R v Billam

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date21 February 1986
Judgment citation (vLex)[1986] EWCA Crim J0221-1
Docket NumberNos. 7028/C/85, 4722/B/85, 5103/B/85, 3514/B/85, 5061/C/85, 2906/B/85, 4817/C/85, 35/F/86, 36/F/86, 7487/C/85, 2570/B/85 and 2622/C/85
CourtCourt of Appeal (Criminal Division)
Date21 February 1986
Keith Billam
John Revill
Kenneth Craig
Stephen Andrew Strong
Mark Bannister
Jimmy Anthony Temple
Henry Donaghey
Gurmohan Singh
Jaswant Singh
Mohammed Rafiq
Peter Young
Rodney Jackson

[1986] EWCA Crim J0221-1


The Lord Chief Justice of England (Lord Lane)

Mr. Justice Mann


Sir Roger Ormrod

Nos. 7028/C/85, 4722/B/85, 5103/B/85, 3514/B/85, 5061/C/85, 2906/B/85, 4817/C/85, 35/F/86, 36/F/86, 7487/C/85, 2570/B/85 and 2622/C/85



Royal Courts of Justice

MR. J. HALL appeared on behalf of the Appellant Billam.

MR. G. LOCKE appeared on behalf of the Appellant Revill.

MR. P. CORRIGAN appeared on behalf of the Appellant Craig.

MR. P. SMITH appeared on behalf of the Appellant Strong.

MR. P. HARRIS appeared on behalf of the Appellant Bannister.

MR. P. SWANIKER appeared on behalf of the Appellant Temple.

MR. J. COLLINS appeared on behalf of the Applicant Donaghey.

MR. S. ASHURST appeared on behalf of the Applicants Gurmohan Singh and Jaswant Singh.

MR. A. McCALLUM appeared on behalf of the Applicant Rafiq.

MR. L. SCOTT appeared on behalf of the Applicant Young.

THE APPLICANT JACKSON was not present and was not represented.


We have had listed before us today a number of cases where there has been, a conviction for rape or attempted rape, in order to give us an opportunity to restate principles which in our judgment should guide Judges on sentencing in this difficult and sensitive area of the criminal law.


In the unhappy experience of this Court, whether or not the number of convictions for rape has increased over the years, the nastiness of the cases has certainly increased, and what would ten years ago have been considered incredible provisions have now become commanplace. This is no occasion to explore the reasons for that phenomenon, however obvious they may be.


We would like, if we may, to cite a passage from the Criminal Law Revision Committee's 15th Report on Sexual Offences, Command Paper 9213 of 1984, which reflects accurately the views of this Court. It is as follows: "Rape is generally regarded as the most grave of all the sexual offences. In a paper put before us for our consideration by the Policy Advisory Committee on Sexual Offences the reason for this are set out as follows – 'Rape involves a severe degree of emotional and psychological trauma; it may be described as a violation which in effect obliterates the personality of the victim. Its physical consequences equally are severe: the actual physical harm occasioned by the act of intercourse; associated violence or force and in some cases degradation; after the event, quite apart from the woman's continuing insecurity, the fear of veneral disease or pregnancy. We do not believe this latter fear should be underestimated because abortion would usually be available. This is not a choice open to all women and it is not a welcome consequence for any. Rape is also particularly unpleasant because it involves such intimate proximity between the offender and victim. We also attach importance to the point that the crime of rape involves abuse of an act which can be a fundamental means of expressing love for another; and to which as a society we attach considerable value.'"


This Court emphasised in Roberts (1982) 4 Cr. App. R. (S) 8, that rape is always a serious crime which calls for an immediate custodial sentence other than in wholly exceptional circumstances. The sort of exceptional circumstances in which a non-custodial sentence may be appropriate are illustrated by the decision in Taylor (1983) 5 Cr. App. R. (S) 241. Although on the facts that offence amounted to rape in the legal sense, the Court observed that it did not do so in ordinary understanding.


