Monday 17 June 2013

R v Stuart Hall ~ Sentencing

Update 16th December 2015 - Stuart Hall has been released from prison.  He has served half his 30 month sentence and will be on licence for the remainder - BBC 16th December 2015.

Update 11th July 2013 - the Attorney-General has referred the sentence imposed on Stuart Hall to the Court of Appeal.

Original post

Sentencing offenders is a difficult legal art and not a science.  From time to time there are particular cases where one is saddened to see a particular defendant in the dock but the law must be upheld.

One such case is, to my mind, that of the veteran broadcaster and presenter Stuart Hall who has been sentenced to a total of 15 months imprisonment for 14 counts of indecent assault committed in the period 1967 to 1985/6 on victims in age range 9 to 17.  Some of the offences involved breaches of trust.  The sentencing remarks of the Recorder of Preston ( His Honour Judge Anthony Russell QC) are available via the Judiciary website - (HERE). 

In his remarks, the judge noted that the offences varied in seriousness.  There were
no sentencing guidelines available for such historic offences but the judge said that some assistance was available from guidelines for offences under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.   The modern guidelines indicate factors which aggravate or mitigate offending.  The Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) case of  R v H and others [2011] EWCA Crim 2753 on sentencing historic cases was followed.  This requires sentence to be passed according to the law as it was at the time.

In addition to the imprisonment, Hall is now subject to the notification requirements of Part 2 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 for a period of 10 years.  (A Sexual Offences Prevention Order was not considered to be appropriate given that Hall's last offence was over 25 years ago).  Hall's name is also on the list of barred persons under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.  He has been ordered to pay costs of £11,522.

It would have been possible for consecutive sentences to have been imposed.  The judge chose not to do so for reasons explained in the remarks.  Instead, a sentence reflecting the totality of the offending was imposed and the sentences for each offence are to run concurrently.

Victim Personal Statements were available to the judge but are not revealed in the remarks other than in a general way.

The judge declined to make any Compensation Orders stating that he lacked sufficient information to do so.  Hence, any claims for compensation should be made via the civil courts.   Earlier this year, and before entering the guilty pleas, it was reported that Hall had transferred his interest in his home to his wife.

Mitigation available to Hall included his guilty pleas (albeit not at the earliest opportunity); his old age (on this see R v Heron [2009] EWCA Crim 94); and his extensive work over many years for charity.  Hall had brought much pleasure to millions as a local TV presenter in the North West and had displayed a genial personality, charm, bonhomie and wit.    Unfortunately, Hall had shown a brazen attitude when charged and he publicly protested his innocence thereby adding to the distress of victims.

This cannot have been an easy sentencing exercise and, with the greatest of respect, the judge has shown commendable balance in his remarks.  However, there are some calls for the Attorney-General to refer the sentence to the Court of Appeal on the basis that it may be unduly lenient - see Crown Prosecution Service - Unduly Lenient Sentences.   Generally, a sentence is unduly lenient:
'...where it falls outside the range of sentences which the judge, applying his mind to all the relevant factors, could reasonably consider appropriate.  In that connection, regard must of course be had to reported cases and in particular to the guidance given by this Court from time to time in the so-called guideline cases'.
(Attorney General's Reference No 4 of 1989 11 Cr. App. R. (S) 517 - Lord Lane CJ).
On that basis, the learned judge's sentence appears to be within the range of sentences which a judge could reasonable consider to be appropriate.  I suspect that Hall will now be a broken man.  In this country we prosecute alleged offenders and we sentence the guilty according to law but we should not seek to persecute them.

New Statesman - Is the outrage over Stuart Hall's sentence justified?

Addendum 1:

Attorney General's Office - Unduly Lenient Sentence Statistics - 5th July 2012

Addendum 2:

On 26th July, the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) Lord JudgeCJ; Rafferty LJ and Macur J held that the sentencing was unduly lenient and increased Hall's overall sentence to 30 months imprisonment.

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