Sexual Assault Solicitors
Do you need sexual assault solicitors? Forrest Williams can help.
How much do you trust the person giving you advice? Presumably, you must trust their knowledge but do you trust that they are giving you the best advice for you and not what is best for them?
I recently had the honour of supporting a client through his Sexual Assault charge. As sexual assault solicitors we are used to helping many good people through allegations like this. He accepted that the touching occurred but firmly believed that it had been consensual – and that he had believed that she had not objected to the touch.
To put it into context, he had been at a work party, they had all been drinking, in his own words “to excess”, and he, and a colleague, had been sat, snuggled together on a sofa, her back resting into his chest as she laid back into him. His arm was round her waist and rested just up inside her top.
The sexual assault allegation related to him then touching her breast.
Our client was mortified when the allegation was made some time later. He had never set out to upset anyone, or to cause harm. He had simply misjudged the situation, believing that she was not averse to the contact – there were others present and she could have moved away, or said something, instead she had snuggled closer into him and had not objected to the initial contact.
Is this not how many sexual encounters begin? Not with a written contract or a verbal agreement, but with subtle body language?
When initially questioned by the police our client (then not represented by Forrest Williams but a Legal Aid Lawyer) was too open and too apologetic. He was clearly upset by the allegations and anxious to ensure the police knew how sorry he was for what had happened – and his interview could be interpreted as an acceptance of the charge. His solicitor told him to accept the charge, to plead Guilty to the offence.
As specialist sexual assault solicitors, we understand the devastating consequences that a conviction for a sexual offence can have. We would never advise a client with a clear defence to plead guilty.
Luckily his family urged him to seek a second opinion and he rang the specialist sexual assault solicitors at Forrest Williams.
We talked to him, we obtained the evidence from the CPS and, above all, we listened to him. It was clear to us that, though he was at pains not to suggest that the complainant was lying, that he had, at the time of the incident, firmly believed that she had consented to the touch and that his belief in that consent was reasonable.
We talked through the options with him and how each would work – together it was decided that not only would he plead Not Guilty but that he would elect to have the case sent to the Crown Court to be heard (a Sexual Assault case can be heard in the Magistrates Court by a judge or in the Crown Court when a Jury would determine his fate). This would mean that his case, instead of being over in a matter of weeks would instead take over a year.
This was a big consideration for him due to the ongoing stress and impact on his family, on his job, on his health. Pleading Guilty would have been easier and cheaper – but he would also have been a convicted Sex Offender, for a genuine mistake – and that was something he did not want to impact on his young daughters.
The incident occurred almost 16 months before his trial was heard. Sixteen months of questioning himself on whether he was doing the right thing? Was he in the wrong? Had he misread the signals? Should he just have pleaded Guilty and been frantically saving money to his daughters’ future (he was sure his career would be ruined by a sex conviction)? Part of my job was not just to advise him on the legalities of his case but to support him through it all – not only the preparation but to be there in court to answer his questions while his barrister was busy, and to support his family if the verdict was not in his favour.
In theory we have a wonderful legal system in this country – innocent until you are proven guilty. Except that’s not exactly how it works. It is for the prosecution to prove their case not yours to prove your innocence but that is not how it can feel. The media get hold of cases and even before being charged your name and image can be plastered across the press (Cliff Richard being a perfect example of this – he wasn’t even aware of an investigation!).
Our client was in a similar position – a man of good character with 20+ years of charitable service and regular volunteer work immediately suspended from those voluntary duties. In his professional life he was pulled from a project he had been working on for almost 10 years and side lined to a non-public facing role – setting his career back 5-6 years and guaranteeing he would not receive the expected promotion at the completion of the previous project. The impact of this false allegation against him was immense – despite nothing being proven and no conviction existing he was punished. Why wouldn’t you question yourself when others around you seem quick to judge?
Luckily our client was surrounded by people who believed in him and knew his good and kind nature. They provided character statements for the court and were willing to attend court to give that evidence in person. They knew that he would never have intentionally set out to cause upset, and that he had genuinely believed that his actions were not only ok with her, but that they were wanted by her. He was in turmoil by the idea that he had caused upset to another, and at times he was at risk of being so anxious to consider her feelings that he was doing so at the expense of his own situation.
Defending a Sexual Assault Charge is a very delicate balancing act and one Forrest Williams do very well. Just as there is no single type of Sexual Assault so there is not a single way to approach the defence. In this case we never suggested the ‘victim’ was lying. We never suggested she was making it up. We never set out to suggest she was malicious in her allegation. We just needed to show that our client’s belief in her consent was reasonable.
After hearing the evidence the Jury took less than 40 minutes to return their verdict of Not Guilty.
LESS THAN 40 MINUTES.
It was clear to them, as it had been to us, that our client had genuinely believed that she had consented to the contact. As he said, you don’t ask verbally for consent, you judge a situation, you read body language, and in this case, his interpretation was apparently mistaken – but that does not mean he was guilty of a criminal act!
After the hearing both the client and his father hugged us and thanked us for all our support over the past year. They knew that the outcome for him, and his future, would never be as it was before the allegation was made, but that his faith in himself and in us had been justified.
If you need specialist sexual assault solicitors on your side, or fighting for one of your loved ones, call our expert team now on 01623 397200. It is vital that you get experts on side as early as possible – ideally, while police are investigating. Do not wait to be formally charged.
Tags: case studies