TEN KEY POINTS FOR SENTENCING.
- Max Clifford is due to appear before Southwark Crown Court tomorrow morning for sentencing. In terms of court procedure, the Judge who oversaw the trial, HHJ Leonard QC, will decide the sentence. The Jury who found him guilty will not have any role in sentencing and cannot recommend sentences.
- The Prosecutor’s role will be to assist the Judge with the law, sentencing guidelines and to set out any ancillary orders they seek the Court to make. The Prosecution at sentencing often presents victim impact statements to the Judge. These are statement taken from the victim setting out the impact the crime has had on them. Before sentence is passed the defence team/solicitors will have an opportunity to address the Judge and mitigate.
- When considering the sentence the Judge will consider the various aggravating and mitigating factors of the case. He will assess the seriousness of the harm done, the level of culpability of the offender and the risk to society. When passing sentence the defendant usually stands and the Judge will give remarks explaining how he reached the sentence passed.
- Given the nature of the allegations, it seems that Max Clifford will inevitably face a prison sentence. Earlier in the week when he was released on bail to the sentencing date, the Judge made it clear that by doing so he was not giving an indication of his sentence. In all likelihood it was an opportunity for all parties to prepare for sentencing and to give Max Clifford an opportunity to put his affairs in order.
- From the information reported in the media it would seem that Max Clifford faces sentencing for 8 criminal offences that were committed against 4 women that had been aged between 15 and 18 at the time of the offences. The crimes spanned from 1977 to 1985 and the charges are of Indecent Assault contrary to the Sexual Offences Act 1956. Mr. Clifford of course had to be tried in accordance with the law that existed between 1977 and 1985. The offence of Indecent Assault wouldn’t be charged today, as new law was introduced to consolidate the law of sexual offences in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 because the previous law was considered out of date with modern views on sex.
- The Judge will be bound by the maximum sentences that existed for these offences at the time they occurred. Until 1985 the maximum sentence for one allegation of indecent assault against a woman was 2 years imprisonment (unless against a girl under 13). The maximum was then increased to 10 years in September 1985. Sexual Assault today carries a maximum of 10 years imprisonment, Assault by Penetration carries a maximum of life imprisonment and causing or inciting sexual activity with a child carries a maximum of 14 years imprisonment. The Judge cannot pass a penalty that is heavier than at the time of the commission of the offences.
- Sentencing in such cases is often a difficult exercise. The Lord Chief Justice said of the Stuart Hall case, that the sentencing exercise for that matter was far from straightforward. Hall’s sentence was revised from 15 months to 30 months imprisonment after concerns it had been unduly lenient. Stuart Hall pleaded guilty to 14 counts of indecent assault from 1967 to 1985/86 on victims ranging from ages 9 to 17 years old. One key difference to the Max Clifford sentencing is that Stuart Hall pleaded guilty and wasn’t convicted after trial. If a defendant pleads guilty their sentences are usually reduced and often is the key piece of mitigation to shorten the sentence.
- Without knowing the details of the allegations in full it is difficult to estimate accurately the likely sentence the Judge will pass. Even then, sentencing is an art not a science. The circumstances of the offences are the main focus. Of course Mr. Clifford falls to be sentenced for multiple offences and will receive a sentence for each charge. Those sentences can run concurrent (at the same time as each other) or consecutively (one after another) or they can be passed as a combination of concurrent or consecutive sentences. What is important is that the sentence overall reflects the offending and is just and proportionate.
- The likely custodial sentence will start immediately. Upon release he will be subject to Notification, which is commonly known as being put on the sex offender’s register. He will be under an obligation to provide police with details of his whereabouts along with other personal information.
- The Victims have lifetime anonymity therefore their names or any details identifying who they are cannot be published.
By our solicitors:
Natalie Smith and Hilary Doherty.