'They were asking for it.' It's not so long ago that this nasty little phrase was trotted out as a defence in sexual assault trials.
I had hoped the abhorrent view that victims are somehow to blame for the actions of sex offenders has been consigned to the dustbin. Surely a 13-year-old girl would never be accused by a judge, of all people, that they were 'egging on' a paedophile to have sex with them?
But that's exactly what a judge has just told a man in his forties, who lured a 13-year-old girl to his home, where he watched her strip out of her school uniform before she performed a sex act on him.
The offender pleaded guilty but avoided jail because, in the judge's words:
Even though the girl was 13, the prosecution say she looked and behaved a little bit older... on these facts, the girl was predatory and was egging you on
I had to read that twice to believe he had said such a thing.
To hear such appalling language being used to describe a 13-year old girl abused at the hands of an older man, and for those words to lead to a lighter sentence being handed down, is frankly a perversion of justice.
Suggesting that a girl of 13 could be a 'sexual predator' when the real predator is standing in the dock makes my blood boil. This outdated view that children are complicit in their abuse must be stamped out.
The only silver lining to this case is that the offender has been banned from contacting children and must allow police to examine his computer, as well as attending a sex offenders' programme.
During a search of his home, officers uncovered a stash of images and videos depicting child abuse and bestiality. I shudder to think how many more children he could have gone on to abuse had he not been caught.
But the judge's totally unacceptable comments demonstrate an urgent need for all legal professionals acting in child sex abuse cases to attend specialist training with regular updates.
My biggest fear is that any abused children hearing the comments made by the judge will be less likely to speak out and secure justice.
It's already hard enough for children to come forward and report sexual abuse. Without urgent action we risk denying justice to these young people who have already experienced horrific abuse. Enough is enough.