Wilkinson & others – leading case on the assessment of severe psychological harm

In December 2018, Nigel Wilkinson was convicted of 13 sexual offences including rape and administering a substance with intent to commit a sexual act, committed against six victims. He received a total sentence of 20 years and six months made up of a custodial sentence of 16 years and six months and an extended licence period of four years. 

He appealed that sentence and the appeal was heard, together with four other cases, on 16 May 2019. All five appeals raised a common issue which was the approach the judge should take when assessing, for the purposes of a relevant sentencing guideline, whether a victim has suffered severe psychological harm. All five appeals were dismissed, but the court provided guidance for all future cases namely: i. expert evidence is not an essential precondition of a finding that a victim has suffered severe psychological harm; ii. a judge may assess such harm on the basis of evidence within a VPS or from his/her own assessment during evidence; iii. whether, in fact, a VPS is sufficient for such a finding depends on the circumstances of each case and the contents of the VPS; and iv. a VPS must comply with the requirements of the Criminal Practice Direction.

Of particular note in the case of Wilkinson, the court considered that he had committed a campaign of rape for which sentences in excess of 20 years are appropriate and that rather than being excessive, let alone being manifestly so, Mr Wilkinson had been the recipient of an over generous reduction for totality.

See https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-46616990 for original coverage.

Sarah Regan

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