Sentencing for historic sexual offences

What is the sentence for historic sexual offences?

Historic sexual offences are typically cases involving claims of sexual offences that occurred a long time ago. These offences are also known as indecent assault charges. The allegations may involve one incident or even multiple occasions or victims. They may be in a familial or professional capacity.

historic sexual offences

The sentence given will reflect the seriousness of the offence. If there was a rape of a person or buggery of a person or an animal, the sentence could be harsh and may even lead to life imprisonment.

Those being accused and prosecuted for historic sexual offences are under immense pressure, whilst those needing to pursue are often living with a guilt that isn’t theirs to carry. If you or somebody you love is on either end of these circumstances, you’ll know how stressful and upsetting it can be.

To help you to understand what the outcome might be as a result of being convicted of historic sexual offences, we’ve detailed the sentencing guidelines.  Please note that a competent and experienced solicitor may be able to get a prison sentence reduced or even avoid it entirely.

More about historic sexual offences

More recently, historic sexual offences have had a lot of media coverage. High profile cases such as Jimmy Savile, Rolf Harris, the Catholic Church and several children’s homes have been in the news and on television. This development has prompted more people to come forward and feel more comfortable sharing and addressing their own sexual offence experiences.

It’s totally understandable to be feeling very much pressurised by this type of situation. Therefore, it’s vital that the services of experienced sexual offences solicitors are sought and engaged as soon as it is understood that an investigation is underway, or charges are made.

Your likely to be concerned about how rumours or speculation on a case of this nature may quickly and irreparably damage your reputation. Being treated differently by suspicious friends, colleagues and family members is very challenging to handle.

Keep in mind that although there is the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’, there will be times when you feel that everybody assumes you are guilty. You will feel that your reputation is tarnished until you prove that you are innocent.

What is the average sentence for historic sexual offences?  

It’s important to note that a sentence is given based on what the punishment was at the time the offence took place. An example of this is – if the accused is convicted of rape and the offence took place between 1 January 1957 and 30 April 2004, the penalty will be life imprisonment. The punishment for buggery of a person or an animal between 1 January 1957 and 30 April 2004 may also be life imprisonment in reflection of what was being used at that time.

The Sexual Offences Act 1956, or any other legislation prior to the 2003 Act will be referenced with regards to deciding a sentence.

Depending on what you are charged with, if you are convicted, you may be imprisoned for up to 15 months or more per offence.  As stated above, if the rape of a person or buggery of a person or an animal is involved, you may even be given life imprisonment.

How does a court decide on the seriousness of the historic sexual offence for sentencing purposes? 

There are many levels of sexual offence that range from mere touching to full penetration. The sentencing given will depend on what level of offence took place and in which time frame. There will be other factors involved which are referred to below.

Here are some examples of historical sexual offences and their outcomes:

A stepdaughter who accused her stepfather of touching her – the stepdaughter reported that the stepfather would touch her when they were home alone. Despite there being other parties who backed up the stepdaughter in her allegations, the case resulted in the stepfather being acquitted.

A wife who accused her partner of historic sexual offences – in this instance, behind the accusation was child contact issues. The partner was acquitted. 

Historic sexual offences that take place at work – an employee was asked to stay behind late at the office and consequently sexually assaulted. The employee won financial damages against her manager when it was revealed that other situations had occurred with other employees.

Regardless of these allegations, it’s essential that you engage an experienced legal professional who has expertise in historical sexual offences and assault.  It’s critical that a robust defence is crafted to weaken any accusatory case and achieve justice.

What are some of the mitigating factors that might reduce the historic sexual offences sentence?

When sentencing for historic sexual offences, your case will be looked at for whether you were abusing your position with regards to the accuser. The premise is that sentencing will be given in line with what sentencing was in place at the time of the offence.

Certain aspects of a case are known as the mitigating aspects which can influence the sentence that a judge gives. One of the factors judges consider in every case of this nature is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse.

The following are some of the other factors considered when the court decides which sentence to give. They will look at:

  • Your previous conviction
  • Your level of remorse
  • Your level of cooperation with the investigation
  • Whether the activity you took part in was originally legitimate
  • Your reputation / good character
  • Whether you have any serious medical conditions that require long term, urgent or intensive treatment
  • Whether you have a learning disability or a mental disorder
  • Whether you are the sole or primary carer for related dependents

Is it possible to reduce a sentence for historic sexual offences with a guilty plea?

In recent years, a number of changes have been made to the sentencing system in the UK to save the court time and cost and to protect witnesses from the stress of needlessly going through a trial. For offenders aged 18 and over, pleading guilty early on in a case can reduce a sentence by as much as one third (maximum). The later the plea is entered, the smaller the reduction.

