Lawyers Specialising in Child Sexual Offences
If you have been accused of committing a sexual offence against a child, you will no doubt be extremely anxious about the implications. You may be worried about the prospect of a trial and the possibility of a prison sentence if you are convicted. In addition, you may be concerned about how your family will be affected. All the above may take a heavy toll on you.
Sexual offences against children are often deemed to be the most serious crimes that can be committed. In the last decade, following a series of high-profile child sexual abuse cases, investigations and prosecutions for these types of offences have increased significantly.
At Clifford Johnston & Co, we have an experienced team of sexual offence lawyers who specialise in defending individuals accused of sexual offences against children. We will work with you, offering straightforward and practical legal guidance and representation, in addition to ensuring that your rights are protected.
What are sexual offences against children?
Sexual offences against children are defined in the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
Sexual offences against children cover a broad range of offences that fall into several different categories depending on the age of the child. The most common offences are listed below:
(i) Children under 13
- Rape – the maximum sentence is life imprisonment;
- Assault by penetration – the maximum sentence is life imprisonment;
- Sexual assault - the maximum sentence is 14 years imprisonment;
- Causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity - the maximum sentence is 14 years imprisonment.
(ii) Children under 16
The age of consent is 16 and, therefore, any sexual activity between consenting children under 16 is unlawful. It is, therefore, an offence for anyone to engage in sexual activity with a person under the age of 16.
- Sexual activity with a child – the maximum sentence is 14 years imprisonment;
- Cause or incite a child to engage in sexual activity - the maximum sentence is 14 years imprisonment;
- Engage in sexual activity in the presence of a child - the maximum sentence is 10 years imprisonment;
- Cause a child to watch a sexual act - the maximum sentence is 10 years imprisonment;
- Arranging and facilitating a child sex offence - the maximum sentence is 14 years imprisonment;
- Meeting a child following sexual grooming - the maximum sentence is 10 years imprisonment;
- Making/possessing or distributing indecent images - the maximum sentence is 10 years imprisonment.
(iii) Children under 18
Sexual offences can be committed against children aged between 16-18 too, even if they consent to the sexual act. This is because some people have a responsibility in their relationship with a child which overrules any consent the child might have given to sexual activity. The offences include:
- Abuse of position of trust: this offence is aimed at providing protection for children aged 16 and 17 who are considered vulnerable to exploitation by someone in a position of trust or authority;
- Sexual offences within the family: for example, parents, family members, adoptive and foster parents.
It is often the case that a person will be charged with multiple child sexual offences, particularly where offence categories overlap.
What is sexual communication with a child?
The Serious Crime Act 2015 inserted a new offence into the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (section 15A).
It is an offence to engage in communication with a child under the age of 16 for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification. The communication must be sexual and/or intended to encourage a child to make a sexual communication.
This offence covers the exchange of texts/messages/e mails between adults and children, most of which often takes place in chat rooms.
Individuals who engage in sexual communication with a child under the age of 16 may have a defence if they can show that they reasonably believed that the person with whom they were communicating was over 16. For example, if the child expressly stated that they were 16 or over.
What sentence could I receive for a child sex offence?
The penalties for child sexual offences range dramatically from non-custodial sentences to life imprisonment for the most serious offences.
Being convicted of a child sex offence does not necessarily mean that you will receive a custodial sentence. Your sentence will depend on what category of the offence you fall within.
The sentencing guidelines council has published guidelines for most child sexual offences which the Court must have regard too. Previous convictions would be an aggravating factor which can increase your sentence. On the other hand, genuine remorse and taking steps to address your behaviour could reduce your sentence.
If you are convicted of a child sexual offence, you will be required to comply with what is known as the ‘notification requirements’. This is more commonly known as the sex offenders register.
The Sexual Offences Act 2003 will require you to notify the police of particular personal details including your name, address, date of birth and national insurance number. You will also be required to notify the police of the following:
- if you do not have a fixed address, you must notify the police weekly of where you can be found;
- of any foreign travel;
- if you are living in a household with a child under the age of 18; and
- of bank account and credit card details.
The courts cannot exercise any discretion in relation to the length of time that you are subject to notification requirements as they are mandatory when specific offences are committed. The length of time will depend on the sentence that you receive.
When you come before the court for sentence, the following actors will be taken into account:
- your age and that of the victim at the time of the offence. The larger the disparity in age, the more serious the offence;
- the level of harm caused to the victim, which includes both physical and psychological;
- whether the child was groomed;
- whether you acted alone or in a group;
- the levels of violence, coercion and intimidation used;
- whether drugs or alcohol were given to the victim;
- the period over which the offence took place;
- whether the victim is particularly vulnerable (for example if they suffer from physical or mental illness)
- whether you were in a position of trust.
I've been accused of a child sexual offence - what should I do?
If you face allegations of child sexual offences, early legal representation is vital. Ideally you should instruct a solicitor before attending an interview with the police, irrespective of whether you have been invited to attend the police station on a voluntarily basis or you have been arrested.
If you are not familiar with your legal rights, it is easy to say and/or do something that may adversely affect any subsequent criminal case. If you have been arrested, you may be offered representation from a duty solicitor albeit you have the right to choose your own representation.
If you, or someone that you know is facing charges of this nature, contact Clifford Johnston & Co urgently and we will get to work on your behalf.
Why choose Clifford Johnston & Co?
When you choose Clifford Johnston & Co, you choose a firm with specialist experience of defending clients accused of child sex offences. We offer high quality legal representation and will use every resource at our disposal to ensure that you have the best possible defence.
Our clients appreciate our non-judgmental approach and they know that they will be treated with sensitivity and respect.
If you are facing allegations of child sexual offences, it’s imperative that you contact us as soon as you can. We have been defending clients for over 35 years and have the skills and knowledge required to defend you, mitigate your case if necessary and to get you the right outcome.
We will move quickly to offer expert advice and representation. Our early involvement will safeguard your interests from the outset.
If you have already been interviewed and/or charged, it is not too late to contact us; having taken legal advice already does preclude you from transferring your case to a specialist child sex offences lawyer.
If you or someone you know is facing allegations of a child sexual offence, get in touch with us for confidential advice and representation. We can make a difference.
Contact Our Child Sexual Offences Lawyers Today
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With offices in Heaton Moor, Stockport & Burnage, Manchester, our expert sexual offence solicitors are easily accessible.
We are expert Criminal Solicitors in Manchester, Stockport, Cheshire and we regularly represent clients across the UK.