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Teen sex offender’s sentence cut on appeal

A teenager who admitted having sex with an underage girl has had his prison sentence reduced after an appeal.

Malik Zuill, 18, pleaded guilty to two counts of having unlawful carnal knowledge of a 14-year-old girl.

At the time of the incidents, he was 17 and the victim was nearing 15.

The court had heard that Zuill first made contact with the complainant, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, in December 2013 on social media. They met in person a month later.

They reportedly had sexual contact on two occasions before she told people at her church what had happened.

In an initial Police interview, Zuill denied having any contact with the girl and pleaded not guilty to charges of unlawful carnal knowledge during his first appearance in Supreme Court. He later reversed those pleas.

Puisne Judge Carlisle Greaves sentenced Zuill to one year in prison for each of the offences, to be followed by three years' probation, but the teenager launched an appeal against that sentence.

According to a written judgment, defence lawyer Elizabeth Christopher argued to the Court of Appeal that the sentence was manifestly excessive and that Zuill should not have received a prison sentence.

She said a conditional discharge or a probation order would have been appropriate given the facts of the case.

However, the court found that such offences attract a sentence of imprisonment, and that there were no real grounds for suspending that sentence.

The judgment said that there was “no evidence of real remorse” and, while he had pleaded guilty, he did not do so at his arraignments.

The court also said that while Zuill was only 17 at the time of the offences and had no previous convictions, he had been more experienced than the girl, noting the sentencing judge's comment that she had been “duped”.

Zuill told the writer of a social inquiry report that he only wanted sex from the girl and had lied about his feelings for her to get this.

A section of the judgment reads: “While we approach this case on the basis that the sexual intercourse on both occasions was consensual, it seems to us that it only occurred after a degree of persistence by the appellant and of acquiescence on the part of the complainant.”

Despite the “aggravating features”, the court found that the 12-month sentence was “simply too long” and manifestly excessive for a person of his age.

“There are, as we have just been at pains to explain, some aggravating features which erode some of the credit to which he was entitled by reason of his youth, but nevertheless, as we have said, we are satisfied that 12 months was too long,” the judgment states.

“What we propose to do in relation to each of these offences is to quash the sentences of 12 months' imprisonment and to substitute in each case sentences of eight months' imprisonment. Time spent on remand will continue to count. The sentences will of course remain concurrent.

“With regard to the probation order, it seems to us that there is every reason to impose a probation order in addition to the sentences of imprisonment. We observe that the judge rejected the social inquiry report suggestion that the appellant represented only a moderate risk of reoffending.

“The facts of the case as we have outlined them and the appellant's attitude towards them made rejection of that risk assessment entirely understandable and in our judgment correct.

“However, there remains the issue of the duration [of the] probation order.

“We think there is some force in Ms Christopher's submission that on top of the custodial sentence, the Probation Order, which contains a punitive element, is longer than it need be. Accordingly we shall reduce the duration from three years to two years.”

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Published April 17, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated April 17, 2015 at 12:00 am)

Teen sex offender’s sentence cut on appeal

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