Whilst there are many things to consider when accused of any offence, sexual offences carry with them additional problems and issues. So what are the six things most likely to have an effect?
1. You need the best advice at the police station
The advice you receive at the police station must be the best. Many people do not seek legal representation at this stage as they feel that they have done nothing wrong. It is vitally important that at the very first opportunity legal advice is sought. Why? – the solicitor will be able to obtain disclosure from the police officer and will then be able to advise you as to the weight of the evidence. How questions are answered at this early stage in the proceedings can make all the difference should the matter come to court. The right advice at the police station could make the difference between being charged or not. We often see clients who have been charged who would not have been had they received proper advice at the police station. For more information on what to expect in the police interview see here.
2. Will you be on bail and what are the implications
Following interview you may be released on police bail or released under investigation. Either of these courses of action may have an effect upon not only you but also your family. At this stage, although you have not been charged with any offence, if you have children or grandchildren the police may notify Social Services and restrictions on your contact with the children could be restricted. Once again it is vital that you seek legal advice especially if the conditions attached may result in you being unable to spend time alone with your own family.
3. Is there an Impact on employment?
If your job is one which carries “special trust or responsibility” then the police may inform your employer that you have been accused of or are suspected of committing an offence under the Notifiable Occupations Scheme. Even if the police do not decide to notify your employer, they may also seize your work phone or laptop etc the examination of computer equipment is usually one of the biggest delaying factors in the investigation into allegations of a sexual nature. The delay can be months if not years. We will obviously be in contact with the police to have these items returned to you as quickly as possible but it can become a significant problem for someone who is accused.
4. Will there be any Publicity?
At the investigation stage it is unlikely, unless you are a celebrity, that there will be any publicity. Should you be charged it may be that reference to the charge may appear in a local paper but until you appear at court, it is usually very limited. We are often asked if there can be a ban on reporting but it is only in very specific circumstances that your name will not be a matter of public record following the first appearance in the magistrates’ court, although we often deal with celebrity clients where we avoid their address having to be read out in public as is explained further here.
5. What happens if charged?
If the Crown Prosecution Service take the view that you are to be charged with an offence this will mean that you will have to appear in court. Most sexual offences are deemed to be too serious to be dealt with in the Magistrates Court so will be sent to the Crown Court. You will need to consider how the case is to be funded and whether or not you are entitled to legal aid. The Government has imposed limits on legal aid dependent upon your household income; you will need advice on whether you are eligible for legal aid, assistance with the application, alternatively it may be that other sources of funding are available.
6. The Court Process
Most clients we see who have been charged with a sexual offence have never been in trouble with the police and have no experience of the court process. For most people, appearing in a public court accused of a sexual offence is an extremely daunting and embarrassing process. It is therefore important that you obtain advice from lawyers who are experienced in dealing with these types of offences who understand and can guide and advise you through the process.
Louise Straw – Burton Copeland Solicitors
Louise is the Managing Partner at Burton Copeland Solicitors with over 30 years experience of criminal law and is recognised by the independent publication Legal 500 as a lawyer who has “developed a strong reputation representing individuals in cases involving historical sexual abuse and sexual offences” She has already written a guide on what to do if you are falsely accused of a sexual offence.