A Supreme Court judge hit out yesterday at controversial comments made by a defence lawyer as she jailed his client for 18 months.
Chez Rogers, 20, pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges that he lured and had unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of 14 between August 1 and October 1 last year.
Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons said Rogers deserved credit for his early admission of the crimes and his lack of previous convictions.
But she rejected earlier submissions by Charles Richardson, who appeared for Rogers, who said that young girls tried to have sex with older men for “sport”.
Mrs Justice Simmons told Rogers: “Mr Richardson indicated that he did not seek to deny that you committed the two offences, to which you plead guilty.
“Nonetheless, he sought to persuade the court that the full weight of the court ought not to fall upon you, but your victim — the 13-year-old girl — should bear some responsibility for your sexual indiscretions and criminality. He sought to do so by stating there is a phenomenon occurring in our society where it has become sport for young girls to pursue older men to have sex with them.
“He submitted that, in those circumstances what you have done should not be perceived as predatory conduct. He further suggested that your sentence should reflect the victim’s behaviour.”
Mrs Justice Simmons said Mr Richardson was warned the “inflammatory” submissions could not have a bearing on the level of sentence, but that he had argued there had been a shift in public morality that needed to be considered.
She added: “This court wishes to make it perfectly clear that if he feels so strongly that public morality has changed so strongly to the degree that he suggests, then he is making his argument in the wrong place.
“He should be appealing to the Legislature to change the law and not to this court to accept that such a submission will result in mitigation of sentence.”
But Mrs Justice Simmons emphasised: “In any event, it is not the view of this court that the whole of society, or that even any great portion of society, sees the behaviour of young girls in the ways suggested by Mr Richardson.”
She added: “It may well be that young girls find older men attractive — that has probably been the case since time immemorial — but in this day of heightened awareness of the court’s judicial duty to protect and safeguard children, it would be fundamentally wrong in principle to reduce a sentence based on the submissions.”
Mrs Justice Simmons added that Mr Richardson had strayed from the law when he said the criminal offence was established to protect “young women” from themselves.
She said: “She was a child. She was and is a child.”
Mrs Justice Simmons sentenced Rogers to 18 months for unlawful carnal knowledge and 12 months for luring, but ordered that the sentences should run concurrently and that time already served should be taken into consideration.
She also ordered that Rogers’s name should be added to the sex offenders’ register.
Mr Richardson said on Facebook after sentence was passed: “They wanted four years. I asked for 18 months.
“Court gave him 18 months. I did my job for my client.”
Cindy Clarke, the Deputy Director of the Department of Public Prosecutions, earlier told the court that the offences were discovered when the girl’s mother checked the child’s phone and social-media messages.
She discovered a series of sexual messages between the girl and Rogers.
The mother also learnt that her daughter had left home at night to meet him. Police later interviewed the girl and she said the pair had had sex.
Rogers was arrested and admitted that he had messaged the girl and had sex with her on two occasions.
Ms Clarke last Friday asked for a sentence of between three and four years in jail.
She added that Rogers had no excuse for his actions.
But Mr Richardson said that a sentence that length was “manifestly excessive” and suggested a period of eight to 18 months.
He added that Rogers was aware he was responsible for his actions and that he would spend time behind bars for it.
But he told the court: “It has become sport for young girls to see if they can have sex with an older guy.”
He later added: “Maybe there should be some statute against the young women who do this.
“They know better, they do. At what point will they be held accountable?”
The comments provoked a storm of outrage from child protection charities, including the Coalition for the Protection of Children, Saving Children and Revealing Secrets, an anti-child abuse organisation, and the Women’s Resource Centre.
Mrs Justice Simmons said the starting point for the unlawful carnal knowledge conviction, given previous cases, would be two years behind bars, but Rogers deserved a discount for his early guilty plea and his previous clean record.
She added that the luring offence was just as serious because it highlighted that the illegal sexual contact was planned.
Mrs Justice Simmons told Rogers: “In explicit language you made it known to the victim what you intended to do by suggesting various types of sexual activity to her.
“Luring in these circumstances is as egregious as the act of sexual conduct with a girl as young as 13.
“After all, without the luring, the sexual conduct could not have happened.”
Debi Ray-Rivers, the founder and executive director of Scars, praised the victim’s family for reporting the offences.
She said it showed “a mother who cares about the safety of her child, a discovery that her child was sexually abused, a subsequent report made, and a family supporting their child through the journey of prosecution”.
Ms Ray-Rivers added: “We can ask ourselves how much time is enough time for a 19-year-old young person to be held accountable for taking advantage of a child for sexual pleasure?
“How much time is enough time to help this young man understand the consequences and seriousness of his actions and choices, and how much time is enough time to get to the root of the issue — either his search for an act to fulfil his physical need and desires regardless of age, or the belief that a child can offer love and intimacy?”
Ms Rivers added she was concerned that a veteran of the courts had appeared to suggest that a 13-year-old girl was a young woman.
She said: “It appears we need more education and awareness when it comes to understanding the rights of a child and the definition of consent.
“Children cannot give consent. It’s the law.”