The Witchfinder was horrified to read of an adult babysitter, Jade Hatt, escaping with only a 6 month suspended sentence after having sex with an 11-year old boy. Your inquisitor sets out the law and explains how readers can help have this disturbingly lenient sentenced challenged.
Accordingly to the Daily Mail (archive here) and Western Daily Press (archive here), the woman, who was 20 at the time, straddled an 11-year old boy and had sexual intercourse with him. However, the judge gave only a 6 month suspended sentence. The decision was condemned by the NSPCC (archive here), which it said,
“sends out the wrong message and confirms a common view in society that the abuse of a young boy by a woman is somehow less serious than the abuse of a girl by a man”
In the UK, a female cannot commit rape as the offence requires a penis (s1(1)(a) Sexual Offences Act 2003). It is possible for a female to be convicted of rape if they help a male commit the crime, although that is not relevant in this case.
Charging offences will therefore likely either be Sexual assault of a child under 13 (s7 Sexual Offences Act 2003) or Sexual activity with a child (s9 Sexual Offences Act 2003). The maximum penalty for either offence in a Crown Court (on indictment) is 14 years in prison.
The United Kingdom has a set of guidelines similar to a US style sentencing grid, although somewhat more flexible. Guidelines are set by a body called the Sentencing Council. Under section 125(1)(a) Coroners and Justice Act 2009 –
“Every court —
(a) must, in sentencing an offender, follow any sentencing guidelines which are relevant to the offender’s case […] unless the court is satisfied that it would be contrary to the interests of justice to do so.”
The sentencing guidelines for offences under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 are available online on the Sentencing Council website (direct .pdf link here). Guidelines for the s7 offence begin on page 38, and for the s9 offence on page 45.
For the s7 offence, the behaviour alleged would appear to fall into category 2, with the culpability factor of ‘abuse of trust’ (culpability A). For the s9 offence, category 1 again with culpability A. This would translate into a starting point for sentencing of 4 years (s7) or 5 years (s9). The lower bound of the range for sentencing would be 3 or 4 years custody respectively. The sex of the perpetrator and victim are not factors in the guidelines or the stature.
The sentence in this case appears to be outside the bounds. The reason given by the judge, Tim Mousley QC for the extreme deviation from the mandatory guidelines were that the 11 year old was mature for his age, and the 20 year old immature. Whilst immaturity could be a mitigating factor, this would normally result in a lower sentence but within the sentencing range. The judge also took into account a statement by the boy’s father, although it is said he previously had a sexual relationship with the perpetrator.
In short, the sentence is a disgrace.
What can readers do? UK law provides prosecutors with the ability to appeal against a sentence. S36 Criminal Justice Act 1988 provides that the Attorney General can refer a sentence to the Court of Appeal if they consider it “unduly lenient”.
Given the apparent deviation from the guidelines, readers can write to the Attorney General, either by email or letter, to ask them to exercise their power. The current Attorney General is Jeremy Wright QC MP.
Their office address is –
Jeremy Wright QC MP
20 Victoria Street
Their email is –
Suggested text –
Dear Mr Wright,
I am a member of the public writing to express concern because of newspaper reports I have seen that a woman called Jade Hatt, who was convicted of sexual offences for having sexual intercourse with an 11-year-old boy, was given an unduly lenient 6 month suspended sentence.
This would appear to fall outside the ranges set out in the Sentencing Council definitive guideline for relevant offences under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The reason advanced by the judge, of the perpetrator’s immaturity, might be a mitigating factor but that should ordinarily yield a sentence within the range.
I therefore ask that you exercise your powers under s36 Criminal Justice Act 1988 to refer the case to the Court of Appeal for a review of the sentence.