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Due to the intense media coverage of high profile historic sex abuse cases in recent years, there has been a significant increase in the investigations and prosecutions into such crimes.

In situations like this, where the public interest and media attention is strong, it is especially important for historic sexual abuse defence lawyers to take a robust approach when presenting the Defendant’s version of events and to ensure their rights are protected.

Historic Sexual Offence Legal Advice - Seek legal representation at the earliest stage possible

Historic sexual offence cases are treated very seriously by the police and the Courts. They are inevitably complex, due to the sensitive nature of the acts complained of and because more often than not, a considerable amount of time has passed since the alleged offences occurred.

Lawyers should look at the potential prejudice that a Defendant faces in such cases and be alert to try to obtain third party material and witness statements which may assist their client.

If you are under suspicion of a historic sexual crime, it is important that you seek expert legal advice and representation from the earliest stage possible. It is much easier to secure a successful outcome when you have the right support at the initial stages of any investigation, rather than much later in the process, or on an appeal.

Contact Stuart Sutton, Historic Sexual Abuse Lawyers (Yorkshire, London, Birmingham, Manchester)

Stuart Sutton at Sutton Defence is a specialist sexual offence defence lawyer in East Yorkshire with over three decades of experience representing clients accused of sexual crimes. Stuart knows how stressful and upsetting these cases can be and understands what it takes to provide a robust defence to such accusations. If you have been questioned about a historic sexual offence, contact Stuart today on 07798 753 720 or complete the online contact form for immediate, expert advice.

Historic Sex Abuse Questions & Answers

The following are some of our top historic sexual abuse case questions and answers. You can also now read answers to some of our other most frequently asked questions here.

What is an historic offence?

Historic sexual offences are any sexual crime such as rape, sexual assault or child sexual abuse which took place some time ago.

They do not have to be 30 or 40 years ago. It could be for example 2014 or 2010.

The law changed on the 1st May 2004 so that the Sexual Offences Act 2003 is now the predominant piece of legislation dealing with such matters although many cases are still prosecuted pursuant to the Sexual Offences Act 1956, the Indecency with Children Act 1960 and other such legislation.

It is important that the lawyers that you instruct are alert to certain all doctrines of law that have now been confined to history themselves.

How are historic sexual offences investigated?

Historical sexual abuse allegations are treated seriously by the investigation authorities, regardless of the amount of time that has passed from when the alleged incident(s) took place to the matter being reported. No time limit applies to the reporting of sexual offences. However, where a considerable amount of time has passed and we believe this means it is no longer possible for you to have a fair trial, we are likely to make an application to the court for the case to be dropped.

When a historical sex offence accusation is made, the police and prosecution service will aim to look for evidence to corroborate the complainant's account. This might involve searching through files from schools and local authorities to find relevant information. They will also contact and speak with potential witnesses and find out if there are any other possible victims.

If you are under police investigation, your home could be searched and you will be asked to attend the police station for an interview. You are entitled to have a solicitor present with you when being questioned by the police, and it is essential that you do to ensure you are made fully aware of your rights.

What are the penalties for a conviction of historic sexual abuse?

The penalty will depend on when the crime was committed and its nature. In many cases, long term prison sentences are given. Those convicted of historic abuse will be sentenced according to the maximum sentence prescribed by the law in force at the time the crime was committed. If the maximum sentence at the time of the offence has since been reduced, the lower sentence will apply.

Judges will take into account the current sentencing guidelines when deciding the most appropriate penalty and will do their best to compare a modern-day offence with a historic offence, if the offence occurred before the 1st May 2004.

Offenders will also be made the subject of ancillary orders such as having to sign the “Sex Offenders Register” and a Sexual Harm Prevention Order.

Why do I need a historic sexual offence defence solicitor?

A lawyer with expertise in defending historic sexual crimes will have an in-depth knowledge of the law that applies and an extensive understanding of the approach used by the investigating and prosecuting authorities in these cases. These bodies are often under pressure to secure convictions and so it is essential that your lawyer aggressively defends your corner.

Stuart Sutton is well-versed in defending clients against historic sex crime allegations. Stuart does everything necessary to secure the best possible outcome for his clients, including identifying inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case, finding evidence, such as work emails or attendance sheets, that casts doubt on the complainant’s version of events, and presenting strong evidence to support the client’s good character.

Guidance note from our historic sex abuse defence lawyers regarding defending historic sex abuse allegations in the UK. Need urgent advice? Contact our specialist historic sex offences defence solicitor Stuart Sutton on 07798 753 720.

