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Sexual Offences – Commonly Asked Questions

Sexual offences – commonly asked questions


What are sexual offences?


Sex offences are crimes that are covered by the Sexual Offences Act 2003.


What does the Sexual Offences Act 2003 actually cover?


The first part of the Act covers sexual offences.


The second part of the Act covers offenders with an emphasis on the protection of vulnerable individuals.


The Act gives a full list of sex offences to protect individuals from abuse and exploitation. It is designed to be fair and non-discriminatory.


What, exactly, constitutes ‘Rape’?


Rape includes penetration of the mouth, vagina or anus by the penis.


What does ‘consent’ mean, in real terms?


Definitions of ‘consent’ are now intended to address the needs of victims without prejudicing the defendant’s right to a fair trial.


‘Consent’ is defined by law thus – a person consents if he or she agrees by choice to the sexual activity and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice.


All the circumstances at the time of the offence will be looked at when deciding whether the defendant is reasonable in believing the complainant consented – for example, if there were threats, fear of serious harm, unconscious, drugged, abducted, or unable to communicate because of a physical disability.


What is the definition of ‘Child Sex Abuse’?  


Any sexual intercourse with a child under 13 will be treated as rape. No one accused of child rape can argue that the child consented. Other offences against children under the age of 13 are: sexual assault by penetration, sexual assault, and causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.


There are new offences of sexual activity with a child under 16, covering a range of physical and non-physical contacts and behaviours.


Children and young persons under the age of 18 can be charged with sexual offences.


What is meant by the expression ‘grooming’?


Following increased use of the Internet, and on-line sexual approaches to children, there is a new offence of meeting a child following sexual grooming. It is a crime to befriend a child on the Internet, or by other means, and meet or intend to meet the child with the intention of abusing them. The maximum sentence is 10 years in prison.


What is a Sex Offender Preventative Order?


Convicted sex offenders have to report yearly to their local police station, inform the police quickly (within 3 days) of any change to their name or address, disclose if they spend 7 days or more away from home and supply their national insurance number. Failure to report is a criminal offence carrying a prison sentence of up to 5 years.


A Sex Offender Preventative Order (SOPO) can be imposed on anyone convicted of a serious violent offence if there is evidence that they pose a risk of causing serious sexual harm. The prohibitions of the order will vary in each case and are subject to the conditions of necessity and public protection. The order can be of a fixed period, but of not less than 5 years.


What other offences are covered by the 2003 Sexual Offences Act?


The Act also includes other offences against:-


  • trafficking persons for the purposes of sexual exploitation;
  • child abuse through prostitution and pornography;
  • sexual abuse of vulnerable persons with a mental disorder;
  • voyeurism, that criminalises those who watch for sexual gratification people engaged in a private act without their consent;
  • exposure, where a man or woman exposes their genitalia with intent to cause alarm or distress;
  • preparatory offences (i.e. drugging a person with intent to engage in sexual activity with that person);
  • committing any offence with intent to commit a sexual offence;
  • trespassing on any premises with intent to commit a sexual offence;
  • engaging in sexual activity in a public lavatory.


If you are being investigated for or charged with any sexual offences, you will need a specialist team of lawyers.  Forrest Williams are specialist sexual offence defence solicitors.  We can help.  Call us now.



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