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What is consent? A tricky area explained by our sexual offence solicitor
24 May 2023

In the UK, the laws surrounding sexual activity make up one of the most challenging areas in criminal law to regulate.

Even in March of 2023, some of the guidelines relating to this area have been updated, but this area remains an area of the law that is not very well understood by the public, let alone those who are charged with offences. And one of the most complex areas to get your head around is that of consent.

If you have been charged with a sexual offence, or you have a feeling that you will be, you need to contact our sexual offence solicitor for guidance on what to do next. We offer professional, impartial advice that will help you to navigate this complex path and will always aim to minimise any legal recourse that you may face.

However, going back to the meaning of consent, what exactly does it mean, and how is it proven or disproven in a court of law? Our sexual offence solicitor explains below.

What is consent?

Under UK law, consent is the voluntary agreement by a person to engage in a specific activity. In order for permission to be valid, it must be given freely and with an understanding of the nature of the action being consented to.

In terms of sexual offences, the law requires that a person must have given free and informed consent for any sexual activity. If someone does not give their consent, or if they are unable to do so due to factors such as being asleep, unconscious, or have had their inhibitions minimised due to drugs or alcohol, then any sexual activity that takes place is considered non-consensual and can be a criminal offence.

It is important to note that consent can be withdrawn at any time, and just because someone has consented to one act does not mean they have agreed to any further or different sexual activity.

Additionally, the law recognises that certain groups of people may be unable to give valid consent, such as children and people with specific mental disabilities. Sexual activity with someone who is unable to provide proper permission is always considered non-consensual and is a criminal offence. So, if you have been accused of any sexual crimes at all, you will need to talk to our sexual offence solicitor as soon as possible.

How is consent proven in a court of law?

In UK courts, consent relating to sexual activity is supported by examining the specific circumstances of the case to determine whether a person has given free and informed consent.

This may involve looking at evidence such as verbal or physical cues, the presence of any threats or coercion, and the capacity of the person to give consent. In cases where permission is in question, the burden of proof falls on the prosecution to demonstrate that the accused did not obtain valid consent. It is important to note that a lack of physical resistance or the absence of injuries does not necessarily indicate that consent was given.

However, even if you are confident that the person accusing you of a sexual offence gave their consent, you should still seek legal advice from our team at ABV Solicitors.

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