Charged with sexual offences for chatting with minors online? – the sentencing guidelines

If you have been charged with an offence as a result of communicating with a person under the age of 16 ( or in certain cases under 18 ) on the internet, you may be concerned about what happens next. 

You may be charged with an offence if you contact the person for sexual purposes. 

The sentences for online child sex offences can be severe, but a specialist sexual offences lawyer can help build a strong mitigating case (or on occasions a defence) which will be put forward in an attempt to help you avoid an immediate custodial sentence.

In this article, we look at the sentencing guidelines and some of the case law in this area to help you understand how your case might progress, and how a sexual offences defence lawyer can help you. 


In the case of Reed and Others -v- The Queen 2001 judgment was given on six cases that had been listed together as they all raised sentencing matters in relation to child sex offences where no sexual activity had taken place.  There were several reasons for this which included, because the child did not exist, for example in circumstances where the Defendant was communicating with an undercover police officer or vigilante or, where the Defendant expressed a decision not to meet the person he was communicating with or, arranging meetings with, before he was arrested. 

This also applies to seeking, obtaining and sending explicit photographic material which is illegal until the person that is being communicated with is 18. 

Sentencing of child sex offences where no sexual activity took place 

The case sets out clear guidance for how such cases should be sentenced. 

The starting point for sentencing is the assessment of harm. Not only harm actually inflicted but any harm intended. This means the court will look at the intentions of the defendant, and what they intended to do based on the facts of the case. 

At the starting point, there is now very little distinction between cases where the activity takes places and cases where the Defendant attempts to facilitate sexual activity taking place.This is because the Defendant, did not at the time he was making the communication, know that the person was a police officer or vigilante or a person aged over 18.  

The more serious the sexual acts spoken about, eg, penetrative acts, the more serious the sentence is likely to be.

Another aggravating factor is the age of the person being communicated with. There is, however, the scope for a defence lawyer to mitigate the sentence. 

The case highlights that the sentencing judge should adjust the sentence downward where no sexual activity took place because there was no real child or for any other reason.

How can a specialist lawyer help? 

We may be able to help you get a reduction in sentence by ensuring the Sentencing Judge takes account of the fact that no sexual activity took place.  The level to which your sentence is adjusted will depend on the facts of the case and we will leave no stone unturned to ensure that your case is presented properly

The sentencing exercises in these matters are often complex, dependant on the type of activity discussed. 

Each case is individual and we will use those individual facts to assist our clients.  

Other things which assist are the conversations only take place for a short period of time, the age of the person being spoken to and whether or not material was exchange or sought.

Contact our Internet Sex Crime Defence Lawyers (Yorkshire, London, Birmingham, Manchester)

Our lawyers work hard to defend your reputation, career, and liberty. We provide robust defence preparation, exceptional attention to detail and tenacious representation makes us the first choice for criminal defence. We will discuss all of the options available to find and implement the best course of action for your circumstances.

Our expert internet sex crime solicitors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, ready to advise and assist you. To discuss your situation in strictest confidence, please contact Stuart Sutton on 07798 753 720, email Stuart on

Image  by Lars Plougmann on Flickr, cc by-sa 2.0.