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This offence could be defined as the act of building an emotional connection with a child to abuse them sexually, exploit them sexually or traffick them. A male or a female can commit the offence and it can be done online or face to face. Sexual communication with a child is typically planned in advance and takes place over an extended period of time with the ultimate goal being to meet the child to commit a sexual offence.
Sexual communication with a child offences have attracted substantial negative press coverage. Those accused, though innocent by law, are humiliated beyond repair in national newspapers. The impact of such allegations is catastrophic, requiring exceptional damage limitation planning.
Those being investigated and prosecuted will fear the wrath of the media and always be concerned about their safety and the safety of their loved ones. While the Rule of Law and the Human Rights Act follow the principle of everyone being ‘innocent until proven guilty’, those accused of Child Grooming Offences will inevitably feel they are being assumed to be guilty until they prove their innocence.
To help you to understand what the outcome might be as a result of being convicted of sexual communication with a child, we’ve detailed the sentencing guidelines below. Please note that a competent and experienced solicitor may be able to get any prison sentence reduced or even avoid it entirely.
If you or somebody close to you has been charged or arrested in connection to a sexual communication with a child case, you will be feeling very confused, worried, stressed and concerned about what’s going to happen.
For the prosecution to prove that sexual communication with a child has occurred, they must prove your guilt.
There may be a chance that the outcome of the trial means you will be convicted. This means you are likely to be imprisoned and placed on the sex offenders register. Being on this register means that you need to notify the police of specific details, either for a time or for life.
Being on the register or being imprisoned could affect the wellbeing of your family. If you can’t make an income, they may find it challenging to access the required finances to pay the rent or mortgage, pay bills and buy the food they need.
The actions that take place to create an offence of sexual communication may include:
Sexual communication on a device – this is when a mobile phone, tablet or email is used to communicate with a child sexually. It involves using an SMS text message or chatting with a child in a chat room.
Handwriting – this offence does not have to take place digitally using any of the above methods but can include writing by hand to the child in a sexual nature.
Any other sexual activity – If you are being investigated for any of these offences, it’s critical that you take professional legal advice as quickly as possible.
The actions that take place to create an offence of sexual communication may include:
Spending time in chatrooms to find children for child grooming – for example, using an alter ego or anonymity to make contact with children. This may also happen on a social media platform.
Being caught in the act by an undercover police officer – for instance, the undercover police officer will pretend to be a child and contact may include sexual exchanges or even details about the arrangement of a meeting.
If you are being investigated for any of these offences, it’s critical that you take professional legal advice as quickly as possible.
Depending on what you are charged with, you may receive anything between a community service order and the maximum of 2 years imprisonment.
The information that judges are given with regards to sentencing are only guidelines, and each case will be looked at individually. One of the factors judges consider in every case of this nature is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse.
The following factors are considered when the court decides which sentence to give. They will look at:
Certain aspects of a case are known as the mitigating aspects which can influence the sentence that a judge gives. In sexual communication with a child case, they may include:
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 the 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 per cent 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 essential for the solicitor to regularly inform the court throughout the trial of the reasons why the client’s plea is not guilty.
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.
The range of ancillary orders for sexual communication with a child convictions include the following:
Public Interest and Out of Court Disposals
Usually, a prosecution will take place unless there are public interest factors that outweigh those in favour.
In such cases, the police may administer a caution in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service. Each case is decided upon on its individual facts and circumstances.
In some cases, a conditional caution may be given, although it’s less likely. The starting point on sentencing guidelines is a high-level community order, whereas the starting point on a conditional caution is at a medium level or below.
The role of the prosecutors is to consider whether it’s in the public interest to prosecute or use an out of court disposal when those involved are youth offenders. This situation is likely when a child shares images of themselves, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case.
Engaging a sexual offences solicitor who has deep experience and knowledge of this area of the law, means you will have access to information on the typical sentencing for the offence with which you may have been charged.
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 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.
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 sexual communication with a child, 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.
(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|
|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 a 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 a moderate-term custodial sentence.
Below are notification periods for the convicted to be included in the Violent and Sex Offender Register (ViSOR).
Specialist prosecution teams with endless resources take on sexual communication with a child cases. Every detail will have been thoroughly analysed and preserved so it can be used as evidence against you. It is therefore of greater importance to be defended by those who not only possess the expertise and the knowledge but also have the tenacity to protect you.
Our sexual offence solicitors have successfully defended high-profile sexual communication with a child cases. We understand the defences available to you and can work with you and your circumstances to extract and present the information needed for success. We methodically analyse the prosecution case, contest the admissibility of illegally obtained evidence, draw out crucial evidence which the prosecutors may not have disclosed, and we challenge the credibility of those witnesses you tell us are lying.
We work with renowned and award-winning Barristers who stand with us side by side throughout your case. We have excellent relationships with forensic experts and digital communication analysts who can be called upon to give evidence in your favour.
If you are being accused of sexual communication with a child offences then it is of utmost importance that you contact us immediately. The faster you get your legal team engaged, the better your chances of success. Our team are here to listen to your side of the case, to talk you through the process, and to put together a defence that will be in your best interests.
At Stuart Miller Solicitors, we are incredibly proud of the long-established reputation we have in the child grooming and sexual offence fields. We provide highly trusted legal advice but also ensure that every member of our legal team is approachable and open-minded.
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.
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