Friday, 4 July 2014

Sentencing - the Phone Hackers - Rolf Harris

It has been quite a day for sentencing.  Sentences have been handed down in relation to very different forms of offending.

First came the sentencing of five offenders convicted in relation to phone hacking - see the Sentencing Remarks of Mr Justice Saunders.   The heaviest sentence imposed was on Andy Coulson (pictured) who received 18 months imprisonment.  Earlier blogpost - 25th June - We underrate juries at our peril.  Other sentences passed were Mr Miskiw and Mr Thurlbeck - 6 months each (with 53 days 'qualifying curfew' counting toward the sentence).  Mr Weatherup 4 months imprisonment suspended for 12 months with a requirement to complete 200 hours unpaid work.  Mr Mulcaire - 6 months imprisonment suspended for 12 months with a requirement to complete 200 hours unpaid work.  [On qualifying curfew see here].

The Guardian 4th July - Andy Coulson jailed for 18 months for conspiracy to hack phones

Secondly, the entertainer Rolf Harris was sentenced on 12 counts of indecent assault committed in the period 1969 to 1986.  He received a total of 5 years 9 months imprisonment which, at the age of 84, will inevitably prove to be a very significant part of his remaining lifetime.  See the Sentencing Remarks of Mr Justice Sweeney.  A reading of the sentencing remarks will reveal that the offending was serious and almost certainly more serious than some media reports of the trial suggested.  Four charges relating to downloading child pornography will not proceed to a trial - see Court News UK.  The earlier blogpost - Rolf Harris - looked at the general sentencing framework for this type of offending.  Harris will be subjected to Notification Requirements under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 Part 2 and is to be considered with respect to the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.  Sweeney J did not award compensation since the issues were too complex and the information before him insufficient for him to be able to properly do so.

The Attorney-General was asked to consider a reference of the sentence to the Court of Appeal on the basis of undue leniency - The Guardian 4th July.  The sentencing remarks contain the detail of the maximum sentences possible.  Counts 10 to 12 carried a maximum of 10 years.  The focus of any argument about leniency may be in relation to those offences.  In reaching the sentence, the judge took careful account of the Totality Principle and, on that basis, the judge reduced a number of the sentences which would otherwise have been passed.
Update note 31st July - The Attorney General decided not to refer the Harris sentence to the Court of Appeal - AG Office announcement 30th July

Sweeney J also said that Harris had been stripped of his honours.  This is an almost inevitable outcome of conviction  for a serious offence - see Forfeiture of Honours.   Harris was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2012 (BBC 12th June 2012).  He was appointed MBE in 1968, OBE 1977 and CBE 2006.

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