Sentencing Sexual Offenders in the UK and Australia
Warner, K, Sentencing Sexual Offenders in the UK and Australia, Sentencing and Society: International Perspectives, Ashgate Publishing Limited, C Tata and N Hutton (ed), Aldershot, pp. 504-527. ISBN 0-7546-21839 (2002) [Research Book Chapter]
Criticisms have been directed at sentencing for rape and sexual offences on
the grounds that courts treat offenders too leniently and that as in other areas
ofrape law, the phallocentrism ofsentencing principle and practice reinforces
a social construction of sexuality which harms women and some men.
In England critics have suggested that courts have failed to adhere to the
Billam guidelines by continuing to impose noncustodial or very short custodial
sentences in a significant minority of cases (Robertshaw 1994; Lacey and
Wells 1998, p. 402). Lees (1997, p. 122) has complained that while sentences
for rape increased after Billam, the effect ofthe changes has been exaggerated
and that since 1987 the length of sentences has decreased. 1 In Australia,
sentencing for rape is said to be too lenient. Respondents in a national survey
complained of a lack of consistency within states and territories and across
states and territories and also of leniency in comparison with sentences for
other crimes (Bargen and Fishwick 1995, p. 109). These criticisms have not
been confined to the common law world. In Germany, for example,
dissatisfaction with the relativities between sentencing levels for rape and
other crimes resulted in changes to the penalties for rape after publicity given
to a case in which a couple who were camping were attacked. The woman
was raped and the man was threatened with a weapon and robbed ofhis tent.
The sentence for the rape was subject to a minimum oftwo years but for the
armed robbery the minimum was five years.