Sexual Offences Sentencing Proposals: Can the Government Afford the Price Tag?

Chloe Fenwick
Chloe Fenwick

Published: December 1st, 2023

6 min

The government is legislating to ensure that anyone sentenced for the offence of rape, and certain other serious sexual offences, no longer receives a determinate custodial sentence. Where neither a life sentence nor an extended sentence ('EDS') is served, the sentence will fall into the Sentence for Offenders of Particular Concern regime ('SOPC').

A SOPC is made up of an appropriate prison term and an extended licence period of one year and is currently applicable to specified terrorist offences and the two most serious child sex offences.

The government is also planning to alter the release provisions for offenders who receive an EDS or SOPC so that they will now serve the entirety of the appropriate custodial term in custody, with no referral to the Parole Board at the two-thirds point of the term.

Which offences will this apply to?

The changes will apply to the following offences in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (and abolished legislation such as the Sexual Offences Act 1956):

a. Section 1 (rape)

b. Section 2 (assault by penetration)

c. Section 4 (causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent) in circumstances involving penetration.

d. Section 8 (causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity) involving penetration.

e. Section 30 (sexual activity with a person with a mental disorder impeding choice) in cases involving penetration.

f. Section 31 (causing or inciting a person with a mental disorder impeding choice to engage in sexual activity) in cases involving penetration.

g. Section 34 (inducement, threat or deception to procure sexual activity with a person with a mental disorder) in cases involving penetration.

h. Section 35 (causing a person with a mental disorder to engage in or agree to engage in sexual activity by inducement, threat or deception) in cases involving penetration.

i. Section 47 (paying for sexual services of a child) in cases involving penetration where the offence is committed against a person under 13)

j. Section 62 (committing an offence with intent to commit a sexual offence) where the offence is committed by kidnapping / false imprisonment.

Inchoate offences, such as attempts, will also be included.

Will these changes also apply to young offenders?

These amendments to EDS and SOPC sentences will apply to offenders under 18.

What is the likely cost of the proposals?

The critical cost associated with this policy is the increase in the overall prison population. In the Best Estimate scenario, an additional 1,500 prison places will be required by March 2034, and an additional 2,850 will be required by March 2048, with an additional running cost to the prison service of £123.7m per year. Additional prison capacity will need to be constructed, which is estimated to cost the prison service a minimum of £1,153m over the next 40 years.

The total net present cost over this period is estimated to be in excess of three billion pounds.

Given the other demands on the justice system at present, it remains to be seen whether these proposals will ever be brought into force.

How can we help?

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We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to advise you properly. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact Chloe Fenwick, Crime Paralegal.

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