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In a related story, I read that a British convicted paedophile who was found guilty of sexually assaulting an eight year old girl a few years ago, was then only sentenced to "community order." (Community service.)

I'm mostly interested in answers from people who have some knowledge of the UK justice system.

How could this man avoid jail time for his crime?

For example, in my native country, such crimes are punished with a minimum of two years jail time, and up to ten years. Some countries punish such acts with life imprisonment or even death.

Doesn't the United Kingdom have a minimum sentence for sexual child abuse?

Were there some special circumstances in this case that let this man get an extremely mild sentence?

  • This seems relevant. Under "Automatic life sentences" read where it says "The court has a discretion..." – Nate Eldredge Apr 20 '16 at 15:53
  • @NateEldredge I think this is a discretion to not impose a life sentence? But is it a discretion to not impose jail time at all? – Revetahw Apr 20 '16 at 15:56
  • I didn't see anything there to rule that out. If the judge uses their discretion to not impose a life sentence, presumably he/she is free to impose any other legal sentence. – Nate Eldredge Apr 20 '16 at 15:59
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    @Fiksdal We shouldn't be guessing about what crime the defendant was convicted with. If we don't know the crime, we can't say much about the permissible range of penalties. – user3851 Apr 20 '16 at 18:53
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    @Fiksdal Yeah, that seems like a reasonable conclusion. The article says "The man, who also cannot be identified"... Will be hard tracking down details. – user3851 Apr 20 '16 at 19:04
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In this article, we can read that the convicted was handicapped, and this contributed to his surprisngly mild sentence. Moreover, he was sentenced to registering as a sex offender. From the article:

Boota was sentenced to a community order with two years’ supervision and ordered to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register. He was made subject to a Sexual Offences Prevention Order which includes a condition banning him from having any contact with the young victim.

Recorder Nolan told Boota: “I’m satisfied the assault was over a short period of time and I am satisfied it was a relatively minor sexual assault but any assault of a child is bound to be serious and this court must take this offence seriously as well.

“Were you of full intelligence and physically fit, I would be considering a period of imprisonment, but undoubtedly this offence is mitigated by the fact you have very severe learning difficulties and a number of physical disabilities.

“For these reasons principally I am going to take what I consider to be a merciful view and impose a community order.”

I want to give credit to this answer by Morgan Hickman, who found the name of the convicted. That's how it was possible for me to find this information.

Apparently UK law allows this type of extremely mild sentence. We can find here that:

Type/nature of activity: Contact between part of offender's body (other than the genitalia) with part of the victim's body (other than the genitalia)

Starting points: Community order Sentencing ranges: An appropriate non-custodial sentence

'Non-custodial sentence' in this context suggests a community order or a fine. In most instances, an offence will have crossed the threshold for a community order. However, in accordance with normal sentencing practice, a court is not precluded from imposing a financial penalty where that is determined to be the appropriate sentence.

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Having read the same article as you, I was similarly surprised. However, having done a little bit of case research on The Law Pages - I recommend looking there for any judgements you can't find elsewhere, a free account is all you need for the most part - I found the notes on the case. You may need an account to view this page, but it might be of interest to all.

The case discussed in the article. As you will see, the name of the offender is Zabhullah Boota, but I appear unable to find record of the original case (in 2010, when he was sentenced to the community order).

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    +1 for finding the name of the convicted (You likely have some sort of belt in Google Fu.) We still have been unable to answer the question, but finding the name was impressive. – Revetahw Apr 21 '16 at 11:57
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Specifically on:

Doesn't the United Kingdom have a minimum sentence for sexual child abuse?

Firstly, that is rather like asking "Doesn't the USA and Canada have a minimum sentence for sexual child abuse?" The United Kingdom is not a single jurisdiction, and the laws are different.

Secondly, if we restrict ourselves to

Doesn't England and Wales have a minimum sentence for X?

The answer is "No", with the following three exceptions:

Murder : the only possible sentence is "life imprisonment" (although almost all murderers are released from prison "on license" after serving a "tariff" - decided by the sentencing judge - plus a bit while their application is considered by the Parole Board).

Dealing in class A drugs for a third time: minimum of seven years

Burglary for a third time: minimum of three years

In both of the latter two cases, the court can sentence to less than the minimum if it consider there are " particular circumstances which— (a) relate to any of the offences or to the offender; and (b) would make it unjust to do so in all the circumstances."

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Here is a case (Swedish) where a 2 year minimum was nickel-and-dime'd to 180 hours of community service, based on age of offender, first offense, anxiety (p. 8-9). The reasoning is not particularly detailed.

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    You meant this as a comment, right? It's not even the same country. – Revetahw Apr 20 '16 at 19:37
  • Perhaps I misunderstood your question: were you not asking "how can this happen?" You can't get the judicial reasoning for the UK case, but you can for the one I mentioned. – user6726 Apr 20 '16 at 20:32
  • Why can't I get the judicial reasons for the UK case? And the one you mentioned is very vaguely related, if at all. And the country is different. – Revetahw Apr 21 '16 at 2:00
  • If you don't know the name of the perp, you can't look get any information on the judicial decision. The fact that the country is different is not very important: both countries use similar modes of judicial reasoning, both have ostensibly mandatory sentences. The Swedish case is a typical example of the kinds of factors that judges use in justifying ligh sentences. – user6726 Apr 21 '16 at 2:05
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    I think you're missing the point. My point is that there is an underlying unity in judicial principles, and that simple, robotic "If A then B" algorithms are simply untenable – mitigating factors are considered. Since you no doubt knew that the specifics of this case were unknown, we can only reasonably interpret your question as being precisely about the role of judges in moderating over-simple "If A then B" rules. – user6726 Apr 21 '16 at 4:37

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