Mr Rapke said the increase in sentences was a significant recognition of the trauma caused to sex crimes victims, particularly children.

VICTORIA’S most senior court has criticised judges for giving pedophiles inadequate sentences with little regard to maximum penalties, in two decisions expected to provide a benchmark for appeals against lenient sentences.

The Court of Appeal said the maximum jail term of 25 years for maintaining a sexual relationship with a child under 16 was “not being given appropriate weight”.

The judgements also mark a significant personal win for Director of Public Prosecutions Jeremy Rapke, QC, who has been critical of lenient sentencing across a range of offences. Mr Rapke provided the judges with sentencing statistics showing that recent sentences for maintaining a sexual relationship with a child under 16 averaged five years’ jail.

Court of Appeal president Justice Chris Maxwell and justices Frank Vincent and Marcia Neave said: “The sentencing information provided by the director indicates that current sentencing practices for this offence are inadequate.”

The judges said that while they could not reach a “concluded view” about the adequacy of current sentencing as that issue had not been specifically raised by the DPP “a real question arises as to the adequacy of current sentencing for this offence.

“This is a matter of the first importance to the administration of criminal justice in this state.”

Mr Rapke was rebuked recently by the judiciary over his media comments about soft sentences and claims — denied by Victoria’s Chief Justice, Marilyn Warren — that he phoned judges to counsel them about “insensitive” remarks to crime victims.

Mr Rapke appealed against the “manifestly inadequate” jail term of five years and eight months imposed on a man who pleaded guilty to maintaining a sexual relationship with a girl, 14, and producing child pornography. The sentence was increased to eight years’ jail yesterday.

The man, then 32, was the guardian of a troubled girl with whom he had sex almost daily over five months. The former drug addict, who had a prior conviction for aggravated indecent assault, videotaped some of the acts.

Justices Maxwell, Robert Redlich and Ross Robson also increased another sex offender’s jail term from two years and six months to six years.

His admissions included repeated sexual penetration of girls aged three and six, which carries a maximum 25-year prison term. The man, then 38, was the sisters’ occasional babysitter.

In each of yesterday’s judgements, the Court of Appeal noted that while the judges’ discretion in sentencing was vital, judges “may not disregard the will of Parliament as expressed in the fixing of the maximum penalty”.

Mr Rapke said the increase in sentences was a significant recognition of the trauma caused to sex crimes victims, particularly children.

He said he looked forward to applying the new principles to future appeals involving offences for which current sentencing practices were inadequate in his view.