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Historic sexual offences – what are they and how do we defend them?

10 March 2021


There was a significant change in the law of the UK; the Sexual Offences Act 2003 lays out the nature of sexual offence crimes and their associated penalties, as well as which courts recent cases will be heard in. Historical sexual offences are those that happened before 2003 and therefore must be tried and heard under ‘old law’ or the laws that were in force at the time of the alleged offences. A sexual offence solicitor at ABV Solicitors will have experience at defending cases under the ‘old law’ and are familiar with the nuances surrounding historic allegations.

The nature of any historic case is that they are complex. Newer cases are often accompanied by forensic and DNA evidence, as well as photographs, CCTV and communications like emails or texts – all precisely time-stamped and logged. Most if not all of this ‘hard’ evidence is absent in old cases, so the prosecution must instead rely on witness testimony of events, which may be many years old. The use of character testaments and circumstantial evidence is more common and a lot of it is required to form a strong case, with the onus on the prosecution to prove guilt.

If you have been accused of historic sexual offences and perhaps invited to attend a voluntary interview with the police, you must obtain legal representation with a sexual offence solicitor and prepare before your interview. There may be an attempt by the police to make this initial contact seem informal or ‘just trying to sort this thing out’, but as a historical case is so dependent on statements and circumstantial evidence, your comments during this interval can have a very big impact on the overall case.

This will likely be a long process, as the prosecution will have to search deep into the past and gather witnesses and associates. You may not have seen them for years and as your defence team, we would have to systematically cross-examine these witnesses to find biases or inconsistencies in their statements, as well as finding our own witnesses to testify to your character.

Making full use of your rights will be an important first step to a good outcome. The prosecution will be hoping for you to make an error or to act naively or rashly, communicating via our solicitor allows you to avoid these issues. You will also be able to fully disclose your situation to our team, safe in the assurance that we have your best interests at heart and are legally bound to strive for the most favourable outcome for your case.

Sexual offence allegations are always serious, regardless of how weak the allegation may appear. Even if the decision to prosecute is not taken, the accusation can have a deep social and professional impact. With no statute of limitations on sexual offences, it is likely that we haven’t seen the end of historical sexual offence cases any time soon. Our sexual offence solicitor will be defending clients for many decades to come. If you require more information or need our help, feel free to contact us confidentially, either by email or phone.

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