Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Judge Bowers - Conclusion.

Readers may recall the above posting from last year regarding Judge Peter Bowers and his comments during the case of sex offender Gary Flynn, who walked free from court in October 2013 after he admitted indecently assaulting and forcing a young girl into oral sex over 15 years ago.
To recall, this is from the article in the Northern Echo at the time -
"Yesterday (Friday October 18), Judge Bowers attracted further criticism when he handed 35-year-old Gary Flynn a community order after he admitted indecently assaulting a young girl more than 15 years ago.
Flynn, of Belle Vue Court, Norton, near Stockton, admitted touching the younger girl’s genitals and forcing her to have oral sex when he was aged between 16 and 18.
Judge Bowers praised Flynn – previously cautioned for a similar offence - for pleading guilty and sparing his victim the ordeal of giving evidence before handing him a three year community supervision order.
He told him: “You were a teenager suffering from the effects of a head injury which made your maturity and responsibility less than somebody of your age.
“This is water under the bridge. You have lived 15 or 17 years without other convictions and there is no reason to think you will be committing offences in the future.”"
As well as appealing this sentence as "Unduly Lenient" (which as readers will know is something that anyone can do - if not please click on the link & find out how), I also registered a complaint about the language used.
Describing sexual abuse, "historic" or current, as "water under the bridge" is simply not acceptable, and is a prime example of why victims can be reluctant to come forward. Was Judge Bowers implying that as the sexual abuse was "Historic" it was less important & it didn't matter as much?
Anyway, I have two updates on this, as below.
Firstly the "unduly lenient" appeal
"After careful consideration the Solicitor General  decided not to refer the sentence imposed on Gary Flynn to the Court of Appeal as unduly lenient. The sentencing judge took account of the fact that the offender was sixteen when he committed the offence and that his maturity had been affected by a head injury. He had not offended in the intervening years and he pleaded guilty, so the victim did not have to give evidence. The judge explained that he was imposing a sentence which would enable the offender to engage in sex offender treatment. The Solicitor General concluded that the sentence was within the appropriate range, bearing in mind the relevant sentencing guidelines"
Not sure I really agree with this, but the decision is final following an appeal, so not a lot can be done.
Secondly the language used by Judge Bowers. I received a response from JCIO (Judicial Conduct Investigations Office), which indicates the following -
The Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice considered my complaint, and have concluded no disciplinary action was necessary. However, they were both concerned about the impact of the comments made during the sentencing of Mr Flynn and consider that all judges must be very mindful of how they express themselves when dealing with sensitive issues. Judge Bowers received informal advice on the matter.
As I said in This posting, If you have any complaints against the conduct of the judiciary, including language like this, you also can complain to The Judicial Conduct's Office by letter or e-mail - and you don't have to be directly involved in the individual cases.
Anyone can make a difference. You included.

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