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Is Intoxication A Defence To Sexual Offences?


Katie Forrest of Forrest Williams

Katie Forrest of Forrest Williams


Is Intoxication A Defence To Sexual Offences?


This is a common question.  If you are charged with committing a sexual offence and admit this, but only acted that way because you were drunk, does that act as a defence?


This is a complex legal issue and it is vital that you seek expert legal representation.  This post discusses the issue in general terms but does not amount to legal advice for your specific case, which must be assessed on its own merits.


Generally, the decision to advance a defence case based on intoxication should be considered very carefully.  The fact that you were intoxicated can become an aggravating factor that supports the prosecution case.


Accepting intoxication can be also undermine your evidence and cause you to be seen as less able to accurately remember the incident, making it difficult for you to convincingly deny the allegation.


Generally, voluntary intoxication will only form a defence where it causes you to be incapable of intending the consequences of your actions, or where you have drank yourself temporarily insane, in which case the defence to sexual offences would be insanity, not intoxication.


If you are involuntarily intoxicated, due to spiked drinks for example, this is a defence.




What Are The Defences Against Sexual Offences?


Katie Forrest and Steve Williams of Forrest Williams

Katie Forrest and Steve Williams of Forrest Williams

What Are The Defences Against Sexual Offences?


If you are charged with a sexual offence, you will be aware that the situation is very serious and it is vital that you enter the appropriate plea to the specific sexual offence you have been charged with.


There many defences against sexual offences and this post aims to offer a brief overview of these defences.


It is vital that you seek expert legal advice as soon as possible to discuss your specific case and circumstances, and Forrest Williams are proud to offer a free 30 minute consultation by phone on our emergency 24/7 helpline: 01623 600645.


Common defences to sexual offences include:


Consent – a very common defence, consent argues that any sexual activity that occurred was consensual and therefore no offence was committed.


Accident – it is possible to argue that a sexual offence such as sexual touching was accidental.


Alibi – a sexual offence case can be defended on the basis that the person accused has an alibi for the time in question.


Automatism and parasomnia – this defence essentially relies on the fact that any criminal act must be committed voluntary, by the defendant’s will. If the defendant has acted involuntarily, this can be a defence. Examples of this defence include offences committed whilst sleepwalking, or due to medical episodes such as epilepsy or diabetic attack. This defence may be available even where an offence has been committed by a person who is incapable of acting voluntarily due to voluntary intoxication.


Collusion – where witnesses have colluded or lied in their evidence, this can be a defence.


Doli incapax – this defence refers to a child’s capacity to commit a crime and in this instance to specifically have sex, in legal terms, and is particularly of relevance in historic sex abuse cases.


Duress – duress is a defence to all sexual offences and can be explained as the well grounded fear produced by threats of death of grievous bodily harm which require a person to perform the act alleged. Duress does not apply to all defendants, however. It is especially common in interfamilial sexual offences.


Fabrication – this is a common defence whereby the person accused of the sexual offence denies the allegation and asserts that the person making the allegation is completely fabricating the incident.


Innocent association – this defence applies where the person accused accepts associating with the person making the allegation, but asserts that contact between them was innocent rather than sexual.


Insanity – this is a defence to any sexual offence and if successfully argues, allows the jury to reach a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. Insanity defences can succeed when based on circumstances including mental illness, epilepsy, or sleepwalking. As such, this defence should often be considered together with the defence of automatism and parasomnia.


Intoxication – while intoxication can provide grounds for defence, it can also have the opposite effect and assist with the prosecution case. It should therefore be very carefully considered. It is important to note that a drunken intent is still an intent in the eyes of the law, but that a person who is intoxicated may have been rendered incapable of intending the consequences of his actions. A person who is intoxicated due to laced drinks has a valid defence of involuntary intoxication. This defence does not apply to sexual offences that can be committed recklessly.


Mistake – where a person has an honest belief in circumstances which, if true, would make their act innocent, this can be a valid defence in some cases. For example, a man who honestly believed a child to be over the age of consent, would have a defence against sexual offence charges.


Necessity – while this is a defence, it is very uncommon and unlikely that a case would succeed by arguing that a sexual offence was committed due to necessity.


Self-defence – again, while it is a defence, it is uncommon.


It is important to note that provocation/loss of control and diminished responsibility are not defences to any sexual offence.


If you are being investigated for or charged with a sexual offence, call us now for a free initial consultation to discuss your case. We will guide you through the options honestly and openly, and without judgment. We are here for you, and waiting for your call. Our 24/7 line can be reached on 01623 397200.

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