The Law on Child Sex Offences: An Overview

April 29, 2019

Although many of the sexual offences contained in the Sexual Offences Act 2003, such as rape and sexual assault, can be committed against any person no matter their age, consent is irrelevant when it is alleged that a serious sexual offence was committed against a child. There are also equivalent offences that can only be committed against children under 13 or 16, and other specific offences relating to children, such as meeting a child after sexual grooming.

The age of those accused of a sexual offence against a child is relevant, with some specific offences that can only be committed by those under 18. The law also provides offences for those who engage in sexual activity with a child with whom they are in a position of trust or in a family relationship with, such as teachers, care workers, foster parents and step-families who have quasi-parental responsibilities for a child.

The vulnerable position of child complainants and witnesses, as well as the likely close relationship between them and a defendant, means particular care must be taken when dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse. Such issues place all those involved under acute emotional pressure, and it is often in everyone’s best interests to ensure to those subject to trying investigations and questioning are represented by legal professionals who can deal with the issues clearly and coherently.

Sexual Communication with a Child

It is an offence to be involved in sexual communication with a child. The offence, under section 67 of the Serious Crime Act 2015, came into force on 3 April 2017 and will carry a maximum jail sentence of two years as well as automatic placement on the sex offenders register.

The offence criminalises the conduct of an adult who intentionally communicates with a child under the age of sixteen (or in the absence of a reasonable belief that the child is sixteen or over) with the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification where the communication is sexual in nature or if the intent is to encourage a sexual response. The term “sexual gratification” is already used in the context of offences at sections 11 and 12 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, which prohibit engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child and causing a child to watch a sexual act, and case law has given the term a wide interpretation.

Chatting in a sexual manner to a child in an online chatroom, sending sexually explicit text messages to a child and inviting a child to communicate sexually (whether the invitation itself is sexual or not) is a criminal offence, as well as all online and offline communications of this nature, including on social media, email, and letters. We also specialise in Indecent Images and Historic Sex Offences.

Contact Our Child Sex Offence Defence Lawyers (London, Birmingham, Manchester & Leeds)

Our robust defence preparation, attention to detail and professional representation makes us the first choice for criminal defence. These key traits are essential to safeguarding the rights of our clients from allegations of criminal activity. We discuss all the available options in order to find and implement the best course of action.

If you believe that you have been wrongly convicted (or sentenced) or that one of your friends or family have been so convicted, in relation to a sexual offences case, please contact Stuart on 0808 164 6795 or 0808 169 5980.

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 prepares documents.