What should you do if you’ve been accused of rape?

26th May 2022 | Sex Offences|
Nick Titchener headshot

Nick Titchener

Director & Solicitor Advocate

In Brief

Whatever the circumstances surrounding the case, an accusation of rape is among the most serious allegations you can face. You need experienced solicitors, with expertise in rape cases, on your side from the very beginning.

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Rape accusations – why you need immediate legal advice

Being accused of rape can be equally distressing and confusing. That’s one of the reasons why it’s vital to seek a rape defence solicitor and get professional guidance as soon as possible. They’ll help you to understand the whole process, starting with the investigation and your interaction with the police, advising you on your best course of action at every step.

How are rape accusations investigated? 

In cases of rape, investigations will swiftly get underway and police will immediately examine the scene of the alleged crime for evidence. This may include footprints and fingerprints, DNA evidence and CCTV images. 

If the alleged rape occurred within the previous seven days, the police will ask the accuser(s) if they’d like to have a forensic medical examination to uncover any evidence on their person. It’s likely that they’ll also take samples from you, such as saliva, oral swabs or footprints. For some substances, such as blood or intimate body samples, they’ll need your permission to take samples.

Of course, police interviews play a crucial role in investigations. The police will interview suspects, any witnesses and the accuser(s), gathering evidence both before and after interviews, if appropriate. In most cases, they will also examine your phone as well as other electronic devices, such as your computer or tablet. It may take weeks or even months before these devices are returned to you.

It can take much, much longer to gain a verdict in the case, particularly if it goes to trial. In 2021, there was an average delay of over 1,000 days between a rape being reported and the completion of the case.

What happens after you’ve been accused of rape?

Once an accusation of rape has been made, the police act quickly to apprehend the accused, denying them the opportunity or time to flee. This also reduces the chances of evidence being lost or not preserved. To successfully apprehend suspects, the police will often approach them at home or at their place of work.

If you had no forewarning of the accusation, meeting the police in such circumstances will come as a shock to you. They will ask you to attend the police station with them, where you will be interviewed under caution.

Due to the nature of the allegations, the police will have to ask sensitive questions around your personal life and relationships, which might be difficult to face. This is where experienced solicitors can help you to remain calm, advising on whether to answer questions and how to do so. They’ll also help you to concentrate on answering questions as fully as possible, where appropriate, without incriminating yourself. The caution part of an interview under caution refers to the police warning you that ‘anything you do say may be given in evidence’.

It could be that you’re detained in custody after the interview, perhaps at the police station where you were interviewed. Or it may be that you’re transferred somewhere else following questioning.

Often though, you will be released on bail, sometimes with certain conditions attached. These may include a curfew, staying away from particular locations or refraining from contacting certain people. You can be recalled for further questioning at any point, while you might have your passport confiscated to deny you the chance to flee.

You may remain on bail (or in custody, in rare cases) until your court date. You’ll appear at magistrates’ court, where you’ll be asked to indicate a plea. If charged with an allegation of rape, your case will need to be allocated and sent to the Crown Court, where you will either stand trial or plead guilty and be sentenced.

What should you do after you’ve been accused of rape?

Following an allegation of rape against you, it’s vital to have expert legal guidance from the very start of the case. Your solicitors will work with you to establish a strategy for your defence – and prepare you for the legal process ahead.

One of the most important pieces of advice they’ll give you is to stay away from the accuser. Having any contact with them can adversely affect your case, particularly if a conversation becomes heated or they feel threatened by you. All things considered, no good can come from communicating with the accused. And you may be accused of a further offence of witness intimidation if you contact somebody you shouldn’t.

What if you have been falsely accused of rape?

Being falsely accused of rape is highly distressing, not to mention disruptive. Your personal relationships and professional career might hang in the balance.

If you’ve been falsely accused of rape, help is, however, available. An experienced firm of defence solicitors will know exactly how to deal with the allegations, gathering evidence to support your case from the outset. They’ll immediately advise you to think about witnesses you might call upon to help your case. Of course, an alibi for the time of the alleged rape will be particularly useful.

Your solicitors will also ask you to consider possible motives for the accuser making allegations against you. They can put such motives to the police and this may work in your favour.

Throughout the whole process – and particularly when speaking to the police – your legal representatives will encourage you to control your emotions and remain as calm as possible. Doing so is easier said than done, but if you choose your solicitors wisely, they’ll have faced the same situation with clients many times before. 

Why do you need a solicitor if you’re innocent?

Even if you’re not guilty, you should always have a criminal defence solicitor on your side, even in relatively minor cases. When the allegations involve an offence as serious as rape, solicitors are even more necessary. They’ll formulate your defence properly, helping you to establish your innocence as quickly as possible. 

While investigations and possible court proceedings are underway, they’ll help to manage damage to your reputation – both personal and professional – resulting from the allegations.

What happens to the accuser if you’re proven to be innocent? 

Depending upon the circumstances, the police may or may not take action against your accuser.

They can be charged with perverting the court of justice with false allegations, which can carry a life sentence. However, a sentence that severe is very unlikely indeed. Even a lesser charge of wasting police time is uncommon, since the criminal justice system does not want to deter victims of rape from coming forward.

False accusers are more likely to face civil action for defamation of character. This course of action may be particularly appropriate if you’ve lost your job as a result of the accusations. This is not something we can assist with, however.

What happens if you’re charged with rape?

The consequences of being found guilty of rape are severe. Following the sentencing guidelines for sexual offences, judges can hand down custodial sentences of between 4 and 19 years for the crime. 

Any rape carries a prison sentence, but different categories and levels of culpability convey different minimum sentences. The three categories refer to the extent of harm done to the victim. For instance, did the victim suffer severe psychological harm or were they abducted? Examples of higher-level culpability offences include crimes with significant planning involved, those committed during a burglary and racially/religiously aggravated attacks.

On the other hand, there are mitigating factors that will be considered by the court. They include:

  • Showing remorse for the crime
  • No previous (or recent) convictions
  • Previous good character
  • A mental disorder or learning disability
  • Age or a level of immaturity affecting culpability

Factors like these will help your solicitors to put your case together. If you stand accused of rape, contact our expert solicitors immediately to secure the best outcome possible.

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