Celebrities accused of a sexual offence will now find that their high-profile status may work against them in the dock, the country’s leading criminal defence lawyer has warned.
Nick Freeman – who has represented a string of “A-listers” including footballers, models, rock stars and actors – said that celebrity status, which was once considered to be a neutral factor, could now become very much an aggravating one.
The new guidelines for sexual offences, which are currently under review, place a greater emphasis on the impact upon victims who will now be much more central to the sentencing process.
Mr Freeman, aka Mr Loophole, said: “The message is simple – celebrities beware. Whereas your status was once irrelevant it may now increase your sentence.
“Thanks to the popularity of reality TV shows just about anyone – no matter how talentless and uneducated – can become a ‘celebrity’ overnight.
“However, with that sudden adulation and media attention there comes a certain level of responsibility, and with it an extra burden.
“For example, if a celebrity is charged with taking advantage of a teenage girl, their status will work against them and will be reflected in a tougher sentence.”
Mr Freeman added the “celebrity status” tag also extended to MPs, church leaders and high profile businessmen.
The new guidelines, which are out for consultation, take into account 54 offences and recognise the tactics employed by a defendant.
These include grooming or targeting vulnerable people and stalking, as well as abusing a position of trust, all of which will be considered as an aggravating feature.
The use of modern technology such as filming the act on a smart phone and sharing the content with others, via the internet or otherwise, will also be considered as an aggravating feature.
They may lead to tougher sentencing and will take into account not just the physical act of the defendant, but also the effect the crime has had on the victim.
Judges will be able to jail a defendant convicted of a one-off rape for a maximum of 19 years. The current guidelines state this is only available to those defendants who have committed more than one rape.
For Further Information, please contact:
Nick Freeman, Freeman & Co, on 0161 236 7007/ 07778 159 882
David Simister, Different PR, on 0845 389 26 26 / 07870 550 760