THE BLOG

Predatory Paedophiles Like Hall Do Not Deserve Lenience

18/06/2013 08:22 BST | Updated 17/08/2013 10:12 BST

On Monday I wrote to the attorney general, Dominic Grieve, to ask him to consider whether or not the 15-month sentence handed down to Stuart Hall for multiple sexual assaults on young girls was unduly lenient. If he agrees with me that it is, he will refer it to the Court of Appeal who can then decide to increase the sentence. I believe it is his public duty to refer.

The question is can it be right for a man who abused girls as young as nine over twenty years to be sentenced to just 15 months? He would isolate the girls using ploys such as recording sessions and elocution lessons before assaulting them.

He was a predator who abused his power and status to exploit the vulnerable and naive. His initial brazen denials of the charges added insult to the injuries he has inflicted over the years.

The trial judge has pointed out that the law has changed since the offences were committed and that the maximum sentence for what was then called indecent assault was just two years.

However, for children under thirteen, even then the upper limit was five years. The law was changed in 1985 extending the maximum sentence to ten years. This was seen as a watershed moment in which the criminal justice system finally started taking sexual assault seriously.

However, by convention, laws are not retrospective and offenders are sentenced according to the guidelines in place at the time they broke the law. I am not satisfied that this exhausts the matter.

It is clear from the brevity of the term that the 14 sentences are to be served concurrently, that is to say, rolled into one. I would like the attorney general to explore the scope for asking whether these can be served consecutive sentences and thereby extend the total sentence, for example.

It is very important that our criminal justice system is seen to take these offences very seriously. Only that way, will victims be emboldened to come forward. We need to ensure that these predatory men end up behind bars for a long time.

In the end it is for politicians to decide what the law is and for the courts to apply it. It is not our place to decide individual sentences. However in this case I believe that the Court of Appeal should look at the sentence again.