Sexual Offences Step 2

Action Prior to Charge

  • The Police will be called to the scene of the incident
  • The Police will log a report
  • The Victim will be asked for a witness statement

Criminal Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)

  • If charged with a criminal offence it would result in a court order,  
  • The police will investigate criminal offences and then pass evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for a charging decision.
  • The CPS will also prosecute (prepare and present) the case at court.

When deciding whether to charge a suspect CPS must consider

  1. an evidential and
  2. public interest test

When an individual is charged with a criminal offence and the case goes to court, the complainant should be given a single point of contact for updates and information on the court proceedings. This can either be by:

  • A police officer assisting on the investigation or
  • Contact with a staff member of the Witness Care Unit.

Witness Care Units

  • Witness Care Units are responsible for managing and supporting anyone who gives evidence for the prosecution in criminal proceedings.
  • If not advised by the police you may request to be put in touch with your nearest Unit.

The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime

  • This Code sets certain standards of service that the police, the CPS and other agencies involved in the criminal justice system should offer victims.
  • Most victims of domestic violence will be entitled to an enhanced service, which means that they should be informed of major developments in the case (e.g. the decision to charge) within 24 hours.

Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA)

  • ISVA can assist you to access services and support you through the investigation and any subsequent criminal proceedings.
  • Other support groups may also be available.

Bail

Where a defendant has been charged with the offence they can either be released on bail to attend their first court hearing or be remanded in custody overnight at the police station and taken to court the next day, where he can apply to be released on bail.

  • When deciding whether or not to grant a defendant bail the court will consider a number of factors including:
  1. The seriousness of the offence,
  2. The defendant’s character; and
  3. The strength of the case against him.

Conditions

Bail conditions are any requirements the court considers necessary to ensure that the defendant attends court and does not commit any further offences. These can include:

  • Order to stay at a certain address,
  • Not to contact the victim or witnesses directly or indirectly,
  • Comply with a curfew.

If a person is concerned about whether or not the defendant will be granted bail, or what the conditions of bail will be, they may discuss their concerns with the police officer or the Witness Care Unit contact.

Once these views have been passed onto the CPS they will take such concerns into consideration.

All victims of sexual violence will be entitled to an enhanced service, which means that they should be told of major developments in the case (e.g. the decision to charge) within 24 hours.

Evidence

  • If you are required to attend court and answer questions about what happened to you, you may choose to have a video witness statement which will be recorded. This is referred to as an ABE video.  
  • It is most likely that the video will be played at court and you will not have to go over your evidence again however,
  • If the judge decides the video ought not to be played in court, or you have made a written witness statement, the prosecutor will ask you to attend court to talk about what happened to you.
  • Whether a video was played or not you will be subjected to a cross-examination. You will be asked some questions by the defendant’s lawyer.

Cross Examination

The defendant’s lawyer has to put forward what the defendant says (his ‘defence’) without being aggressive or intimidating. The judge or prosecutor should intervene if they are:

  • Worried about this, you can discuss this issue with your police officer or Witness Care Unit contact prior to giving evidence. This is organised by the court Witness Service.

At court there should be a separate waiting area for you. You will also be able to read your statement through or watch your ABE video to refresh your memory before you go into court.

  • An ABE video will often been edit.
  • The edits are to be negotiated and agreed between both the prosecutor and defence lawyers.
  • If you have concerns about editing, you can raise it with the prosecutor and ask them to explain the edits.
  • Special measures victims of domestic and sexual violence may be entitled to special measures to assist them in giving evidence at court.

Special Measures

Special measures are practical options to help give best evidence possible. These include:

  • Giving evidence from behind a screen preventing the defendant from seeing you, or
  • Giving evidence by video link so you do not have to be physically in court.
  • Special measures need to be applied by the prosecution on your behalf.
  • The judge will then decide whether to grant the application.
  • Many victims of sexual violence are also entitled to anonymity so that their name or other information that could identify them cannot be made public in the media. This is automatically in place and does not need to be applied for.

 

After Evidence Has Been Given

  • After you have given evidence the CPS will present any other evidence they have.
  • The defence then gets a chance to present their evidence.
  • The prosecutor and defence lawyer will then make a speech to the court and a decision will follow as to whether the defendant is found guilty or not guilty.

In the Crown Court this decision is made by a jury, who are guided on the law by a judge.

  • If the defendant was found guilty they will receive a criminal conviction and will be sentenced – either straight away or after pre-sentence reports are prepared by a probation officer.
  • If the defendant is found not guilty then he will be free to leave the court and will not have a criminal conviction.
  • The defendant can only be convicted if the judge or jury are sure that they are guilty of the offence.

Conviction and Sentence

  • What the defendant gets as his sentence depends on different factors including legal guidelines and what the presentence report recommends.
  • The victim’s statement (VPS) will also be read and taken into account by the court at sentence.

A VPS is a statement taken from you after you give a witness statement to the police, or at any stage in the proceedings up to sentence, and is your chance to indicate the impact the abuse has had on you and your daily life.

  • The defendant may get a prison sentence,
  • If so, he will usually serve half of this sentence in prison and then half out of prison (‘on licence’) but monitored by probation services.
  • If the defendant has received a prison sentence of over 12 months, then you may be contacted by the probation service when he is about to be released to discuss any special conditions you want him to have when he leaves prison.
  • If the defendant breaks any conditions given to him or commits another offence during the remainder of his sentence, then he can be sent back to prison.
  • If the defendant has committed a sexual offence he may be subject to orders limiting his movements or require him to report to the authorities at certain times.

Disclaimer

While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. Each legal case and issue may have unique facts and circumstances, as a result legalally does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information provided. For further help and guidance, you can always rely on and seek advice from our experienced lawyers.

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