The number of Historic Sex Crime allegations made is on the rise. It’s estimated that of the 20% increase in reported sex crimes throughout the UK, over a third of them are historic cases.
Being accused of these crimes will make you feel victimised and alone, considering the stigma behind allegations of this nature. Your reputation can be quickly torn to pieces by rumours and gossip surrounding any allegations – it’s important that you take 3 vital steps to safeguard your reputation and prepare to fight your case.
These cases are extremely difficult and complex, particularly when alleged offences happened over 30 years ago. It’s important to clear your head for a moment and focus on these 3 things you must do the if you are accused.
1. Understand the repercussions
You need to know exactly where you stand, what it is that you are being accused of and what the potential consequences are from the allegations that have been made against you.
The Law has changed since the time when some of these things may have allegedly taken place. The law that may be applied to historic sexual offences will probably be “old law”, dating back to the Sexual Offences Act of 1956. This law doesn’t cover “new” crimes that have taken place. The current law is governed by the Sexual Offences Act of 2003; this changed the law, it created new offences, it gave offences new titles and changed the punishments that the Courts could impose.
The law now is very different to what it was under the 1956 legislation. This is just one of the reasons why it is important to have an expert who understands both the old laws and system but also the new ones too.
There is a fundamental principle that the Law is not to be applied retrospectively; if this was the case, then everyone who had ever smoked in a car with a child would be subject to a £50 fine. It’s integral to justice that the law is not applied retrospectively, and is even considered a Human Right by the European Council. This means that charges brought against you will be sentenced based on the law at the time of the offence – including your own circumstances. However, even this is not as clear cut as it might be.
This is because the Court’s approach to these cases is also intended to reflect public attitudes that are relevant now, and this is clearly illustrated in the case of Historic Sex offences. In 1960, the maximum sentence for indecent assault on an underage girl was 2 years’ imprisonment. Since then, new categories of offence have been introduced under the Sexual Offences Act of 2003.
In the case of Rolf Harris, he was convicted of committing crimes during the 1960s and, as such, the maximum sentence he was issued for a single charge was 15 months’ imprisonment. Depending on the circumstances, long-term imprisonment may not always be a consequence as the court will look at the overall picture – including, for example, the number of offences, whether there was what we call a “breach of trust” where the accuser was considered particularly vulnerable or the accused was in a special position that enabled the offence(s) to take place.
It is a thorough understanding of these points but a number of other factors as well that enables us and our client’s to understand and appreciate what the repercussions of the accusations may be and deal with them appropriately.
2. Consider the accuser’s motives
If you are accused of an offence like this, there is a very good chance that you will know your accuser personally, and you may have even regularly interacted with them. It’s for this reason that Historic Sex Crime allegations are relatively unique – it means you can gain an insight into why they are making accusations and allow you to create an even stronger defence strategy.
There are some fairly common reasons why complainants have started initiating proceedings for historical sex crimes, including:
- Seeking financial gain in the form of a payoff or compensation
- Revenge for a Familial Breakup
- Revenge for ulterior motives which can be involved and complex, perhaps due to psychological or psychiatric issues
- Acting on circumstantial evidence in a perceived quest for justice
It is perceived that false allegations are rarely prosecuted, so it’s vital you consider the possible motives of your accusers to help build a strong defence strategy.
As many historic sex crime cases are underpinned on the word of the complainant, it is imperative that a forensic examination of the evidence takes place to expose any lies that exist, often by looking at alternative sources of evidence or by finding independent witnesses that can expose those lies. In turn, this can have a snowball effect in undermining the whole case against you, which can result in truths being established and justice being achieved. It takes a solid strategy to exploit any untruths and weaken any accusatory case.
3. Get Expert Help
Through the advice of a great legal team you will be able to talk through the intricacies of your case with an expert criminal defence solicitor, one that has a robust knowledge of historical sex crime law to talk you through the process. It’s not a quick or easy process, it takes time and it takes perseverance.
Finding the right defence strategy is key to achieving a positive outcome, and acting in the advice of an experienced criminal defence solicitor will enable you to take the right actions and cooperate with the police without jeopardising your defence case. If your case is already in court, it’s about strategy and tactics, knowing what to do and when to do it.
Talking to Lawtons Criminal Law Solicitors will enable you to achieve the most positive result from your situation. We are criminal defence solicitors in London & the Home Counties. Simply send an enquiry or get in touch and we can discuss the intricacies of your case.
Many of these cases start with a verbal statement or accusation, as physical evidence isn’t likely to exist as a result of the age of the accusations. Statements can also be unreliable evidence where witnesses or accusers are referring to events many years ago, particularly with allegations of crimes in the very distant past.
What to do next
The Crown Prosecution Service has been widely criticised for failing to prosecute in high-profile cases throughout 2014. The Police have also been criticised for failing to take action years ago – the misgivings and failures of the Police, as highlighted by Operation Yew Tree and the high profile cases of various former celebrities has led to a highly proactive investigation of all such historic allegations.
In relation to historic sexual offences, the current attitude of the Police and Crown Prosecution Service is a very different one from that which it was several years ago. In the event that an allegation is made of an historic nature, it is perceived by some that the Crown Prosecution Service may prosecute a case now without substantial corroborative evidence where they would previously have been reluctant to do so. In practice, if you are accused of such an offence, regrettably it means that Police and Crown Prosecution Service may be more willing to act upon historic sex crime allegations than ever before.
Historic Sex Crime allegations can be a particularly challenging area of the law, particularly as it is only a relatively new development given the previous approaches adopted by the authorities. It’s vital that you appoint a criminal defence solicitor with expertise of historic and present law to achieve the best possible outcome for you.