Celebrities found guilty of sex offences could face longer jail sentences as part of an overhaul of the old sentencing guidelines for judges.

Under a revision of the guidelines, offenders who are seen to have used their position of power or public image to commit abuse will be given harsher sentences when the changes come into effect next April.  Previous ‘good character’ may be considered as an aggravating factor when it has been used to commit a sexual offence, guidelines drawn up by the Sentencing Council said.

Covering more than 50 offences including rape, child sex offences and trafficking, the new guidance places more emphasis on the long term and psychological impact on victims than the current guidelines it will replace. They also bring in higher starting points for offences such as rape, with the most serious crimes now having a starting point of 15 years.

Other changes include the removal of ‘ostensible consent’, which is the idea that a child over 13 can agree to sex, and a greater emphasis on grooming by individuals and gangs.

The guidelines were put into place by the Sentencing Council following high profile cases of sexual abuse involving celebrities such as Jimmy Savile and Ian Watkins. Questions were also raised about attitudes towards victims in the wake of the Rochdale and Oxford grooming ring cases.

In the past year, we have seen many high profile figures involved in allegations of sexual offences. This surge in exposure came after the Jimmy Savile revelations of last year and the fact that he used his celebrity status to sexually abuse girls as young as 13 during his time at the BBC.

It took 20 years for this information to surface and one year on, the number of victims is still rising.  It is now believed that over 1,000 girls were subject to Jimmy Savile’s abuse.

Victims of this type of abuse need to know that they can come forward and should not feel ashamed in doing so. Celebrity status does not excuse the actions of these figures and victims should not feel as if they have to hide.

Recently published figures from the NSPCC reveal that over 18,000 sexual crimes against children were reported in England and Wales in 2012-2013. However, only 66 percent of children who are sexually abused by an adult actually tell someone about it.

The changes have unsurprisingly been welcomed by various children’s charities. Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said “It is important that sentencing reflects the severe damage caused by highly manipulative and devious sex offenders, who may use positions of trust or celebrity status to target children.

We have a dedicated abuse team at Farleys, helping the victims of sexual abuse claim compensation.  We understand how difficult it can be to come forward and talk about your experiences, which are undoubtedly very upsetting. Our experienced team will not judge you, and all enquiries will be treated with the strictest of confidence. To talk to a member of our team today, please contact us.

By Jonathan Bridge, Abuse Claim Lawyer