Sex offences couple’s jail terms were ‘lengthy’ but ‘not excessive’ - Court of Appeal

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A Horsham couple who were jailed for a total of almost 40 years for a sickening campaign of depraved child sex crime have lost appeals against their sentences.

Owen Michael Bessinger, 51, and his wife, Emily Kathleen Bessinger, 42, subjected children to some of the worst abuse their trial judge had ever heard of.

He sentenced Owen Bessinger, of Eversfield Road, to 23 years’ jail and his mentally troubled estranged wife, of Henderson Way, to 14 years.

Last week, both challenged their sentences at London’s Court of Appeal, but their appeal was thrown out by Lord Justice Laws, Mr Justice Globe and Mr Justice Jay.

“This was a quite exceptional case of prolonged, systematic physical, sexual and psychological abuse with inevitable and profound long-lasting consequences,” said Mr Justice Jay.

The court heard girls who had not even reached the age of ten were abused by the pair.

Owen Bessinger raped and tried to rape one youngster, forced her to engage in sexual activity and performed sex acts in front of her. His wife abused a different girl, forcing her to simulate sexual positions.

Sentencing them in February, Judge Anthony Niblett said the offences were some of the worst seen in his court.

However, their lawyers argued that, serious though the crimes were, the sentences passed were simply too long.

They also said that Judge Niblett had failed to properly reflect the mitigation of Emily Bessinger’s ‘psychological imbalance’.

Refusing the appeal, Mr Justice Jay said: “This was undoubtedly a difficult sentencing exercise, but the judge was ideally placed both to observe the appellants very closely indeed during the course of quite harrowing evidence and to quantify the seriousness of their offending.

“These are lengthy sentences, but in our judgment they are not excessive, still less manifestly so. These applications are refused.”

Owen Bessinger’s crimes included rape, attempted rape and engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child. Emily Bessinger’s included counts of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

When he sentenced the pair, Judge Niblett had commented: “I’m well aware that these are sentences of exceptional length. But it was well understood by all who read the facts of this case, as it is already understood by those who have been involved in this case, that this is an exceptional case.

“These offences surpass in their gravity, all that this court has heard, even in its extensive and grim experience of the catalogue of offences, particularly against children.

“Sentences must also reflect the degree of revulsion that all have felt who have been in contact with this case. ”