Despite complaints of leniency, Harris' sentence will not be passed on to the Court of Appeal
The imprisonment period handed down to Rolf Harris following his conviction for sex offences earlier this month will not be referred to the Court of Appeal.
Rolf Harris' sentence will not be sent to Court of Appeal, despite widespread perceptions of leniency. Photo - Getty 2014
Around 150 complaints of leniency were registered to the attorney general’s office following Harris’ sentence of five years and nine months for 12 sexual offences perpetrated on four girls.
In a statement, the office said that the attorney general Jeremy Wright recognised that this decision would cause disappointment, but that he felt that if he referred the sentence to the Court of Appeal he did not think that they would consider the original sentence to be unduly lenient.
In the British criminal court system, after a guilty verdict the judge must then hand down a sentence to be served. In making this decision the judge must have regard to sentencing guidelines, one of which is to consider the age of the defendant. In the process of coming to the original decision, the sentencing judge was firstly bound by the maximum sentence in force at the time the crimes were carried out. Had Harris’ crimes been committed in the present day, they would unquestionably carry a higher sentence than the one recently handed down given the increased seriousness with which society now treats such offences.
Secondly, the judge was also bound to take Harris’ advanced age (84) into account. Though it is not clear about the extent to which his age reduced the sentence, it will have had at least some influence on the decision. The statement also defending the reasoning behind the original sentence: "The judge made some of the sentences consecutive to reach the total sentence, but he could not simply add up sentences on individual counts; the overall sentence had to be just and proportionate to the overall offending."
A number of allegations have emerged since the sentence earlier this month that are currently being investigated, so Harris’ time behind bars may yet be extended.