences.

But despite all of this, in the wake of the Sarah Everard rape and killing, there has been a public push for harsher sentences for rape and murder. This is fuelled by emotion and a demand for justice. The courts often take considerations of the public into sentencing (whether they are allowed to or not) and so harsher penalties for rape can be expected by those who are found guilty of the crime.

Where can I get help?

Being accused of rape is serious business. Whether or not you believe you are guilty, it is advisable to seek legal assistance. To have a winning defence, you will need lawyers with years of experience and expertise in defending charges of rape both in and out of court. Contact us for a no-obligation consultation today.


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