Sexual Assault Solicitors: Asperger’s Syndrome
Forrest Williams are specialist sexual assault solicitors and we were instructed recently to represent a vulnerable 18 year old, Harry, who was charged with two counts of sexual assault. The allegation was that he had instigated conversation with two females on separate occasions and proceeded to touch them, the touching involving kissing their foreheads and placing his arm around them.
Sexual assault is an offence under section 3 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003:
- A person (A) commits an offence if –
- He intentionally touches another person (b),
- The touching is sexual,
- B does not consent to the touching, and
- A does not reasonably believe that B consents.
Harry admitted that he had spoken to and touched the females as alleged, but told us that his intentions were not sexual and that he believed the girls had consented. The difficulty was that he had made a full admission in police interview, accepting that his intentions were sexual and it was clear that the females had not consented.
Upon dealing with Harry and his very concerned parents, it was clear that the young man had some difficulties. Thankfully, due to our specialist knowledge as sexual assault solicitors, we recognised this and understood it, and advised Harry’s parents that he should be assessed for Autistic Spectrum Disorders.
We guided and supported Harry and his family through this emotional process, referring him to a trusted expert who conducted an in-depth assessment and diagnosed Harry with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Our expert prepared an in-depth report commenting on the prosecution evidence against Harry, including his behaviour in the police interview. She concluded that as part of his Asperger’s Syndrome, Harry was very susceptible to being lead and would answer how he believed people wanted him to, without realising he was doing this. This explained his answers in police interview. When the officer, clearly concerned about a female reporting an alleged sexual assault, told Harry that the female hadn’t specifically requested him to touch her, Harry was so eager to agree with the officer and please him that he would answer with, “I completely agree, it’s out of order and I shouldn’t have touched her at all”. He would rephrase the officer’s questions and statements and present them as his own answers, almost word for word.
This greatly helped our case, and allowed us to do two things –
Firstly, it allowed us to request that Harry’s 5 day trial hearing take into account his diagnosis and make some simple changes to allow the trial process to be accessible for him.
Secondly, it allowed us to present an already strong case to the prosecution and place some pressure on them to review the matter and consider withdrawing the charges before trial.
Finally, after many months of working tirelessly on Harry’s case every single day, the prosecution confirmed that they would drop the case.
Caseworker Katie Forrest, who specialises in sexual defence cases and has a particular interest in defending vulnerable clients, was able to make the telephone call to Harry’s family to share the good news.
“I was actually on vacation in America when the news came in, and the whole team back in the office were absolutely delighted and so excited – this case was very special to us all. I rang the family, who were also on vacation, and shared the good news and they were so relieved and happy. While every case is important and meaningful to us here at Forrest Williams, there are some cases that will stay with you forever, and this is definitely one of those cases for me.”
If you are being investigated for a sexual offence, call our expert team now on 01623 397200.