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Griffiths deserved length of sentence, say judges

31 July 2020

Former vicar was sentenced to eight years for multiple offences of indecent assault

Creative Commons/Basher Eyre

Portsmouth Crown Court

Portsmouth Crown Court

A JUDGE was right to sentence Meirion Griffiths, a former Rector of St Pancras’s, Chichester, to eight years’ imprisonment for multiple offences of indecent assault (News, 17 January), despite the length of time that had passed since the offences, and Griffiths’s age and ill health.

This was the conclusion of three judges — Lord Justice Popplewell, Mr Justice Goose, and Mr Justice Hilliard — at the Court of Appeal (News, 22 May). A transcript of the judgment has been published online

In January, at the end of a six-day trial, a jury at Portsmouth Crown Court found Mr Griffiths, aged 81, guilty of two counts of indecent assault, one of them involving multiple offences, against one of the victims, Julie Macfarlane, who was a teenager at the time (Comment, 11 December 2015); and two counts, again one of them involving multiple offences, against another woman, then in her mid-twenties.

It was argued on Griffiths’s behalf at the Court of Appeal that the eight-year sentence that he was given after his trial in January was “manifestly excessive in that the judge passed the maximum available sentence and did not allow for mitigating factors or take proper account of the principle of totality when passing consecutive sentences”, the transcript says.

The Appeal judges noted that the judge who sentenced Griffiths had been “provided with a number of letters which spoke to a better side of the appellant, but in our judgment, they faded into the background when set against the gravity of the offending”.

The Appeal judges referred later, however, to guidance from the Sentencing Council, “Approach to Sentencing of Historic Sexual Offences”, which “provides that an absence of further offending over a long period of time, especially when combined with evidence of good character, may be treated as a mitigating factor”.

They continued: “However, the more serious the offence, the less the weight that should normally be attributed to good character.”

The judges disputed that the passing of consecutive sentences had been in conflict with Sentencing Council guidance on the principle of totality.

“One of the counts was a multiple-incident count which could have been charged as five separate offences,” the judges said. “For very good reason that did not happen. But the overall position is that the appellant had in fact committed no fewer than eight offences of indecent assault.

“We are satisfied that, having due regard to modern standards and attitudes, the total sentence of eight years’ imprisonment cannot be said to be other than just and proportionate when regard is had to the overall criminality . . . in accordance with the totality guideline.”

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