CALLS for a review of sentencing guidelines for sexual offences after an education official who downloaded hundreds of indecent images of children was jailed for 15 weeks have been echoed by the acting children’s commissioner.
Andrea Le Saint spoke after David Gerald Berry (60), who served as head of school improvement, was sentenced in the Magistrate’s Court on Friday.
In addition to being jailed for 15 weeks, Berry was also given a five-year restraining order and placed on the Sex Offenders Register for five years after admitting downloading 357 indecent images of children from the internet.
These comprised 353 still images and four videos and belonged in category C – the least severe classification.
The sentence has been criticised by former Children’s Minister Sam Mézec, who said it was ‘shameful’ that Berry was only given 15 weeks.
He added: ‘He was lucky he wasn’t caught with some cannabis because then he might have been given a proper sentence,’ he said.
‘It is utterly ridiculous that we give such high sentences to people who have small amounts of cannabis but such pitiful sentences to people who create demand for these grotesque images of children, which cause children immense suffering – this is not a victimless crime.’
Children’s and Education Minister Inna Gardiner has said that, in the light of the case, a review of safeguarding measures is taking place – including reviewing which staff are required to undertake enhanced DBS checks.
Deputy Mézec questioned whether this would make a difference given that Berry had no previous convictions.
‘It is extremely worrying that someone like that ended up in a senior position in education,’ he said.
‘The reason harsher sentences should be considered is because they act as a deterrent and would perhaps be more effective than enhanced DBS checks.’
Ms Le Saint said: ‘It was a shock to everyone that someone in a senior position in education had done that. I was notified by the chief officer in CYPES (Children, Young People, Education and Skills Department) prior to the sentencing.’
She added: ‘I think it is a call to review sentencing guidelines for sexual offences in general.
‘We need to ensure that when children – or adults – are brave enough to come forward to disclose something, that they can be confident appropriate sentencing will be given.
‘I would not want to see [inappropriate] sentencing become a deterrent to people coming forward.’
Deputy Catherine Curtis, who chairs the Children, Young People, Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel, said she intended to look into sentencing guidelines – particularly regarding convictions of those in positions of responsibility for children.
‘Firstly, I’d just like to say that the [Children’s] Minister has assured the public that this man hasn’t had contact with children in his role. However, 15 weeks seems to be a relatively short sentence, considering the crime.
‘I, and I expect most people would expect a longer sentence for someone, who in a position of responsibility for children, has taken enjoyment from illegal images of children being objectified, humiliated and degraded,’ she added.
‘The Sexual Offences (Jersey) Law 2018 does include, in paragraph 19, information regarding offenders in a position of trust, but this solely appears to relate to certain offences against 16- and 17-year-olds,’ she continued.
‘With my panel, I intend to look into the sentencing guidelines, especially considering whether those convicted of any sexual offence, who are in a position of responsibility regarding the welfare of children, have that taken into consideration when they have abused that trust.’