The Volokh Conspiracy

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Higher penalty for statutory rape when victim's culture sharply condemns premarital sex?


An interesting English decision from two years ago, in Regina v. Ul Nasir. Jamal Muhammed Raheem Ul Nasir (age 32) was convicted of sexual activity with minors—two acts against a minor whom the court called J, who was 9 at the time of the crimes, and four against G, who was 13—and sentenced to seven years in prison.

Ul Nasir argued that the sentencing judge improperly "regarded the offending as aggravated because of the victims' ethnic and religious origin," but the appellate court viewed the matter differently:

In her sentencing remarks the judge observed that J was finding it difficult at school because her friends knew what had happened, leading to problems and shame for her. In relation to G, the judge observed that she had had difficulty as a result of what the applicant had done to her. This had caused G to behave completely out of character: she had previously been a young girl doing well at school, and now was not doing as well as expected.

For the family as a whole there had been enormous implications. The father had said that he and their mother were struggling and felt socially isolated because, within their particular community, it brought great shame on the whole family when things like this happened. He was also concerned about the future marriage prospects for his daughters. The applicant, coming from this community, knew only too well the effect upon the children and their family and this was an aggravating feature.

In this regard [the trial judge] was, entirely properly, having regard to the particular harm caused to the victims by this offending. As it happened, that harm was aggravated by the impact on the victims and their family within this particular community….