Sentencing Council consults the public:that means YOU!

Sensational as the vertiginous plunge of Sir Jimmy Savile’s reputation has been in Britain, sinking from national treasure knighted by the Queen and the Pope to reviled pervert, the Oktoberfest of news about him turns out to have been merely the hors d’oeuvre ahead of a Christmas feast of celebrity arrests for the tabloids to gorge on.
There was little surprise when “usual suspect” glam rocker Garry Glitter had his collar felt yet again (not so glam these days, sadly), but comedian Freddie Starr, DJ Dave Lee Travis and TV presenter Stuart Hall were quite another matter. And now, most stunningly of all, bearing in mind his aura of sober respectability, Max Clifford, PR to the stars, has found himself in clink. This master of spin will need all his skill to spin himself out of trouble.
This stuff could fill the Heretic TOC blog for page after page, just as it is doing in the British press, but there is good reason to focus on just one, rather different, element of the current obsession with sex offences in Britain. It is an element that we are told, not very convincingly, has nothing whatever to do with the spate of allegations against celebrities. I refer to yesterday’s announcement from the Sentencing Council that under new draft guidelines sentences for rapists and other sex offenders in England and Wales “could become tougher”, in the words of a BBC online report, “to recognise the long-term psychological harm they cause”.
On BBC radio’s flagship Today programme, Lord Justice Treacy, a member of the Sentencing Council, said the guidelines had not been affected by the Savile case, which is still under investigation. While this could be true, the final draft of the guidelines will inevitably be deeply affected by the current public mood, strongly influenced as it is, day after day, by a steady stream of horror stories, real or imagined, now surfacing in relation to “historic” offences dating back many decades.
One aspect of all this that was downplayed by the BBC and the press, is that these guidelines have been published as the basis for a formal public consultation period that will last from now until 14 March next year. So, evidence-based submissions will be received and, in theory at least, taken into account.
Accordingly, Heretic TOC readers who feel they have something to say now have a chance to do so. You will need to visit the website of the Sentencing Council for instructions; the exercise will require reading the 370-page consultation document and then commenting on the draft proposals. It will not be a quick or easy task, but could be a worthwhile one if you have something substantial to say, especially if you can back it up credibly, from legal, academic, etc. sources, including perhaps documented cases in which you have been personally involved.
I propose to make my own submission, which will readily concede that psychological harm is important but will question its inevitability or likelihood in non-coercive cases.
This will not be my first such endeavour. Ten years ago I made a submission on sentencing in child pornography cases. Was it worthwhile? Did it make a difference? The Sunday Express did its best to make a connection between “softer sentences” recommended by the then Sentencing Advisory Panel and my input. I have no idea whether there was any truth in the story. I doubt I can take much credit, if any. However, if we fail even to have a go at making a difference can we then absolve ourselves of all blame for the result?

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Jed Jones

@Jedson Is it possible you could fix the feedback forms on the pages of your site? I tried to ask you if you might consider submissions from new authors in the future, but I’m guessing your publishing house only exists to publish your own work?
Is anyone else potentially interested in creating an “alt lit” platform like Smashwords, Bookrix, etc to enable us to self-publish, given that the TOS of those two includes “No reference to underage sex” and “Nothing which might offend other members”? (This is the ‘bigot’s charter’ system operated by Yahoo and Facebook: one complaint and you’re out, however unfounded or malicious the complaint.)
On the topic of collective enterprises, and to bring this post back on-topic, isn’t it time someone created a criminal defence insurance scheme, following the destruction of legal aid in the UK? We should be able to muster expert witnesses to counter the State’s expert witnesses in court, from among the people who read and contribute this blog, if the scheme at least pays their expenses?
It’s easy for me to sit here and type that someone else should do it, so who else is up for creating a forum or two to discuss and progress the above? And where should they be hosted?

Jed Jones

Beg your pardon, Tom, I had tried in vain to contact Jedson by other means (his profile here has no contacts) and didn’t know about the other pages. Thanks for offering them, if you think they can work as forum formats for mobilising the great minds and talents we have here.
My query was about Jedson’s publishing company but Dangerous Books is worth watching, if it expands into other nonfiction and fiction and goes further to live up to its name. In the meantime, we could make use of a ‘sandbox’ to knock our works into shape:)


Tom, I like your use of the term ‘non-coercive’ rather than ‘consensual’ (which obviously means much the same thing) in order to avoid the usual ‘children incapable of consent’ nonsense, but how do the ‘muggles’ react to it?
With regard to the public consultation, I’m not sure how one should comment on sentencing for acts many of which shouldn’t be criminal at all: and is this a genuine consultation in any case, or has it all been decided in advance as is usual with ‘consultations’? Or will only the views of the usual ‘child protection’ organisations be considered?


Hi —
I don’t have time to do all this myself right now, but will do what I can to channel info and thoughts to you that might be helpful. Probably you have most of the studies that I have run into that might be relevant to your concerns here. I agree completely that the need to distinguish between coorcive and non-coercive acts with re: the harm should be the key point to zero in on. Check these studies on my site: . Also check the articles section where you will find one by you, and a good one on the issue of consent.
I have more thoughts left over on what can and cannot be discerned by science, but will leave that until a later date.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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