Defending Allegations of Sexual Misconduct
There has been an explosion in the number of prosecutions for sex offences in recent years. It is now estimated that one-third of all Crown court cases relate to sexual offences. These cases form a substantial part of our caseload at Berkeley Square Solicitors. Our private client crime department in this area is headed by partner Roger Sahota.
Those accused of sex crimes will be acutely aware of the special stigma attached to these offences. The consequences of conviction for an individual, their friends, family and business can be devastating.
As lawyers specialising in defending clients accused of serious sexual offences we can boast a track record of acquittals and work alongside some of the leading defence barristers and experts in this field.
Our reputation stems in particular from the pro-active work we do to steer our clients away from charge and prosecution.
BSQ Partner Roger Sahota
Sex Crime Specialists
For someone taken from their home and arrested without warning to find themselves embroiled in a nightmarish process of questioning whilst in police detention can be harrowing. Where we are instructed at a police station, we aim to make this process as painless as possible while ensuring that your rights are vigorously protected.
Investigations typically follow a standard course. After an initial complaint is taken from the complainant, they will be examined for samples at the Haven. Suspects will be detained whilst this is conducted. The police may in the meantime conduct initial “scoping” interviews of the Accused and then, having obtained a full statement from the complainant on ABE video, decide if they need to be questioned again.
Based on the gravity of the allegation(s) made, suspects will either be charged immediately after arrest or granted police bail whilst further enquiries are conducted. Accused persons can be held initially for up to 24 hours but in serious cases, the police can extend the period of detention without recourse to a court for up to 36 hours.
Allegations of sex crimes are dealt with by specialist CPS and police teams. In London, officers from “Operation Sapphire” specialise in sex cases and are based at Lewisham, Stratford and Earls Court police stations (as of November 2015).
Once an investigation has concluded, the final decision as to charge will be made by a specialist unit within the CPS. In London serious sexual offences are dealt with by the CPS London RASSO (Rape and Serious Sexual Offences) team.
Pro-active Defence - Our Pre-Charge Strategy
Clients often approach us after they have been interviewed unrepresented or by a Duty Solicitor. Many are concerned that, after the initial police interrogation, their lawyers have not asked them to provide further information or considered any proactive lines of enquiry.
Whilst some lawyers believe that there is little that can be done during the police investigation stage, experience has shown us that taking a proactive approach can reap rewards. These pre-charge enquiries are, we believe, an essential function of a defence lawyer acting for individuals accused of serious sexual offences.
Immediately after accepting instructions we will notify the police to put ourselves on record and open lines of communication so we can keep track of and assess the progress of an investigation.
In many of our cases, our clients are in possession of evidence that may cast serious doubt on allegations made against them. Deciding whether or not to disclose this to the police during an investigation can involve a delicate balancing exercise. In particularly complicated cases counsel has been instructed to advise on the merits of early disclosure.
Past experience tells us that disclosing rebuttal evidence to the police early in on an investigation can bring it to a swift conclusion without any criminal charges. In recent cases we have presented:
· text and email evidence proving a prior consensual relationship
· video footage taken on a mobile phone of sexual activity
· letters from the complainant digesting that they were in a happy and stable relationship at the time of an allegation
to the police in cases which have not resulted in any charge or prosecution.
This type of information can often be critical in proving that a complainant or witness may have had an improper ulterior motive in making an allegation – such as a desire for mischief, revenge or a financial reward.
Alternatively, we will see if enquiries are required to show that previous allegations of sexual misconduct have been made against others that were not proceed with by the police.
Combining this material with representations that a prosecution cannot be justified in accordance with the Code for Crown prosecutors and CPS Charging standards can often persuade the CPS to discontinue an investigation.
If you have been asked to attend a police interview in connection with a sex crime allegation or face prosecution please contact our London offices.
Articles from our Sexual Offences Blog
07.03.2017 Indecent Images - Time to reform the law?
27.07.2015 Revenge Porn Offence - Client Briefing