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Read more about victims of crime and sentencing.
HMA v Rhys Roberts
Jun 6, 2023
On sentencing Lord Young made the following remarks in court:
"Rhys Roberts, you have been found guilty, by a majority verdict of the jury, of a single charge which included contraventions of sections 1, 2 & 5 of the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009. These offences were all committed over a period of a few minutes on 31 May 2019 and involved a single victim. The most serious of these offences is a charge of rape.
You were aged 15 at the time of the incident although you were close to your 16th birthday. Your victim was also aged 15. You are now 19 years old.
In sentencing you today, I must have regard to the various Guidelines for Sentencing issued in Scotland, and, in particular, the Sentencing Young People Guideline. One aspect of this particular guideline is that I must explain clearly to you what your sentence is and why I have determined that such a sentence is appropriate. So what I am about to say is very much addressed to you.
I do want to be upfront with you by saying, at this stage, that I am going to impose a period of detention in a Young Offenders Institution on you today. However, the length of that sentence will be shorter than would be imposed on an older offender for these offences and I am going to restrict the length of that sentence to the minimum that I consider necessary to achieve the appropriate sentencing purposes. You will still be a young man when you are released from custody and I see no reason to doubt that you will be able to live a responsible life following your release.
In selecting the appropriate sentence for you, the guidelines direct me to take account of your best interests and to have your rehabilitation as the primary consideration. This is not a brand new sentencing philosophy introduced in 2022 by these guidelines. These are considerations which have been identified by the Appeal Court and have been applied in these courts for at least the last decade.
However, having these considerations at the forefront of my mind and giving weight to them does not mean that I can ignore other relevant sentencing principles such as the protection of the public; the importance of punishment; the opportunity to make amends to society; and the importance of marking society’s disapproval of the conduct in question. So, I must have regard to all of these various sentencing purposes which may clash with each other in an individual case. I have to weigh their respective importance in your case while always recognising the overall aim is one of your rehabilitation. Aside from these guidelines, there is also an important statutory protection which applies in your case. A sentence detaining a young offender in custody can only by imposed if there is no other appropriate method of dealing with that offending.
I have come to the conclusion that, on the facts of this case, there is no other appropriate sentence in your case other than a period of detention in custody. The crime of rape will normally, but not always, result in a period of detention. Given your youth and relative lack of maturity at the time of the offending, and the fairly short duration of the assault, I have carefully considered whether this might be an exceptional case in which custody could be avoided.
However, I have concluded that it is not. Your victim described a degree of physical force being used along with a threat from you to spread stories about her to other people if she did not do what you wanted. It is also of some relevance that the complainer was not in any form of relationship with you, indeed the evidence was that you had little to do with her within the school that you both attended.
You appear to have arranged this meeting with her in a secluded area with a determination that you would get the sexual activity you wished without any real thought as to whether your victim was on the same wave length as you.
There was, in my view, a degree of predatory behaviour. As you know, the victim went home and within a short period of time she had written an anguished letter to her mother about what had happened, and she went with her parents to the police. I have also been provided with a victim impact statement from the victim.
I do not like saying too much in open court about her medical position but can I just say this. The victim impact statement suggests that she has struggled with significant emotional issues since the attack which she attributes, at least in part, to what occurred that day. Sadly, she also blames herself for not doing more to get away from you that day and for not screaming for help. There is a stark contrast between your continuing refusal to take responsibility for what you did to the victim, and the victim’s over-willingness to take responsibility for something which was simply not her fault.
When I consider the level of your wrongdoing even allowing for your immaturity at the time, and the harm which you have caused, I consider that custody is the only appropriate sentence. The deprivation of your liberty for a period of time provides a degree of punishment which I consider is necessary in this case. I also consider that a custodial sentence is required in this case to mark society’s disapproval of your conduct. Finally, and while I accept that some people may see it differently, I consider that your rehabilitation back into society may ultimately be aided if the general public feel that you have been punished for your crime through serving a period of detention.
I have had regard to what has been said today on your behalf. The criminal justice social work report (CJSWR) makes clear that you are a young man with many positive attributes. You have a short but good work record and you take part in many useful activities.
You come from a close knit family who continue to support you. You have been assessed as being at a low risk of further offending. As far as I am aware, you had not been in any trouble with the police before this incident and you have remained out of trouble throughout your period when on bail. The only aspect of the CJSWR which causes me some concern is your reported lack of empathy for the victim which is presumably a consequence of your refusal to acknowledge responsibility for your offending.
It does seem to me that some rehabilitation work may be valuable during your period in custody but that it is unlikely that you will require extensive rehabilitation necessitating a longer sentence. Nor do I consider that the period of detention needs to factor in a significant period for public protection. Likewise, on the basis of the generally positive terms of the CJSWR, I do not consider that any additional post-custody supervision is necessary. In all these circumstances, I have concluded that you shall be sentenced on this charge to a period of 3 years detention which period is backdated to 5th May 2023.
As a result of your conviction and the sentence imposed, you are subject to the notification requirements under Part 2 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 for an indefinite period."
6 June 2023