Consent, Sexual Offences and the Law

April 29, 2019

If you have been accused of a sexual offence or suspect that you may be charged, you may have some questions about the law of consent, and how it might apply to your circumstances. This post gives a brief overview of the law of consent and how it applies in particular situations, but if you have been accused of a sexual offence, it is essential to act quickly to ensure the best possible defence.

For immediate assistance with sexual offences defence or historic sex abuse defence, call Stuart Sutton today on 0808 164 6795 or 0808 169 5980.

What is consent under the law?

Under the law, a sexual offence may not have been committed where the complainant has given their consent for the act to take place and the accused holds reasonable belief that the complainant has given their consent and was old enough to have given their consent ( in order to legally give consent you must be aged 16 or over).

Consent is irrelevant where it is alleged that a sexual offence has been committed against a child. Anyone under the age of 16 is not capable of providing legal consent, and as a result, consent cannot be a defence in child sex offences or historic sex abuse cases involving children.

How is a reasonable belief of consent determined?

The court will make an assessment as to whether the accused has a reasonable belief of consent by taking into account all of the facts, circumstances and evidence in the case.  There are certain circumstances where the law makes the presumption that there was no consent, such as where the complainant was asleep or unconscious. This, of course, raises several evidential issues for both the defence and the prosecution, but there is a burden on the defence to provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate their belief in consent.

What about historic sexual offences?

Where you have been accused of a sexual offence that took place before May 2004, you may be charged under the Sexual Offences Act 1956. This act has a slightly different definition of consent which could have an impact on the outcome of your case. Under the Sexual Offences Act 1956, where the accused honestly and subjectively believed the other party consented to the sexual act, the crime of rape will not have been committed.

Cases which involve belief of consent can be complicated and involve challenging evidential issues. If you have been accused of a sexual offence, you need the best defence available from the outset. We can help, contact Stuart Sutton, expert sexual offences defence lawyer today.

Contact Stuart Sutton at Tuckers Solicitors

Stuart has been in practice since 1987 and has throughout most of that time been involved in defending clients accused of sexual offences, be they against individuals or internet crimes.

He has acted for clients who have been charged with sexual assaults, rape, offences against children, making pornographic images and related crimes.  He has a nationwide practice and divides his time between our Manchester and London offices, where he meets with his clients to take instructions and prepare documents.

To contact Stuart please telephone 0808 164 6795 or 0808 169 5980.