Appellate Court Reduces Sentence in Attempted Rape Case, Emphasizing Importance of Sentencing Guidelines and Analysis of Dangerousness

Citation: [2024] EWCA Crim 251
Judgment on

Introduction

The matter of Michael James Young v R [2024] EWCA Crim 251 presents significant issues within criminal sentencing, particularly concerning sexual offences and establishing the presence of dangerousness in offenders. This case unfolds upon an appeal against the sentence for attempted rape on the grounds that the original sentence was manifestly excessive. The legal principles applied focus on sentencing guidelines, the concept of “dangerousness”, and the distinction between attempts and completed offences.

Key Facts

Michael James Young, hereafter referred to as the appellant, was sentenced for attempted rape, trespass with intent to commit a sexual offence, and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. These offences, all related to a single incident where the appellant entered the property of his former partner (referred to as V) uninvited, were initially sentenced to an extended imprisonment term of 17 years with a custodial element of 10 years and an extended licence period of 7 years.

The appellant had a history of offences, including those indicative of violent behavior and non-compliance with bail conditions. At the time of the offences, the appellant forcibly entered V’s home, assaulted her, and attempted to rape her in the presence of their daughter. The appeal was lodged against the sentence for attempted rape only.

The court referred to the Sexual Offences Definitive Guideline in determining the sentence, which outlines harm categories that must be considered to ascertain the sentence starting point. Aggravating factors include previous convictions, the presence of a child, and the incident’s domestic nature. Mitigating factors, such as remorse shown by the appellant and substance abuse issues, were also taken into account.

S.60 of the Sentencing Act 2020 mandates adherence to sentencing guidelines and allows for judicial discretion in deciding the appropriate category that resembles the offender’s case, without imposing a separate duty to impose a sentence within the category range.

The principle of dangerousness, as defined under s.280 of the Sentencing Act 2020, was addressed to assess whether the appellant posed a significant risk to the public of serious harm occasioned by the commission of further specified offences.

The distinction between an attempt and a completed offence was highlighted, considering that the attempted rape differed from a completed act and warranted a downward adjustment in sentencing initially overlooked by the sentencing judge.

Outcomes

The Court of Appeal found the original sentence to be manifestly excessive. The appeal was allowed, leading to the quashing of the 17-year extended sentence. Instead, an extended sentence of 15 years was imposed, with a custodial element of 8 years and an extended license period of 7 years.

Judgment was given against several considerations:

  • The court found that while numerous Level 2 harm factors were present, the offence’s severity did not justify moving upward to Level 1, except where Level 1 factors were “extremely” present.
  • The appellant’s actions were deemed an attempt rather than a full offence, thus requiring a reduced sentence.
  • However, the court upheld the determination of the appellant’s dangerousness and the imposition of an extended sentence and its length.

Conclusion

The judgment of Michael James Young v R serves as a pertinent illustration of the appellate court’s role in reviewing sentencing decisions. It underscores the nuanced application of sentencing guidelines, the importance of distinguishing between attempted and complete offences, and the assessment of an offender’s potential danger to the public. Further, it demonstrates the courts’ keen attention to ensure that sentencing proportions reflect the precise nature and circumstances of the offence and offender, while safeguarding the consistency and fairness of the criminal justice system.

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