Judges of the Crown Court need no reminder of the necessity for custodial sentences in cases of rape. The criminal statistics for 1984 show that 95 per cent of all defendants who were sentenced in the Crown Court for offences of rape received immediate custodial sentences in one form or another. But the same statistics also suggest that Judges may need reminding about what length of sentence is appropriate. Of the 95 per cent who received custodial sentences in 1984, 28 per cent received sentences of two years or less; 23 per cent over two and up to three years; 18 per cent over three and up to four years; 18 per cent over four and up to five years and 8 per cent over five years (including 2 per cent life). These included partly suspended sentences and sentences to detention centre or detention under section 53(2) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, as well as imprisonment or youth custody. Although it is important to preserve a sense of proportion in relation to other grave offences such as some forms of manslaughter, these statistics show an approach to sentences for rape which in the judgment of this Court are too low.


The variable factors in cases of rape are so numerous that it is difficult to lay down guidelines as to the proper length of sentence in terms of years. That aspect of the problem was not considered in Roberts (cited above). There are however many reported decisions of the Court which give an indication of what current practice ought to be and it may be useful to summarise their general effect.


For rape committed by an adult without any aggravating or mitigating features, a figure of five years should be taken as the starting point in a contested case. Where a rape is committed by two or more men acting together, or by a man who has broken into or otherwise gained access to a place where the victim is living, or by a person who is in a position of responsibility towards the victim, or by a person who abducts the victim and holds her captive, the starting point should be eight years.


At the top of the scale comes the defendant who has carried out what might be described as a campaign of rape, committing the crime upon a number of different women or girls He represents a more than ordinary danger and a sentence of fifteen years or more may be appropriate.


Where the defendant's behaviour has manifested perverted or psychopathic tendencies or gross personality disorder, and where he is likely, if at large, to remain a danger to women for an indefinite time, a life sentence will not be inappropriate.


The crime should in any event be treated as aggravated by any of the following factors: (1) violence is used over and above the force necessary to commit the rape; (2) a weapon is used to frighten or wound the victim; (3) the rape is repeated; (4) the rape has been carefully planned; (5) the defendant has previous convictions for rape or other serious offences of a violent or sexual kind; (6) the victim is subjected to further sexual indignities or perversions; (7) the victim is either very old or very young; (8) the effect upon the victim, whether physical or mental, is of special seriousness. Where any one or more of these aggravating features are present, the sentence should be substantially higher than the figur suggested as the starting point.


The extra distress which giving evidence can cause to a victim means that a plea of guilty, perhaps more so than in other cases, should normally result in some reduction from what would otherwise be the appropriate sentence. The amount of such reduction will of course depend on all the circumstances, including the likelihood of a finding of not guilty had the matter been contested.


The fact that the victim may be considered to have exposed herself to danger by acting imprudently (as for instance by accepting a lift in a car from a stranger) is not a mitigating factor; and the victim's previous sexual experience is equally irrelevant. But if the victim has behaved in a manner which was calculated to lead the defendant to believe that she would consent to sexual intercourse, then there should be some mitigation of the sentence. Previous good character is of only minor relevance.


The starting point for attempted rape should normally be less than for the completed offence, especially if it is desisted at a comparatively early stage. But, as is illustrated by one of the cases now before the Court, attempted rape may be made by aggravating features into an offence even more serious than some examples of the full offence.


About one-third of those convicted of rape are under the age of 21 and thus fall within the scope of the Criminal Justice Act 1982, section 1. Although the criteria to which the Court is required to have regard by section 1(4) of that Act must be interpreted in relation to the facts of the individual case rather than simply by reference to the legal category of the offence, most offences of rape are "so serious that a non-custodial sentence cannot be justified" for the purposes of that provision. In the ordinary case the appropriate sentence would be one of youth custody, following the term suggested as terms of imprisonment for adults, but making some reduction to reflect the youth of the offender. A man of 20 will accordingly not receive much less than a man of 22, but a youth of 17 or 18 may well receive less.


In the case of a juvenile, the Court will in most cases exercise the power to order detention under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, section 53(2). In view of the procedural limitations to which the power is subject, it is important that a Magistrates' Court dealing with a juvenile charged with rape should never accept jurisdiction to deal with the case itself, but should invariably commit the case to the Crown Court for trial to ensure...

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