WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
April 20 2024
WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
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Harsher sentences for ‘rough sex gone wrong’ may close loophole for killers

Harsher sentences for ‘rough sex gone wrong’ may close loophole for killers

Old Bailey: the central criminal court of England and Wales

The government has unveiled plans to implement harsher sentences for those who kill their partners through abusive, degrading or dangerous sexual behaviour (‘rough sex’). This new statutory aggravating factor will impose longer sentences for such killers and applies to all manslaughter cases.

This change is intended to recognise the gravity of extremely dangerous sexual practices that are inherently non-consensual, and builds upon the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 to emphasise that the ‘rough sex defence’ does not exist in law.

Three years ago, the Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) alongside campaign group ‘We Can’t Consent To This’ (WCCTT) put forth evidence at the Court of Appeal hearing of Sam Pybus to request for an increased sentence; a unique intervention by the women’s groups.

Sam Pybus was jailed for four years and eight months after killing Sophie Moss by strangulation during sex. Yet the Court of Appeal declined, finding it not to be ‘Unduly Lenient

The founder of WCCTT, Fiona Mackenzie, said at the time: ‘We were horrified to see the court accept Pybus’ claim that Sophie had consented and was a willing participant, in… a ‘risky sexual practice’, despite this never being tested in court, and… being strongly refuted by Sophie’s former long-term partner and by Sam Pybus’ ex-wife.’

She added that this ‘could not be clearer case to show that the law must change’.

This leniency in sentencing men who have killed women through sexual violence has been echoed in previous cases, highlighting the highly gendered nature of ‘rough sex’ cases:

In 2021, Martin Coultin was sentenced to six years imprisonment for killing his partner through asphyxiation after gagging and tying her hands behind her back. In 2018, Jason Gaskell was sentenced to six years for killing Laura Huteson by slitting her throat and claiming its use as part of a sado-masochistic game.

Harriet Wistrich, Solicitor and Director of CWJ, said of the law change: ‘Cases of so called ‘rough sex gone wrong’ are highly gendered offences and the sentencing disparities we have seen fail to recognise the gravity of such killings. We hope this reform to homicide along with others under consideration will mark the start of an adjustment to the law so that male violence towards women is properly reflected in sentencing.’