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Being accused of a historic sexual crime can have life-changing consequences. Ensuring that you have a legal team behind you, who specialise in this area of law and are used to dealing with the challenges that are inherent in these types of cases, is crucial. Your solicitor will work with you to examine and analyse all of the evidence and challenge any potential issues early on.
With many high-profile historic sexual crime cases hitting the headlines in recent years, it is vital that your legal representation not only has experience in handling these types of cases, but is also discreet and understands how to effectively manage any potential damage to your reputation.
Historic sexual crime cases can be highly complex, as they refer to an alleged crime which happened a considerable amount of time ago and can rest on only one person’s word against another’s. Instructing a legal team as early on as possible, who will offer you non-judgmental legal representation and work with you to prepare your defence, is the most effective way to ensure the best possible outcome.
A historic sexual crime is a sexual offence which happened in the past, often many years ago.
Due to the amount of time that has passed between the alleged offence and the police investigation, these types of cases can often be extremely complex and will require a specialist legal team who can work with you to build a robust defence.
Historic sexual crime is normally prosecuted under the Sexual Offences Act 1956. However, if the historic sexual crime allegedly took place after 1 May 2004, it will be prosecuted as per the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
There is no time limit with regards to the reporting of a historic sexual crime and the police will take any accusations very seriously.
The aim of the police investigation will be to search for any evidence to verify what the victim is saying. This could include locating potential witnesses and discovering if there are any other potential victims.
As well as being interviewed by the police, you should expect that your home may be subject to a police search.
If a large amount of time has passed between an alleged historic sexual crime and a prosecution, it may be possible to make an application to the court for the case to be dropped, if a fair trial does not seem possible.
A solicitor experienced in this area of law can work with you to decide whether such an application could be successful and prepare your defence so that you are ready, should your case go to court.
When sentencing someone found guilty of a historic sexual crime, the court will usually sentence that person under the law when the offence was committed, rather than the law at the time of sentencing.
This is due to the general legal principle that it would not be fair to apply the law retrospectively. For example, it would not be fair to ban people from using their mobile phones when driving, then prosecute all those people who were doing it in the past, before the ban came into force.
Sentences for sexual offences have undergone many changes over the last 70 or so years. For example, the offence of indecent assault on an underage girl carried a maximum sentence of two years in prison from 1957 to 1960, changing to five years in 1961 (if the girl was under 13) and 10 years in 1985. Now, under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, if the girl is under 13 years old, the maximum prison sentence for sexual assault is 14 years in prison.
Until the Criminal Justice Act 2003 came into force, judges in England and Wales did not have any sentencing guidelines to which to refer. With regards to historic sexual crime, the courts will use current sentencing guidelines in order to assess harm and culpability but, rather than using the sentences which are referred to in today’s sentencing guidelines, they will only be able to give a prison sentence of the maximum (or less) that would have been available to them at the time that the historic sexual crime took place.
For example, going back to the offence we touched on above, Section 14 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 deals with the offence of indecent assault on a woman. This Act was effective between 1 January 1957 and 30 April 2004. If the offence took place between 1 January 1957 and 1 July 1960, the maximum prison sentence available to the court would be 2 years. If the offence took place between 2 July 1960 and 15 September 1985, this increased to 5 years if the victim was under 13 years old. For an offence from 16 September 1985 onwards (until 30 April 2004), the maximum prison sentence available to the courts would be 10 years.
Now, the Sexual Offences Act 2003 has replaced indecent assault with new offences, such as assault by penetration and sexual assault. So for a historic sexual crime committed after 1 May 2004, the maximum sentences are different (depending on the offence category).
As you can see, even the sentencing of historic sexual crime can be extremely complicated, which is why it is vital to seek legal advice from a solicitor with expertise in this area of law.
Historic sexual crime cases are often highly complex, with the police and juries working with what can be very limited evidence, the majority of which can be made up by one person’s word against another’s. A legal team who are experts in historic sexual crime can analyse and scrutinise all of the evidence in detail and provide you with a robust defence, should your case go to court.
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