Today at Peterhead Sheriff Court Sheriff Marysia Lewis imposed an extended sentence of 20 months on Richard Bennett after he pled guilty to a breach of Section 1 of the Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2005. The sentence is composed of a custodial period of 8 months followed by an extension period under licence of 12 months.

On sentencing Sheriff Lewis made the following statement in court:

“I heard from the Crown some time ago regarding the circumstances of the offence. Today I heard a thorough and well considered plea in mitigation from Mr. Birkenshaw on your behalf.

It is clear that you make use of the internet for the purpose of chatting to others and through this medium you came in contact with an individual whom you believed to be a young girl.  Communication took place over a four month period and at an early stage this person revealed information to the effect that she was a 14 year old girl. Initially the content of the emails were innocuous but you continued to send messages to her and they became sexual in nature. You arranged to meet but did not do so.

In passing sentence today, I have taken into account everything that Mr Birkenshaw has said on your behalf including your lack of record, your age, your character, your mental health and the impact on yourself. I had read the Social Enquiry Report, the Joint Sex Offenders Programme Report and the psychological report prior to coming into court today and I read them all again during the adjournment, this time in the light of the observations of Mr. Birkenshaw. Each of these Reports provide assistance to the court. I noted the observations of Mr Birkenshaw in regard to aspects of the Social Enquiry Report and I have taken those into account.

Mr. Birkenshaw accepted on your behalf the seriousness of the offence and the possibly consequences of that offending. He urged me to consider non-custodial sentence and indeed to follow the recommendation of Probation. I have considered all sentencing options and am satisfied that, in the public interest, there is no realistic alternative to a custodial sentence in this case. This is a matter of considerable concern and requires to be punished appropriately.

So I am going to impose on you an extended sentence of 20 months. An extended sentence consists of two parts: a custodial part and an extended period.                                                 

First, making due allowance, for all of the mitigating factors which arise in this case, in relation to the charge you will go to prison for a period of 8 months. My starting point had been 1 year, but making due allowance for the early plea I reduce that to 8 months.  

Second, I order that after your release from custody you will be under licence for an extension period of 12 months.

The conditions of your licence will be fixed by the Scottish Ministers. If during this extension period you fail to comply with the conditions of your licence it may be revoked and you may be returned to custody for a further period in respect of this case. The court also has power to deal with you if you commit another offence after your release from the custodial term of this extended sentence.

This offence has already been certified for the purposes of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and you will be required to register your particulars in terms of Section 83(5) of that Act with the police for inclusion in the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years”.