‘Early on’ refers to ‘the first stage of the proceedings’ and means anytime up to and including the first hearing at the Magistrates Court or Crown Court for indictable offences.

If a plea is entered 14 days after the first hearing, for example, the maximum level of reduction is just 20% or one fifth of the sentence. For indictable offences, the limit for a guilty plea to be made is within 28 days after the prosecutor has stated compliance with section 3 of CPIA 1996 and serving disclosure; although the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Judge who has discretion to apply whatever credit is deemed appropriate.

After these times there is a sliding scale of credit applied. This goes down to one tenth on the first day of the trial and to zero if entered during the course of the trial. In theory, the ten percent could be given if the plea is issued after the opening speeches on the first day, but prior to any witness evidence being heard.

If the accused does not want to plead guilty, then it’s important for the solicitor to regularly inform the court throughout the trial of the reasons why the client’s plea is not guilty.

What are some of the other consequences of historic sexual offence?

A court can also make ancillary orders on a defendant if they are found guilty and convicted of an offence. These are extra elements that can be added to a sentence and include additional restrictions or requirements that affect a dependent’s finances, property or activity.

Ancillary orders that are typically added to the penalty for those who are found to be guilty of historic sexual offences include:

  • Sex offenders register
  • Restraint orders
  • Victim’s surcharge

In addition, the court may demand payment of the following if the accused is convicted:

Payment of costs applied for by the prosecutors

Although the police meet some of the costs involved in the prosecution, the costs of investigation are typically sought from the convicted. These may include the costs of:

  • The work done in obtaining sufficient evidence for prosecution either at the initial stage or later at the request of Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
  • Seeking medical or expert evidence as part of the investigation, (where a witness is required to attend Court, the cost of the attendance falls on the CPS).
  • Re-interviewing witnesses
  • The entire costs of the prosecutor, including fees for the use of external Barristers used by the CPS, can be recovered from the defendant, subject to means. At the end of the case, the prosecutor under The Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 will request the Judge to order a sum to be paid for the costs incurred by the prosecutor in bringing the prosecution.

Victims surcharges

The term victims’ surcharges can be explained as paying compensation to a fund for victims and can range between £20 to £170 depending on what sentence you were given at conviction.

How sentences can be added to national information databases

There are several national databases that hold information about individuals and any allegations made about them, their criminal and court records. These include the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) which was previously known as the CRB (Criminal Record Bureau) and the Police National Computer (PNC).  Depending on what happened, whether the accused is convicted and what sentence was issued, the accused may be added to one or all these databases. Their purpose is to provide information to potential employers and to regulate the ability to take part in certain activities.

If your case progresses to court and you are convicted of historic sexual offences, your conviction will be noted on your CRB / police record. The period of the endorsement will depend on the nature and length of your sentence.

Below are details on how long you will be listed as holding a criminal record if convicted. This is something very serious to consider when it comes to future employment. The term ‘spent’ refers to when your name can be removed from the databases.

Rehabilitation Period
(the time it takes for the sentence to become ‘spent’)
Sentence Adult (aged 18+) at time of conviction Young person (aged under 18) at time of conviction
Prison sentences of more than 4 years Sentence is never spent Sentence is never spent
Prison sentences of more than 2.5 years (30 months) but less than 4 years Sentence length 7 years Sentence length 3.5 years
Prison sentences of more than 6 months but less than 2.5 years (30 months) Sentence length +4 years Sentence length +2 years
Prison sentences of less than 6 months Sentence length + 2 years Sentence length +18 months
Conditional Discharge Length of order Length of order
Absolute Discharge None None
Conditional Caution 3 months 3 months
Simple Caution / Youth Caution None – immediately ‘spent’ None – immediately ‘spent’
Other Including Compensation Order, Supervision Order, Bind Over, Hospital Order Length of the order / once compensation is paid Length of the order / once compensation is paid

In cases of this nature, sentencing can be influenced by the lawyer. The court can be convinced by using arguments such as there will be damage to business, loss of job or loss of revenue to employer for the absence of the employee. If there is spouse disability or dependency, then the lawyer should put this forward to influence the outcome more positively. It’s important to stress the fact that the accused can be rehabilitated and attend a sex offender treatment programme as an alternative to a short or moderate term custodial sentence.

Below are notification periods for the convicted to be included in the Violent and Sex Offender Register (ViSOR).

