Rape Crisis appalled by treatment of 13-year-old sexual violence survivor

6 Aug 2013

Rape Crisis (England and Wales) is appalled and bitterly disappointed by reports of the shocking and entirely unacceptable treatment of a 13-year-old sexual violence survivor in court. 

Despite pleading guilty to two counts of making extreme pornographic images and one count of sexual activity with a child, the perpetrator was spared prison and instead handed down an 8-month suspended sentence in a gesture that fails to reflect the seriousness and long-term impact of sexual violence.

Even more disturbingly, the 13-year-old victim was described as ‘predatory’ and accused of ‘egging [her abuser] on’ by the sentencing judge, despite his acknowledgement that these ‘facts’ are ‘no defence when dealing with children.’ 

Rape Crisis (England and Wales) utterly refutes the strong implication of the judge’s comments that a child’s behaviour can somehow mitigate that of an adult who perpetrates sexual violence against her. This is not only a gross misinterpretation of the law but also a sad and clear signal that we still have some way to go before rape and other sexual violence survivors can confidently expect both social and criminal justice in this country.  It reflects a lack of empathy for victims and a worryingly complacent attitude towards the existence of sexual violence against children in our society. 

Perhaps the most alarming aspect of this case, however, are similar words attributed to the Prosecutor.  Of the victim, whose rights and interests it was this legal professional’s job to uphold, he reportedly said: “The girl is predatory in all her actions and she is sexually experienced.  There was sexual activity but it was not of Mr Wilson's doing, you might say it was forced upon him despite being older and stronger than her.”

This Prosecutor’s conduct completely undermines all the positive work the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has done in recent months to improve the handling of sexual offences and the experience of victims going through the criminal justice system.  It contravenes the new CPS guidelines on prosecuting child sexual abuse and it flies in the face of the declared CPS commitment to place victims and witnesses ‘at the heart of everything [they] do.’

Rape Crisis (England and Wales) welcomes the Attorney General’s announcement of a review into the sentencing in this case.  We sincerely hope that urgent action will be taken to investigate the behaviour of the Prosecutor as well.