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Rape and Sexual Assault

Specialist lawyers defending allegations of rape and sexual assault

What sets Olliers apart from other law firms is the proactive approach we adopt during the pre-charge stage of a case. This approach is absolutely crucial when a client faces an allegation of rape and sexual assault.

During the investigation stage of a case we will always look at early pre-charge engagement with the police. From the outset we will focus upon the Charging Standard and the need for a ‘realistic prospect of a conviction’ in order a prosecution can commence. Our objective will always be to make effective representations against charge.

In the early stages of an investigation we prioritise obtaining and preservation of vital pieces of evidence. This can range from messages between parties, social media activity, medical evidence, telephone activity, evidence of financial transactions, CCTV evidence and witness testimony. This is precisely the kind of material that can be presented to the police as part of successful representations against charge.

If we are instructed post charge the same methodical ‘no stone unturned’ approach applies. Our specialists have experience that few, if any defence teams could match and an extremely impressive acquittal rate. We will always ensure that the right barrister is matched with the right client – every time.

Case Studies

Case Study One

21-year-old male of good character faced allegation of date rape in which the complainant claimed to have been unconscious for ten hours. Olliers were able to prove social media activity throughout the night and downloading of an app together with text activity from the alleged victim the following day. Olliers also provided police with details of a flatmate who witnessed sexual activity. Police were also provided with a motive for the fabricated complaint. Following representations to the police, matter came to a swift conclusion without even going to the Crown Prosecution Service for a charging decision.

Case Study Two

Young man faced allegation of sexual assault in a nightclub. It was suggested that he had assaulted a complete stranger without any earlier interaction. Olliers were able to show that alleged victim had in fact connected with the suspect on WhatsApp at the time of the incident which would have been impossible on her version of events. Olliers were also able to show that complainant’s boyfriend had unexpectedly arrived in the nightclub which gave an explanation and motive for the false allegation. No charges were brought.

Case Study Three

Client faced an allegation of historic rape based upon one incident thirty years earlier. Olliers were able to produce to the police a poem sent to the defendant by the complainant ten years previously i.e. twenty years after the alleged incident in which she admitted to her infatuation with the suspect at the time of the incident. Representations were made including a defence explanation for the allegations being made.  Crown Prosecution Service took the view that there was not a realistic prospect of conviction and no charges were brought.

Case Study Four

Client  was arrested and interviewed under caution in connection with historic allegations of rape. He was subsequently released under investigation pending further police enquiries. On contacting Olliers, we immediately adopted a proactive approach and established contact with both the officer in the case and the duty solicitor who had represented the client at the police station. Following detailed consideration of the police station notes, and on taking thorough instructions from our client, we drafted representations against charge on his behalf. The aim of our representations was to persuade the Crown Prosecution Service that there was ‘not a realistic prospect of conviction’ as required by the Code for Crown Prosecutors. The police investigation was ongoing for some time and we periodically liaised with the investigating officer to provide the client with updates. Having considered our representations, the police decided to take no further action against our client and the matter came to a close.

Case Study Five

Our client was arrested and interviewed under caution in relation to historic allegations of rape, sexual assault and controlling or coercive behaviour. He was subsequently released under investigation pending further police enquiries. The client contacted Olliers shortly after his arrest. Following this, we obtained the case papers from the duty solicitor who had represented him during interview. We also established contact with the investigating officer and drew their attention to some initial points about the case which would require further investigation. As the investigation developed, we drafted comprehensive representations against charge based on our client’s detailed instructions and relevant material he had provided. On considering our representations, the police decided to take no further action against our client and the matter was concluded.

Case Study Six

Client E was arrested and interviewed under caution concerning allegations of rape and sexual assault. He was released under investigation as the police continued with their enquiries. Client E contacted Olliers only a few days following his arrest to request pre-charge representation. We swiftly proceeded to make contact with the investigating officer to establish a line of communication. We also quickly obtained the case papers from the duty solicitor whom represented Client E at the police station. For the following five months, we maintained contact with the investigating officer and regularly liaised with them regarding bail requirements and the progress of their investigation. After in-depth consideration of the police station notes and all of the information and instructions provided by the client, we disclosed some material to the investigating officer concerning the allegations. Following review by the police and consideration of their lines of enquiry, a decision to take no further action was reached thereby concluding the investigation.

How does the law define rape?

