You Can Be Sorry Without Being Guilty
We were instructed recently by a gentleman accused of sexual assault.
He fully accepted that the sexual touching alleged, had occurred.
He was advised by another firm of solicitors to plead guilty on this basis.
Fortunately, he sought a second opinion, and we delved deeper into the details.
While our client accepted that the sexual touching happened, and was mortified that he had caused upset to the alleged victim, he has adamant that the alleged victim had consented to the touching, or at least had given him a reasonable belief that she consented.
This case presented us with an interesting issue: remorse doesn’t always mean guilt.
This is an important point, because a decent person accused of an offence, may naturally express remorse for the incident and that remorse may be perceived as an admission of guilt.
A driver interviewed in relation to a case of of causing death by dangerous driving would almost certainly be devastated about the incident, but this devastation does not mean that there was any fault at all with their driving.
A person charged with failing to provide a breath specimen may be very sorry to not have given the sample, but if they have a valid reason for not giving the sample, they are not guilty of the offence, despite any apology they express for not fulfilling the request.
Similarly, our client charged with sexual assault was very apologetic for causing upset to the alleged victim, but that did not make him guilty in the eyes of the law. In fact, we advised this client to plead not guilty, and he was found not guilty at trial.
It is important for everyone who works with or comes into contact with the legal system to remember that an expression of sympathy, regret or remorse is not an indication of guilt in many offences.
“I’m sorry that happened” isn’t the same as, “I did it”.