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Clause 3 - Assault by penetration

Part of Sexual Offences Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 9th September 2003.

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Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Minister of State (Citizenship and Immigration), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism) 3:15 pm, 9th September 2003

Where it is clear that the penis is the object with which somebody has been penetrated, a person will always be charged with rape. The two clauses were drafted as they were—clause 3 in particular—because there may be circumstances where it is not clear with what the victim was penetrated. If somebody is blindfolded, for example, there may be a reasonable assumption or a view about what happened, but it will not be clear. It is therefore important to retain the wording of the clauses to allow for that eventuality.

Hon. Members will know that non-consensual penetration of the vagina or anus with anything other than the penis is currently charged as indecent assault, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. From the important, although fairly brief, discussion of the clause it is clear that all Committee members regard forceful penetration with another body part or object as extremely serious offending behaviour, which can inflict as much, if not more, pain and physical damage on a victim as penile

penetration and is likely to result in similar psychological trauma.

Clearly, the law must recognise that penetrative offences are serious. That is why we created the new offence of sexual assault by penetration. We believe that the maximum penalty for that offence should be life imprisonment—the same as for rape. The new offence will provide better redress for those who are subjected to such appalling offending behaviour. I hope that it will enable the correct targeting of more offending behaviour against children and adults and that it will be underpinned by a maximum sentence that properly reflects the gravity of the offence that is committed.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 4 and 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.