John Halewood-Dodd column: Sex cases provoke strong reaction from public

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Recently the press and internet alike have been alive with chattering criticism of the comments made by both prosecution counsel and the judge presiding over an adult sex offender’s sentencing.

The consensus seems to be that the actions of the female victim in this case should not be described as ‘predatory’ in open court by virtue of her age alone.

By their nature, court proceedings for sex offences elicit a strong reaction from the public.

Many people are quick to judge without knowing the facts, and forget the court’s job is to make sense of what has happened and thereafter sentence in a way that strives to achieve parity.

A difficult job when the circumstances of each case vary ad infinitum.

In this case it is telling that both the prosecution and the judge described the victim’s actions as predatory, and not the defence, whose job it is to use relevant proven facts to mitigate on their client’s behalf.

This leads us onto a more pressing point.

Why is it that someone under the age of 16 cannot legally consent to sexual activity, but a child of 10 can be convicted of a sex offence?

Our criminal justice system puts children as young as 13 on the sex offenders’ register whilst serving a public who apparently find the idea of describing a 13-year-old as predatory abhorrent.

If a child cannot give informed consent to a sexual act, how can they form criminal intent to commit an offence?

Perhaps justice would be better served if we were to take the example set by our Italian and German counterparts and 
remove the disparity between the age of consent and the age of criminal responsibility.