Rehabilitation Period
(the time it takes for the sentence to become ‘spent’)
Sentence Adult (aged 18+) at time of conviction Young person (aged under 18) at time of conviction
Prison sentences of more than 4 years Sentence is never spent Sentence is never spent
Prison sentences of more than 2.5 years (30 months) but less than 4 years Sentence length 7 years Sentence length 3.5 years
Prison sentences of more than 6 months but less than 2.5 years (30 months) Sentence length +4 years Sentence length +2 years
Prison sentences of less than 6 months Sentence length + 2 years Sentence length +18 months
Conditional Discharge Length of order Length of order
Absolute Discharge None None
Conditional Caution 3 months 3 months
Simple Caution / Youth Caution None – immediately ‘spent’ None – immediately ‘spent’
Other Including Compensation Order, Supervision Order, Bind Over, Hospital Order Length of the order / once compensation is paid Length of the order / once compensation is paid

How Can Stuart Miller Solicitors Help?

Every historic sexual offence case we take on is handled in a very private and sensitive way. This type of case can be complex and challenging to unravel. Evidence is hard to secure due to the years that have passed.

Whatever your situation, our team are experienced and have specialist expertise in this area. Every piece of evidence will be checked for unreliability, irrelevance and whether it’s admissible to the court.

It’s incredibly vital that you take legal representation that can support your case with whatever is required to give you the best possible guidance. The impact of a historical sexual offence’s conviction can be horrendous, and we do our utmost best to ensure that you have an effective and bullet-proof defence strategy.

Fortunately, the Stuart Miller Solicitors team has had extensive experience at defending those who accused of alleged historic sexual offences. Working together, our team can find ways to defend you that may not be apparent to some other lawyers.

We rely on a wide range of expert witnesses to back us up. They can often find a way forward when a breakthrough is required in making a defence strategy.

If you’d like to discuss your situation in strict confidence, contact us today. Our specialist historic sexual offence lawyers can be reached on 0208 888 5225 during office hours. In the case of an emergency, we offer 24-hour access to a solicitor on 07980 000 076.

Stuart Miller Solicitors can provide you with the legal advice and support you need in this challenging situation.

What will happen when I instruct a historic sexual offence lawyer?

When you contact us to instruct us to be your lawyer in your historic sexual offence case, we help you to understand exactly what you’re being accused of. We will listen to your side of the story and will guide you through the process. We will then put together a strong defence that will lead to the best possible outcome. You will also be informed of what the potential consequences are of being convicted.

You will feel a lot more at ease about the situation as you’ll know that our team are experienced in historic offences and that we have the expertise to handle your case for you. We have a specialist team who are very up to date on the current law in this area.

Having represented dozens of people in this situation, we fully understand what is required to present a credible and effective legal defence strategy. Our team work together so that no opportunities for producing legitimate evidence to support you are missed. We have access to expert witnesses who will work with you where possible to collect the material required to prove your innocence or to discredit the evidence presented by prosecutors.

Arrest & Interview

It’s possible that the first time you become aware that you are part of a historic sexual offences’ investigation is when you are charged and arrested. You may be taken to the police station to be interviewed.

If this happens to you, it’s absolutely imperative that you do not attend any police interview without having a qualified and competent legal professional with you. The primary aim of the police is to secure convictions. They are likely to use questioning tactics that are designed to lead you into the trap of incriminating yourself.

Being accompanied by a trained and experienced historic sexual offences lawyer will give you several advantages. Not only will you be guided to not say the wrong thing that will get your into further legal hot water, but you will be supported. Your solicitor will put the police under pressure to bring the investigation to a conclusion so that you can go back to your everyday life. The solicitor will also ask the police whether they have any further evidence that they will use against you in building a case.

Being part of an investigation of this nature is very stressful. Our lawyers are known for providing support with regards to reputation management in addition to the legal aspect of the case. Whether you want to protect your name at work, within the family or in your community, our team will support you and advise you of the best ways to handle this challenge.

In the event that you accept the offence and are looking at the potential consequences or sentences imposed for historic sexual offences cases, our legal team will create a defence strategy to do their best to achieve your objectives. We will do everything possible to present your case and personal circumstances in the best light, so the Judge feels legally incapable of imposing unduly harsh sentences and where possible, we will always fight tooth and nail to avoid jail terms.

Would you like to discuss your case before instructing us?

If you’d like to have a no-obligation chat with us before you instruct us to take your case, then call us today.

In addition to giving you a free consultation, we can also represent you at the police station if you’ve been arrested. We can look at securing your legal aid.

Please Contact Us and ask to speak to our historic sexual offences lawyers and sexual offences solicitors to arrange a meeting in person, online or by telephone. If you prefer, you can WhatsApp us from the link you will find at the bottom banner if you open this page on your mobile phone device.

Get in touch with us now for historic sexual offences legal help.

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