Charged with or accused of sexual assault? What are your options?

1st June 2021 | Sex Offences|
Nick Titchener headshot

Nick Titchener

Director & Solicitor Advocate

Sexual assault crimes are extremely serious, and the police investigation and legal process can be very complex, so if you are in a situation where you have been accused or charged with such an offence, it is important to first seek legal advice. It can also be to your advantage to know as much as possible about the charges.

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault involves unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature without consent. It can refer to attempts or threats of non-consensual sexual contact as well as violent assaults and rapes. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 provides the guidance used to define sexual crimes in the UK. This act outlines the differences between different sexual crimes, four of which are types of sexual assault involving varying levels of unwanted sexual contact. These are:

In all cases of sexual assault the concept of consent is crucial. A crime is committed when a suspect engages in a sexual act despite not having a reasonable belief that the victim was consenting. 

Therefore, sexual assaults aren’t only committed when a victim is actively refusing sexual contact, but also when they are unable to freely consent. This can apply if:

  • The victim is a child
  • The victim was asleep or unconscious
  • The victim was heavily under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs
  • The offender threatened or coerced the victim
  • The offender abused a position of authority or trust

What is the process following an accusation of sexual assault?

Many cases of sexual assault don’t make it to trial, not necessarily because an allegation is false, but because it’s difficult to meet the evidential requirements for prosecution with this kind of crime. 

It’s vital to contact a solicitor as soon as you are accused, because they can advise you whether it’s likely that your case may be dismissed for the same reason. 

More sexual assault cases and all rape cases are dealt with at  the Crown Court, but some will remain in the Magistrates’ Court. The strategy adopted by the defence in a sexual assault case will depend on the overall circumstances and will generally focus on issues surronding consent. 

What is the sentence for sexual assault?

Since there are different kinds of sexual assaults, there is also a significant variation in the length of the sentence that this kind of crime can incur. Prison sentences for these kinds of crime can be very extensive because of the huge, life-long physical and mental consequences sexual assaults can have for victims.

For rape and assault by penetration, the sentence can be up to life imprisonment. For charges of sexual assault and causing non-penetrative sexual activity without consent, the maximum sentence is ten years imprisonment. 

What should you do after an allegation of a sexual offence?

Being accused of sexual assault is a very serious situation to be in, and the potential consequences for your personal and professional life, as well as for your personal liberties, can be significant. Therefore, it is essential that you seek legal advice immediately. 

Some people, especially if they don’t believe they are responsible for the crimes they are accused of, may feel that if they have a lawyer this will make them look guilty. This is a myth. Finding expert legal counsel is the number one way you can give yourself the best chance of securing the outcome you want to see.

Under no circumstances should you speak to the police without a lawyer, nor should you make any contact with the complainant. Often, investigations for sexual assaults can take a long time, but your solicitor will have experience of working with the police and in similar kinds of circumstances, and will be able to guide you through the process.

Lawtons solicitors have the expertise and experience and will work with you to ensure you are fairly represented and that the best outcome is achieved in accordance with the facts of the case. For more information on legal proceedings surrounding sexual assault charges or to discuss an individual case in complete confidence, please do not hesitate to contact us.

What should you do after a false allegation of a sexual offence?

It is highly distressing to be falsely accused of sexual assault, particularly as your identity is not likely to be protected. Enlisting the support of an experienced and expert legal team, as early as possible, can reduce the stress, uncertainty and confusion surrounding such allegations. Experienced lawyers will carefully guide you on what to do after being charged with a sexual offence, to give you the best possible chance of not being prosecuted or an acquittal, if the case does go to court. 

Your lawyers will certainly advise you to avoid contact with the complainant, to avoid making the situation worse or further allegations being made. You should also avoid contact with any witnesses that the complainant is relying on. If you must have contact with anyone involved it is advisable to do so through an independent third party or through solicitors.

Do not be tempted, under any circumstances, to hide or destroy any potential evidence. This will only lead to further suspicion or allegations being made concerning perverting the course of justice, for example.

Expert lawyers will know what to ask you and what they need from you, so answer any questions they ask which may be relevant to the case. They will then examine all available facts and evidence, including police reports, witness statements and, possibly, medical evidence. From this, they will begin to form your defence as they look to support you or prove the allegations are false.

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