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Court of Appeal clarify how to set the minimum term for discretionary life sentences for violent and sexual offences

News | Fri 21st May, 2021

Tom Little QC appeared in the Court of Appeal on behalf of the Attorney General in a Reference on the correct approach to the calculation of the length of the minimum term imposed on an offender who over a period of 4 ½ years engaged in a campaign of serious sexual abuse and humiliation of 23 child victims, whose ages ranged from 4 months to 13 years. The offender put himself in a position to commit these offences by exploiting positions of trust he obtained in the homes of seven unsuspecting families, as an au pair, nanny or babysitter. He obtained this employment by forging references, setting up false email accounts or taking other measures to ensure that any requests for references received thoroughly reassuring responses. He then used that employment to secure childcare or baby-sitting work with the friends of his employers. The Court of Appeal accepted Tom Little QC’s submissions that the effect of the Release of Prisoners (Alteration of Relevant Proportion of Sentence) Order 2020 meant that the minimum term for sentences imposed since April 2020 for certain violent or sexual offences should be two thirds of the notional determinate sentence as opposed to the previous practice of half of that sentence. The judgment handed down today provides clarity on an issue that had led to inconsistent approaches being taken by Judges in the Crown Court. A copy of the judgment can be found here.

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