When a child of 13 is engaged in sexual activity with a young man almost 19, the court must impose sanctions, Mr. Justice Dale Sanderson stated in a recent defilement case.
After reviewing the facts and mitigation, he indicated that the most important sentencing principle in this matter was the need to deter other, similar offences.
‘Crimes of this nature are, I am afraid to say, are too prevalent in this country and too often overlooked, where charges are not even brought,’ he said.
In his reasons for sentence, the judge summarised the circumstances of the offence: unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under 16.
The girl had left her mother’s home and was staying with the defendant’s relatives.
On the evening of the offence, according to the defendant, the girl engaged in sexual activity with another person. At some point she then got into bed with the defendant and sexual intercourse followed.
Mr. Justice Sanderson said the offence seemed to be ‘more opportunistic than predatory’. This fact somewhat diminished the seriousness of the offence. But the age of the girl was significant enough that what had happened could not be excused.
Normally, in cases like this, a young man and a girl have developed some kind of romantic relationship or personal attachment before sexual relations take place, the judge noted. Typically, the ages are closer together, with the male 17 or 18 and the girl two or three years younger.
The case before him differed significantly because the girl had just turned 13.
The court always attempts to impose a non-custodial sentence if it feels it can do so, the judge continued. He would have like to do so in this case, especially because this was the defendant’s first offence.
However, he felt constrained in doing that because of the seriousness of the offence with regard to the five and a half year age difference.
If it had not been for the mitigating circumstances, the sentence would have been nine months minimum, with three years probably the maximum, the judge said.
In this case, the minimum he could impose was three months.