Earlier this month in London, Neil Wilson, 41, pleaded guilty to “two counts of making extreme pornographic images and one count of sexual activity with a child.” He was sentenced to eight months in jail, but the Judge Nigel Peters suspended the sentence for two years because his victim, who was thirteen at the time, “was predatory and she was egging [him] on.”
Neil Wilson met the victim when she asked him to buy her cigarettes. Over the next two weeks, he called and texted her daily, and she visited his house. While there, the 13-year-old allegedly stripped out of her school uniform and the Wilson engaged in sexual activity with her despite knowing that she was under the age of sexual consent. Judge Peters acknowledged those facts in his admonishment of Wilson: “You knew she was not nearly 16, as she said, and your plea of guilty recognises that you knew. Allowing her to visit your home is something we have to clamp down on and in normal circumstances that would mean a significant term in prison.”
Crown prosecutor Robert Colover also attacked the girl, describing her as “predatory in all her actions [because] she is sexually experienced.” He also noted her that Wilson’s victim seemed to be a year older than she was: “She appeared to look around 14 or 15 and had the mental age of a 14- or 15-year-old despite being younger than that.” General age of sexual consent in the UK is 16, so the circumstances that the prosecutor deemed potentially exculpatory are, in fact, still illegal.
Colover finished by suggesting that it was the victim, not Wilson, who was at fault, saying that although “[t]here was sexual activity…it was not of Mr Wilson’s doing. You might say it was forced upon him despite his being older and stronger than her.”
Following Colover’s remarks, a Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) representative told BBC Radio 4′s Today “[t]he age of consent in this country is 16, before that a child cannot consent. As a society we have drawn a line in the sand on that. In this case, the child was 13 and the man was 41 — it’s pretty clear who the predator was.” The Attorney General’s Office stated that the case would be taken under advisement to determine whether it was as unduly lenient sentence.
The next day, Judge Peters extended the length of the suspended sentence to nine-to-twelve months, but only today did Attorney General Dominic Grieve officially refer the case to the Court of Appeals. In a statement, he said that “[t]he case will in due course be heard by three Court of Appeal judges who will decide whether or not the sentence is unduly lenient and whether they should increase it.”
This referral is welcomed by victim’s rights advocates who, in June, convinced the CPS to investigate the manner in which victims were being treated in the courtroom. The CPS quickly released preliminary guidelines, and are expected to publish more extensive ones in the coming months.
["Wigheads" via nalinandworld on Flickr, Creative Commons licensed]
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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