Rape is an indictable only offence which means that an allegation of rape can only be heard in the Crown Court. A conviction for rape carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Rape is defined under Section 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (“The Act”) as one person’s intentional penetration of another person’s vagina, anus or mouth with his penis, where the other person does not consent and he does not believe the other person consents.

How does the law define sexual assault?

Sexual assault is defined under Section 3 of the Act when one person intentionally touches another sexually, where the other person does not consent and he does not reasonably believe the other person consents to be touched.

A separate offence of assault by penetration exists under Section 2 of the Act, where a person sexually penetrates another person’s vagina, anus or mouth with a part of their body or anything else. Again, in this situation the Crown must prove that the Defendant did not believe the other person to be consenting to the penetration.

The maximum sentence available if convicted of  assault by penetration is life imprisonment and for sexual assault is 10 years imprisonment.

What constitutes Sexual Activity with a Child?

There are a  number of different offences under the Act relating to children including sexual activity with a child, causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child, causing a child to watch a sexual act, child sex offences committed by children or young persons, arranging or facilitating commission of a child sex offence and meeting a child following sexual grooming. Click here to read more.

What is Historic Rape?

This is a subject area which has attracted significant publicity in recent years. Many allegations of historic abuse are made many years or sometimes decades after the offence is alleged to have occurred. Defendants facing this sort of allegation may encounter particular difficulties given the passage of time and the effect this can have on, for example, the recollections of witnesses or the availability of documentary records.

Olliers Solicitors has significant experience of successfully defending allegations of historic rape and sexual abuse.

Defending allegations of Rape/Sexual Abuse by Professionals

There are a range of sexual offences which are differentiated from the usual form of the offence by the additional element of abuse of a position of trust. These offences relate to situations where complaints of sexual activity/touching are made against a person who regularly looks after a child (under 18) for example teachers, care home staff, hospital staff.

Allegations of this nature can be heard in either the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court depending on the seriousness of the allegation. Conviction for this offence in the Crown Court carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 5 years and will have an impact on the defendant’s ability to work with young people in the future.

A separate set of offences exist which relate to care workers alleged to have engaged in sexual activity with persons with a mental disorder. These offences can attract longer custodial sentences because of the additional issues regarding capacity to consent and abuse of a position of trust.

For individuals investigated in relation to abuse of a position of trust there will usually be associated professional disciplinary proceedings.

How does the law define ‘grooming’?

An offence of meeting a child after sexual grooming is made out if an adult has contact (met or communicated) on at least two occasions with a child under 16 and then meets the child or either party travels with the intention of meeting the other in order to engage in sexual activity. The communication/contact between the child and adult prior to the meeting does not have to have been sexual in nature.

The prosecution must show that a defendant knew the child was under 16 or did not reasonably believe the child to be over 16.

Grooming is an allegation which can be heard in either the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court depending on the seriousness of the allegation. The maximum sentence which can be imposed for an offence of this nature is 10 years imprisonment.

How is consent defined in sexual assault offences?

Consent can be a complex issue and can be affected by the age of the person making the complaint, any mental disorders and the freedom/capacity to make the choice. For example, an individual’s capacity to consent may be affected where alcohol or drugs have been consumed.

Have you been falsely accused of rape?

Facing an accusation of rape can be a very stressful and scary. It may be that you have been arrested or charged, or you may simply be aware that an allegation has been made and want to know where you stand.

At Olliers Solicitors we understand how clients in this situation feel and we are able to provide expert advice at every stage of the process. We take a proactive approach to defending allegations of a sexual nature and have an excellent track record in representing clients accused of rape. Click here to read more.

Below is a brief guide to the police investigation process and what the best steps for you to take are.

What will happen if I am falsely accused of rape?

Arrest  

Most people accused of rape are arrested. Rape is a serious allegation and most of the time the police will want their suspect in custody as soon as possible. Sometimes, particularly with historical allegations, suspects are invited to a voluntary interview as an alternative.

Interview 

Whether under arrest or voluntary, the first real stage in the process is the police interview. At this initial interview, the police will outline what the allegation is and are likely to put forward whatever evidence they have. This could be a written statement or video interview of the complainant. There may also be DNA, CCTV, mobile phone or other evidence. Having said this, during the first interview police enquiries are often still on going and this evidence may not be available. You will be asked to provide an account during this interview. A solicitor will be able to advise you whether or not to provide an account at this time.

