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Social immaturity relevant to culpability

Legal update: February 2015

R v Marcus Petrie [2014] EWCA Crim 2912    

Successful appeal against sentence and Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) imposed on a 19 year old who had pleaded guilty to causing a 13 year old child to engage in sexual activity and sexual activity with a child. The sentence was reduced on the grounds that the starting point for the original sentence had been too high because the appellant’s social immaturity affected his culpability and there were concerns about his vulnerability.

Details

The Court of Appeal reduced the sentence from 30 months to 12 months concurrent stating that MP’s age, social immaturity and vulnerability made the age disparity between him and the victim less aggravating.  The Court of Appeal also removed the SOPO stating that it did not meet the test of necessity.

The Court of Appeal stated that “..chronological age will not be the only way of testing whether disparity in age is “significant” for the purposes of the guidelines. Maturity and responsibility will be important.” [paragraph 14]

Commentary

This case is useful because it is a reminder that chronological age is not the only way of testing whether disparity in age is “significant” for the purposes of the sentencing guidelines; social maturity and other vulnerabilities can also be considered. This principle may also be relevant in cases where age disparity is an issue when considering whether a prosecution is in the public interest.