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If you or someone you care about has been accused of child grooming, you are understandably worried about what that might entail from a legal perspective as well as a personal one. Countless stories appear in national newspapers of vigilante groups tracking down those accused of child grooming and subjecting them to considerable verbal and physical attacks. For those that have been falsely accused of child grooming, this is an even more devastating experience that can impact not only your personal life, but your professional one as well. Keep reading to find out more about the offence of child grooming, including how previous cases have been handled by the courts and what you might need to think about to put together a defence.
The offence of child grooming occurs when an adult (someone over the age of 18) communicates with a child under the age of 16 and then goes to meet that child, or intends to meet that child, with the intention of engaging them in sexual activity. The offence is called ‘grooming’ because usually there is a period of communication beforehand (which does not have to be sexual in nature) whereby the alleged perpetrator befriends and tries to gain the trust of the child to make their attempted engagement in sexual activity easier.
The offence of child grooming is officially known as the offence of ‘meeting a child following sexual grooming etc.’ and it is governed by section 15 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Because of falling under the Sexual Offences Act, child grooming is considered a sexual offence even if no sexual activity actually occurred.
The offence of child grooming can occur either if the alleged perpetrator travels to meet the child, or if the child travels to meet the alleged perpetrator. For the prosecution to succeed, they must be able to prove a number of elements, including:
As with any other alleged sexual offence, to prove this offence the prosecution will seek to build a robust file of evidence. This is likely to include mobile phone, tablet device, or computer communications including emails, social media messages, instant messenger chat history, and text messages. It may also include other types of observation, like police footage of the alleged perpetrator travelling to meet the victim, CCTV images from stations or nearby facilities, and anything else that might prove the parts of the offence outlined above.
|Case Details||Judgment Date||Sentence||Link to Transcript|
|Meeting a 12 year old girl (friend of the accused’s daughter) subsequent to grooming||19/07/2010||4 years’ imprisonment||https://crimeline.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/hg2010ewcacrim1693.pdf|
|Four counts of sexual activity with a child following sexual grooming||04/07/2019||4 years’ imprisonment||https://crimeline.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/patel2019ewcacrim1427.pdf|
|Sexual grooming of a 14 year old girl via instant messenger and enticing her into sexual acts||17/12/2014||40 months’ imprisonment||https://crimeline.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/harris2014ewcacrim2873.pdf|
|Multiple counts of rape and sexual assault in the context of sexual grooming of a girl aged 13||23/03/2011||9 years’ imprisonment||https://crimeline.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/robinson2011ewcacrim916.pdf|
|Numerous sexual offences including rape, sexual trafficking, and sexual exploitation in the context of sexual grooming||17/07/2015||20 years’ imprisonment||https://crimeline.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/ali1279.pdf|
|Attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming||17/04/2019||21 months’ imprisonment||https://crimeline.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/jibran2019ewcacrim1007.pdf|
|Two offences of meeting a child following sexual grooming, where the perpetrator had psychiatric conditions||18/02/2016||Hospitalised under the Mental Health Act of 1983 and subjected to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order||https://crimeline.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/1270.pdf|
The team at Stuart Miller Solicitors has defended a number of alleged child grooming cases. Many of the individuals were falsely accused of child grooming, and the team’s help extended not only to ensuring their cases were dismissed but also to helping to piece their lives back together following public shaming. Often, to succeed in these cases, the solicitor needs to build a strong case for mitigation.
For example, the team at Stuart Miller Solicitors were able to help a man who pretended to be a 13 year old schoolboy in an attempt to communicate sexually with teenage girls in online chat rooms. With Stuart Miller Solicitors’ help, he was spared jail despite being discovered in an undercover police operation. Pursuant to an early guilty plea and a skilled defence involving mitigating factors, the accused was given a suspended jail sentence.
The sentence for child grooming varies considerably depending on the seriousness of the offence, which will be determined by the evidence that the prosecution is able to raise against the defendant.
For less serious cases where no harm was ultimately committed, a community order (community service) may be deemed suitable, but usually there will be some form of prison sentence that may be as high as 10 years.
Where the offence was committed in conjunction with other offences, especially ones as serious as rape and sexual assault, the combined sentence may be up to life imprisonment.
Ultimately, a judge will decide what sentence to give by taking into account both aggravating and mitigating factors. Aggravating factors make a crime worse, and therefore can result in a harsher sentence. Mitigating factors, on the other hand, make the crime less serious, and therefore can result in a more lenient sentence.
Aggravating factors might include:
Mitigating factors might include:
In addition to prison sentences, there may be other consequences that the court can order. These include cautions, fines, a requirement to pay costs, and a requirement to pay victim compensation (generally between £20 – £170).
Because there is usually a high amount of evidence submitted to support child grooming offences, the available defences for child grooming cases tend to relate to state of the person at the time of the alleged crime, rather than the crime itself. In other words, the defence will try to prove that even though you were involved in committing the offence, certain circumstances meant you did not have the necessary mental intention to commit the crime, and therefore cannot be found guilty in law. These include:
Child grooming is a very serious sexual offence, and if you have been accused of this offence you need to make sure that you get the appropriate advice from a specialist sexual offences solicitor. For more information about how the team at Stuart Miller Solicitors can assist you, including more information on how to handle potential public shaming, please get in touch today to arrange an initial consultation.