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Sentencing guidelines for sex attacks need to be changed

By Suzanne Breen

Published 18/02/2016

A 52-year-old woman was raped on a Belfast street by a stranger as she went to get a taxi home.

He pinned her to a car. She told him that she was a grandmother and begged for mercy but to no avail.

We can only begin to imagine the horror this woman experienced on that awful night in January 2013, and the torments that have plagued her since.

Unlike so many rape victims, who have no faith in the justice system, she did the 'right thing' reporting it to police immediately.

Today she has every reason to feel disappointed and disgusted by the system in which she placed her trust. The Court of Appeal has reduced her rapist's sentence from the nine years imposed by the original trial judge to seven years. Lukasz Artur Kubik will spend three-and-a-half years in jail and the rest on licence.

Such a sentence for rape - one of the most serious crimes on the statute book after murder - leaves many of us perplexed. Kubik, a 31-year-old Pole, has 28 previous convictions, 26 of which occurred here. They include offences relating to drug trafficking and theft.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan and his two colleagues who sat on the appeal are clearly obliged to follow sentencing guidelines. In my opinion, these guidelines need changed urgently.

Compare the three-and-a-half years behind bars that rapist Kubik will spend to the sentence imposed on Derry man Robert Barry Crossan. He held up a bookies office with a firearm, or imitation gun, and escaped with £390.

Two months ago the Court of Appeal agreed that it was a "somewhat amateurish enterprise" but it still ruled that his 10-year jail sentence was correct. Mrs Justice Keegan said: "The public deserve to be protected against this type of behaviour and there has to be a deterrent element."

If the sentencing guidelines place more importance on the stealing of £390 from a betting shop than the raping of a grandmother, the public most definitely don't.

Kubik did not even admit the rape in order to save his victim the trauma of testifying in court. During five hours of police interviews he denied any sexual contact with her even when confronted by forensic evidence.

Shortly before trial he changed his story, but alleged the act was consensual. A jury, however, found differently.

The Lord Chief Justice said Kubik's actions were driven by alcohol and opportunism, and there was nothing "to indicate that this was other than a single impulsive act".

He also held that there was nothing to show that Kubik posed a significant risk of serious harm from similar offending.

The Court of Appeal undoubtedly looked at all the relevant factors in the case, and it is true that each case turns on its own facts.

However, if the public are concerned that the guidelines which dictate sentencing imposed by judges appear to in any sense underestimate the impact of the rape of a 52-year-old woman, then, in my view, the guidelines need to be reviewed.

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