December 11 2013 Latest news:
Political editor, Political Editor
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
An appeal law change should be considered after a “horrendous” case where a 14-year-old walked free after raping a Norfolk mother, justice secretary Chris Grayling has said.
The minister said he would raise the issue of youth court appeals after Sarah, which is not her real name, said she had no faith left in the justice system.
The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to raping the woman after climbing into bed with her in the middle of the night.
The boy was spared a custodial sentence by a district judge in a Norfolk youth court.
Instead he will have to report to the police for 30 months and was referred to a youth offender panel for a year where he may have to face his victim – if she wants him to.
If the court had decided to send the case to Crown Court, where more serious sentences are given, then an appeal could have been lodged.
But the law says that victims of a crime which is dealt with in a youth court – where the accused is aged under 18 – are unable to appeal the sentence and ask for it to be reviewed.
Sarah welcomed the fact that it was going to be raised by Mr Grayling with attorney general Dominic Grieve – who would be responsible for any change.
She said: “It was gutting that I did not have the right to appeal. Some of our laws are so old-fashioned and so out of date.”
She said that she felt like the sentence “belittled” the crime.
“You initially want it to go away and you want to hide and pretend nothing has happened, but unless more people stand up, nothing will change. I cannot be the only woman in the world this has happened to.”
She said she had spoken out about her case because she wanted change and if she could save another woman from going through what happened to her, it would be worth it.
Mr Grayling said: “You can appeal a case in adult court, as we have seen in a couple of cases recently, and I think it is a perfectly sensible question for the same to happen in the youth court.
“It is a difficult balance to find because you are dealing with sometimes relatively young people.”
He said: “I don’t want to make a promise one way or the other, and I can understand the frustration, but it is certainly something we are willing to consider.
“I can well understand why she finds the current situation horrendous. It is always difficult for a minister to form a view on the basis of one individual case or to get involved in too much detail on one particular case, but I understand it is at least worth putting the questions about why we don’t allow youth court appeals.”
The 14-year-old was also made subject to a parenting order which sets out what the boy must and must not do as well as being put on the Sex Offenders Register. He was also told to pay a £15 victim surcharge, which helps fund victim services, and £40 court costs – but no compensation for the victim was ordered.
If you have been a victim of a sex offence, The Harbour Centre can be contacted on 0845 456 4810. Visit www.theharbourcentre.co.uk