What To Do if You Are Accused of Grooming

Stephen Halloran headshot

Stephen Halloran

Managing Partner

In Brief

If facing accusations of grooming, the consequences can be severe, potentially leading to prison time. Seek professional legal representation immediately for expert guidance and support in navigating this challenging situation.

Being accused of a crime – or charged with one – can be a daunting experience. It’s even more unnerving if the charges relate to children. 

Wondering what to do if someone accuses you of grooming? We’ll take you through your options.

What is grooming?

Grooming is building a relationship with a child, young person or an at-risk adult, with the intention of abusing them and manipulating them into doing things. 

Under Section 15 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, building a relationship can be meeting them or communicating with them, including online. It can also include giving the victim gifts. Even if no actual abuse occurs, it’s still an offence to groom someone with the intention to abuse them.

Since 2017, it’s also been an offence for anyone aged 18 or over to intentionally communicate with a child under 16 for a sexual purpose, where the communication is sexual or intended to elicit a sexual response.

Why would you be accused of grooming?

Here are some actions that could lead to child grooming charges:

  • Communicating with someone under 16 (or an at-risk adult) with the intent to sexually exploit them – through social media, text messages, phone calls or any other medium
  • Sending them sexually explicit images or videos, or asking the victim to send them to you
  • Exposing a child (or at-risk adult) to sexually explicit materials or discussions
  • Arranging to meet them for sexual purposes, or setting up such a meeting for someone else
  • Trying to gain trust by pretending to be somebody else, with the intention of sexual exploitation

What happens during a grooming investigation?

Like any other criminal investigation, a grooming investigation involves several stages.

Firstly, the police will gather evidence. So, what evidence is needed for grooming?

This will vary from case to case. Evidence could come from a whole range of sources, depending upon what’s available to police and the nature of the offence. For example, they might take evidence from digital devices like phones and computers. Social media is another common source of evidence. The weight of evidence the police are able to gather will influence whether you’re charged or not.

As the accused, you’ll be interviewed and questioned by the police under Caution and asked about your interactions with the child or at-risk adult. It’s vital that you have expert legal advice if you’re interviewed. What is said and done in this interview can be used as evidence later and can have a vital impact on how the investigation and proceeds after that.

Of course, the victim will also be interviewed and they might also be medically examined to see if they find evidence which is suggested to be supportive of any form of physical abuse.

While they gather evidence, the police might release you under investigation or release you on bail with conditions. Then, once they’ve collected all the available evidence, they’ll decide if they have enough evidence to press charges, this is a decision normally made by a specialist prosecutor. If they do, you’ll be formally charged and the case will proceed to court. If there’s insufficient evidence, on the other hand, you’ll be released without charge and no further action may be taken. 

What sentence could you get if you’re charged with grooming?

Charges for child grooming can carry severe sentences. But even if you avoid a prison sentence, any kind of conviction can have serious consequences for your future. You could suffer irreparable damage to both your personal life and your professional life, particularly if you have to sign the sex offenders register.

So, what is the sentence for grooming in the UK? The maximum sentence is 10 years in prison, while the minimum is generally a community based order managed by the Probation Service.

If you’re convicted of grooming under UK law, the sentence you receive will depend on various factors. These include the age of the victim, the nature and extent of the grooming behaviour, and any aggravating or mitigating circumstances. Showing genuine remorse will also go in your favour, as will pleading guilty at an early stage of proceedings.

It’s important to note that if you receive a prison sentence of four years or more, the offence will stay on your record permanently. Irrespective, your offence will be recorded on the Police National Computer and the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) database, which will have implications for your career prospects.

What to do if you’re falsely accused of grooming

Being falsely accused of child grooming can be extremely distressing. It might be tempting to dismiss the allegations out of hand and react with anger. However, it’s always advisable to treat any accusation seriously and immediately seek the help of experienced and expert solicitors . This is even more important when the accusations are as serious as grooming.

After securing legal advice, you should set about gathering any evidence that might support your defence. It’s also vital not to conceal any evidence, as this can be an offence in itself. 

Throughout the process, be honest with your legal advisors and mention anything that might be relevant to the case, no matter how small. This will give them the facts they need to form a solid defence strategy for you.

Why choose Lawtons defence if you’ve been accused of grooming? 

Even if you’re not convicted of grooming, your reputation could suffer. You might lose your job, personal relationships or both. This is why it’s always best to seek expert specialist sexual offence defence advice. Not only will it give you the best possible chance of being acquitted, but it can also help to minimise reputational damage.

We have years of experience in representing people accused of sexual offences, including accusations of child grooming. We know the process well, so we’ll search out every available angle and piece of evidence that could help your cause. Plus, we’ll explain the legal process in plain English, offering support every step of the way.

Contact us now if you’ve been accused of a crime, or charged with one. Don’t put your future at risk.

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