Investigation and charging decision

Often those arrested for rape are released under investigation following their interview whilst the police continue to investigate. During this time the police will seek to collect evidence which will either support the account of the suspect or that of the complainant. It may be appropriate to point the police in the direction of any evidence that may exist.

A suspect may be asked to re-attend the police station for a second interview during the course of the investigation.

Once the investigation is complete, the police will send their file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for a decision on whether to charge. When making this decision the CPS must ask the following questions – is there a realistic prospect of conviction? – is a prosecution in the interest of justice? If the answer to one of these questions is no, then you will not be charged. A solicitor may be able to assist with making the argument that you should not be charged.

Many rape allegations do not get to this stage but if a charging decision is made, you will be given a date to attend court. There is a risk that you may be held in custody by the police and taken straight to court. You will initially appear in the Magistrates’ Court and your case will be given a date in the crown court some weeks later. You will have at least one pre-trial hearing at the crown court where certain issues, such as your plea will be dealt with. If you enter a not guilty plea your case will proceed to trial.

What should I do if am falsely accused of rape?

Think like a lawyer 

Retain any evidence you may hold which can support your account. For example, text messages or other digital evidence can sometimes be very useful in demonstrating your innocence. Show this evidence to your solicitor as soon as possible. They will be able to advice on whether this evidence is helpful.

Do not contact the complainant

It may be tempting to contact the person who has made the complaint. They may be an ex-partner or friend and you may think you can solve the issue between yourselves. Resist this temptation. Contacting the person who made a complaint to the police is never a good idea. Any attempt to make contact may be considered witness intimidation, which is a serious offence in itself. You may also be in breach of any police bail conditions which could see you back in police custody.

How do I obtain legal advice if I have been arrested for rape?

If you are arrested you should ask for a solicitor at the custody desk. The police will contact your chosen solicitor for you. A solicitor will attend the police station to represent you. They will sit down with the police and get an idea of the situation. They will then sit down with you in a private room with you where you can discuss what has happened; this conversation is entirely confidential. Depending on what you and the police have told your solicitor, they will advise you what the best interview strategy is. This strategy will often, but not always, involve putting forward a denial of some. This may be by answering questions or by way of a prepared statement. It is sometimes appropriate to make no comment to the police depending on the state of the evidence and/or your account.

Someone I know has been arrested for an offence, what can I do?

If you contact us we can make immediate contact with the police advising them that the we have been contacted friend or family member (this is known as ‘third party instructions’). The police should then speak to the individual in custody and advise them of our interest in the case. They will have the option of requesting us.

Do I have to give the police my PIN number?

You do not have to give the police your PIN number but failure to do so may result in a prosecution, something we discuss in more detail here.

How can I get legal advice if I have not been arrested?

If you are yet to be arrested or you have been invited for a voluntary interview, you should contact us immediately. We can contact the police, arrange a voluntary interview and in most cases obtain pre interview disclosure. This will allow us to prepare in full for an interview under caution. 

What if I have already been interviewed or want to change solicitor?

It is not too late to seek legal advice or a second opinion. Often the time between arrest and charge is a vital period. Engaging with a specialist solicitor with a proactive approach can sometimes make the difference between you being charged or not. An expert solicitor can take stock of the situation by assessing what has happened so for and may be able to present evidence to the police that could help your case.

What should I do if I have been charged with rape?

If you have already been charged with rape and haven’t had any legal advice, now is the time to get some. Contact our specialist team now. 

Hopefully this short guide has helped you have a better idea of the situation you face and you now feel better prepared to face it.

Olliers Solicitors – Specialist Rape & Sexual Assault defence solicitors

Olliers are a specialist criminal defence firm with offices in both London and Manchester providing specialist advice and representation throughout England and Wales. We are ranked  in the 2024 editions of both the Legal 500 and Chambers Directory. In 2023 we won the award for Crime Team of the Year at the Manchester Legal Awards for the sixth time. We are a Times Best Law Firm 2024. In 2022 we were awarded Law Firm of the Year at the Manchester Legal Awards for the second year in a row.

Our Managing Director Matthew Claughton is the 2023 Legal 500 Northern Powerhouse Criminal Lawyer of the Year. Matthew is also the only two time Partner of the Year at the Manchester Legal Awards most recently in 2021. In the same awards fellow director Ruth Peters was recognised as Solicitor of the Year 2021. 

If you are facing an allegation involving rape or sexual assault, contact us  on 0161 834 1515.

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