HMA v Arnis Zoronkin

At the High Court in Edinburgh today (22 August), Lord Pentland sentenced Arnis Zoronkin to community based orders which include a Sexual Offences Prevention Order and 240 hours of unpaid work, after he was convicted of directing sexual verbal communications to a young child.

On sentencing, Lord Pentland made the following statement in court:  

“Arnis Zoronkin, the jury acquitted you of the charges of rape and sexual assault which you faced at your trial, but convicted you of a statutory offence of directing sexual verbal communications to a child under the age of 13 years. This offence occurred in the summer of 2015 when you were 15 years of age and the complainer was aged 8. The offence was committed by your making obscene gestures at the child and uttering sexual remarks to her. You must understand that this conduct on your part was wholly wrong and totally inappropriate; it had the potential to cause the child and others to become upset and distressed. There was, however, no physical contact between you and the child. Her elder sister intervened promptly.  There was no evidence that the child suffered any serious or lasting harm.

You also pled guilty at the start of the trial to breaching your bail conditions by contacting a child under the age of 16 by sending her messages and a photograph of yourself by means of Instagram.

The expert evidence submitted to the court indicates that you have a number of developmental difficulties and other challenges; you are assessed as being of low average intelligence. You have not previously offended.

In selecting the right sentence, I must have regard to your young age at the time when you committed these offences, and to your developmental and other difficulties. I must bear in mind that you were a child at the material time, that in view of the nature of the offences, the appropriate level of any custodial sentence would be at the lower end of the spectrum, and that such a sentence would be unlikely to achieve anything positive by way of addressing the challenges that you present or by way of providing a suitable framework for your rehabilitation and for the longer term protection of the public. In these circumstances, I am satisfied that there are more suitable alternatives to custody available. In combination, these measures will impose an appropriate level of punishment on you, ensure that you are suitably monitored and supervised in the community, and minimise the risk of your causing sexual harm so that public protection is achieved. Such a disposal will promote the public interest.

The orders I am about to impose on you are cumulative ones made in respect of both offences.

First, I shall impose a community payback order with a supervision requirement as recommended in the criminal justice social work report. The focus of this particular requirement will be to explore your apparent emotional identification with children as well as your possibly deviant sexual interests. Properly structured supervision will assist you in identifying and pursuing worthwhile activities and support you towards further education, training and employment possibilities. The supervision requirement will be for a period of 3 years. You must attend all appointments with your supervising officer and comply with any directions or requirements that he or she considers necessary for the purpose of promoting your rehabilitation.

The community payback order will also impose a requirement of 240 hours of unpaid work or other activities in the community. This must be completed within a period of two years. I have applied a discount of 20 hours to take account of your plea of guilty to charge 4.

The order will, in addition, impose as conduct requirements the conditions of the Sexual Offences Prevention Order as recommended in the criminal justice social work report, but subject to the modifications discussed in court today; the principal change is to reduce the age of the children with whom you must not have contact from 17 to 16 years.

Secondly and as I have just indicated, I propose to impose a Sexual Offences Prevention Order as recommended in the report. As discussed in court today, conditions 1 and 2 will be revised to change the age of the children from 17 years to 16 years. You will be supplied with details of the conditions of the order. The purpose of this order is to minimise the risk of sexual harm that you present whilst you are living in the community. This will be for a period of 5 years.

You will remain subject to the notification requirements applicable to sex offenders for a period of 5 years.

Your name has been added to the lists of persons deemed unsuitable to work with children and other vulnerable groups.

I wish to stress that if you breach any of the orders I have made you are liable to be brought back before the court and to be punished for the breaches. Such punishment may extend to the imposition of a custodial penalty.