A babysitter who had sex with an 11-year-old boy she was looking after has been given a suspended jail term. Judge Tim Mousley QC was criticised by children's charities after saying that Jade Hatt, now 21, was "immature" for her age and that as a result he felt able to step outside the usual sentencing guidelines.
"Having read everything before me, it was quite clear he was a mature 11-year-old and you were an immature 20-year-old so that narrows the arithmetic age gap between you," he said during sentencing on Monday (5 October). Hatt was given a six-month jail term suspended for two years with supervision, and told she must remain on the sex offenders' register for seven years. She has also been banned from having unsupervised contact with young boys for two years.
Prosecutor Hannah Squire told Swindon Crown Court: "The defendant was friends with the boy's father, with whom she had had a brief sexual relationship. He would ask her to babysit; she had babysat his 11-year-old son on six or seven occasions. On one of those occasions this offence took place.
"It was during the day and the boy was off school. The defendant arrived at about 11.30am. Sexual intercourse took place. She told him she enjoyed it, he said he had not as it was wrong."
Rob Ross, who was defending Hatt, read out a statement from the boy's father in which he said: "He [the boy] is sex mad. He would have been fully up for this experience and in many ways sees it as a notch on his belt and is totally unaffected by it.
'A deeply worrying signal'
A spokesman for children's charity the NSPCC said: "The judge's comments in this case send out completely the wrong message and confirm a common view in society that the abuse of a young boy by a woman is somehow less serious than the abuse of a girl by a man.
"The offender in this case has escaped extremely lightly and you have to wonder whether, in the same circumstances, a man would have been treated the same. It beggars belief that Tim Mousley QC could say that the 11-year-old victim's maturity and the abuser's immaturity 'narrowed the age gap' and was reason to step outside the sentencing guidelines; this sends a deeply worrying signal.
"The victim's voice appears to have been ignored as, despite his own father claiming that his son was 'fully up for the experience', the boy himself said he had not enjoyed it and knew it was wrong. The effects of sexual abuse can be long lasting and it's essential that this boy is offered the necessary support."
A similar position was taken by Claude Knights, the CEO of charity Kidscape, who said that the language used in court implied that the underage victim was to blame. "This is a very disturbing case involving attempts to find mitigating circumstances," she said.
"It must be stressed however that we are dealing with an 11-year-old boy who, however physically mature he might appear, is a child in every sense. He cannot be expected to have the emotional maturity to engage in a sexual relationship.
"It is very sad to hear this young boy described in terms such as 'sex mad', which somehow implies that he was to blame for the illegal activity that took place. We have to ask about the influences that this child was subjected to."
"Sadly the current sexualisation of childhood is well documented. The fact that he realised that what had happened was wrong indicates that he will have been affected by this regrettable incident," she added.