Sexual Offences

‘Sexual Offences’ is a term covering a number of offences, many of which are prosecuted under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Sections 1-4 of the Act cover ‘non-consensual offences,’ which in practice means that the prosecution have to show that the victim did not consent. Some of the more commonly charged offences are discussed below:-

Rape (s.1)

Rape is what is known as an offence of ‘basic intent.’ This means that a defence such as intoxication is not open to a person accused of the offence. Cases will only ever be tried in the Crown Court and can be punishable by a life sentence.

Assault by Penetration (s.2)

If a person intentionally penetrates another person’s vagina or anus with a part of their body (or anything else), the penetration is sexual in nature, and the other person does not consent, this offence can be charged. This offence will again only be dealt with in the Crown Court and convictions can also result in a life sentence.

Sexual Assault (s.3)

If a person intentionally touches another in a sexual way, the other person does not consent, and the person touching them does not reasonably believe that they consent, this offence has been committed. Essentially, it relates to all unwanted contact of a sexual nature such as touching (including over clothes) and kissing. It can be tried in the Magistrates Court (with a maximum of six months’ imprisonment) or in the Crown Court (a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment). A case is more likely to be tried in the Crown Court if it is a particularly serious example or there are clear aggravating factors.

Causing Sexual Activity Without Consent (s.4)

This offence applies to a wide range of situations; for example, it can be committed using words alone, or relate to a person being forced into sexual acts with a third party. As with the other offences in this section, there is a lack of consent and the perpetrator does not reasonably believe that the victim consents. Under s.4, a person can be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment, unless penetration is involved. If this is so, then a person can be sentenced to life.

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