Ian Watkins and Jimmy Savile were both accused of using their celebrity status to abuse children
Ian Watkins and Jimmy Savile were both accused of using their celebrity status to abuse children

Celebrities found guilty of sex offences could face longer jail sentences as part of an overhaul of the old sentencing guidelines for judges.

Under a revision of the decade-old guidelines, offenders who used their position of power or public image to commit abuse will be given harsher sentences when the guidelines come into effect next April.

Judges will also be asked to consider previous "good character" of the offenders when handing down sentences, as well as thinking about the long-term, psychological impact on victims.

There will also be higher starting point for sentences such as rape of 15 years and removing the idea of "ostensible consent" - where a child over 13 can agree to sex,

The guidelines were put into place by the Sentencing Council following high profile cases of sexual abuse involving celebrities such as Jimmy Savile and Ian Watkins. Questions were also raised about attitudes towards victims in the wake of the Rochdale and Oxford grooming ring cases.

Sentencing Council chairman Lord Justice Treacy said: "This guideline will make real changes to the way offenders are sentenced for these very serious, sensitive and complex offences.

"It will help judges and magistrates sentence in a way which protects our communities from this kind of offending and the suffering it causes."

The new guidelines will also take into account online offending and the increased use of technology. In many cases, the new aggravating factor since the last guidelines were published 10 years ago is how the crimes are recorded, such as photographing or filming the victim.

Treacy said it was just a coincidence that the conviction of high-profile names such as Watkins and Stuart Hall occurred as the council was working on the guidelines.

"These proposals will apply to teachers, they will apply to care workers, they will apply to anybody who is in a position of responsibility for, particularly, a young person and then takes advantage of them," he said.

The move has been welcomed by children's charities.

Barnardo's deputy director of strategy Alison Worsley said: "The publication of this new sentencing guideline will help to ensure the focus is on the perpetrator and not the victim."

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: "It is important that sentencing reflects the severe damage caused by highly manipulative and devious sex offenders, who may use positions of trust or celebrity status to target children.

"Increasingly technology is playing a part in the way offenders seek out and groom children, who may attempt suicide or self-harm as a result of their abuse.

"It is right that the guidelines reflect the harm caused and the people who cause this misery feel the full weight of the law.

"The outdated view that children can in some way be complicit in their abuse must be stamped out. The new guidance is a step in the right direction towards addressing this terrible myth."