In the criminal justice system in the UK, historic sexual abuse cases can be the most difficult. For both the accused and the complainant, as well as their families, the experience is distressing and can have life-changing consequences. Historic sexual abuse cases are also challenging for the courts and juries tasked with analysing and assessing the evidence, which is usually scant and comes down to the memories of the complainant and the accused.

As the potential for miscarriages of justice is high in historical sex abuse cases, the right to a fair trial has particular significance. Unfounded sexual allegations must be robustly defended, with considerable attention given to the accuracy and veracity of evidence and how a case is presented.

The mass media may not report on acquittals and successful defence cases as often as successful prosecutions in historic sexual offences cases, but that does not mean they are less frequent. Historic sexual abuse is an unsettled and complicated area of law, raising many issues for accused and complainer alike. A particular difficulty is the passage of time, which can create hurdles when seeking to establish the truth and ensure a fair trial.

Below we provide an overview of the law relating to historic sexual abuse and some of the ways the challenges to launching a defence to an unfounded allegation may be overcome. Our offices are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ready to deliver expert legal advice and assistance. For more information, please contact our Special Casework Team, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or contact Stuart Sutton on 07798 753 720.

“Thank you very much for the superb help you gave me throughout one of the most difficult periods I have had to deal with. I know how busy you were, so I really appreciated the time and effort you spent with me. The support from yourself was the only thing keeping me sane and feeling upbeat, and, as you know, I had a very hard time understanding and remembering the concepts you were installing into my mind before the court case, but in hindsight, these were superb grounding processes that made me feel at ease.”

Thanks to you I will be able to continue working once more with my head held high and feeling totally vindicated that my innocence was never in question. You are the kind of unique individual that makes a difficult career choice seem simplistic, and your professional supportive style helps keep the individual you are representing level-headed, for this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

If you need someone to come into your life and fight your corner, who meticulously understands you professionally and personally you need Stuart Sutton an Advocate with an edge due to his criminal law work. You will be in safe hands. I highly recommend Stuart.”

The law on historic sexual abuse cases in England and Wales

Unlike other areas of law, such as personal injury or debt recovery, there is no time limit to when sexual offences may be prosecuted in England and Wales. Delay in making a formal complaint of sexual abuse, even decades after the alleged incident, in no way dilutes how the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will investigate and enforce the law – a complaint about an incident or multiple incidents alleged to have occurred many years ago will be investigated by the police. If sufficient supporting evidence is uncovered, the CPS may prosecute an individual if they consider it in the public interest and they interpret the evidence as presenting a realistic prospect of conviction.

The crime or crimes an accused person will be charged with depends on the time when the offence is alleged to have taken place. Many are charged with historic sexual abuse offences contrary to the Sexual Offences Act 1956, whilst any alleged offences occurring after the 1st May 2004 will be dealt with pursuant to the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Fairness and the presumption of innocence are fundamental principles that underpin the criminal justice system. The burden of proving an offence, therefore, falls on the Prosecution and the standard of proof is so that the jury are “sure”.

However, in historic sexual allegations, the potential complexity of the cases and often lack of corroborating evidence require that the Defence take particular care to ensure the fundamental principles are given focus.

Our expert Special Casework Team have the expertise and knowledge to ensure our clients are treated fairly when they come into contact with the criminal justice system. 

Protecting the Accused’s reputation in sexual abuse cases

Historic sexual abuse cases are among the most challenging and complex cases to tackle in the criminal justice system. Limited evidence, which usually relies on the memories of the Complainant and the Accused, increases the potential for a miscarriage of justice. This means it is all the more important that a fair and balanced trial takes place, with a robust defence that is presented at Court.

Contact Our Sexual Offences Defence Lawyers (Yorkshire, London, Birmingham, Manchester)

Our robust defence preparation, attention to detail and professional representation makes us the first choice for criminal defence. These key traits are essential to safeguarding the rights of our clients from such allegations of criminal activity. We discuss all the available options in order to find and implement the best course of action.

Our expert sexual offence solicitors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ready to advise and assist. For more information, please contact Stuart Sutton on 07798 753 720 or get in touch via our online contact form.

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Why Choose Sutton Defence Lawyers?

  • Specialists in Criminal Defence Law
  • Outstanding record in successfully defending clients charged with Sexual Offences
  • Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Secured not guilty verdicts in over 90% of cases
  • Robust defence preparation, attention to detail and professional representation