We constantly hear about sexual offences in the news and sex crimes cause us a lot of worry.  Many fear becoming a victim of a sex offence.  In this factsheet we look at what the offences are, ask how much sex crime there is and look at some of the options for dealing with it.  This factsheet looks at sex crimes against adults, we have another factsheet that covers sexual offences against children.

The Law

The government recently took a look at the laws relating to sexual offences.  Most were contained in an Act dating back to 1956, so the government decided it was time that these laws were modernised.

The government re-wrote much of the old laws and added scores of new offences in the Sexual Offences Act 2014 which came into force on 1 May 2004.  These are not all the laws, just some of the major new ones.

Rape

A person (A) commits an offence if –

  1. he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person (B) with the penis,
  2. B does not consent, and
  3. A does not reasonably believe that B consents.
  • Whether a belief is reasonable is to be determined ‘having regard to all the circumstances’, including any steps A has taken to find out whether B consents.

So what does this mean?

  • This means that only men can be convicted of rape but they can be convicted of raping either a man or a woman and this includes forced oral sex.
  • Men may be prosecuted for rape even if they honestly believed the victim was consenting if there was no reasonable justification for that belief.  (A drunk man who thinks his partner has consented may be prosecuted).
  • Rape trials happen in the Crown Court and the maximum penalty is life imprisonment.
  • Rape abroad may be tried in the UK if the victim was under 16 and the offender is a British citizen or resident in the UK.

Assault by Penetration

A person (A) commits this offence if he or she –

  1. intentionally penetrates the vagina or anus of another person (B), sexually,
  2. with a part of his or her body or anything else
  3. B does not consent, and
  4. A does not reasonably believe that B consents.
  • This is a new offence that used to be called ‘indecent assault’ under the old law.
  • It carries a maximum life sentence.
  • Parliament felt the old law made the offence sound less serious and the new law makes the sentence far heavier.

Sexual Assault

A person (A) commits this offence if he or she –

  1. intentionally touches another person (B), sexually,
  2. B does not consent, and
  3. A does not reasonably believe that B consents.
  • The maximum sentence is ten years.

Intentionally Causing Someone to Engage in Sexual Activity

A person (A) commits this offence if he or she –

  1. intentionally causes another person (B) to engage in a sexual activity,
  2. B does not consent to engaging in the activity, and
  3. A does not reasonably believe that B consents.

This is a very broad offence and covers such things as:

  • Women who force men to penetrate them
  • A person who forces another to masturbate themselves or another, and
  • A person who forces another to act as a prostitute
  • The worst kind of this offence can mean a sentence of life; the less worse will mean a maximum of ten years imprisonment in the Crown Court and six months in the Magistrates’ Court.

Administering Drugs

A person (A) commits this offence if he or she –

  1. causes a substance to be taken by B
  2. without consent
  3. with intent to stupefy or overpower B
  4. to enable any person to engage in sex with B
  • This offence covers what is known as ‘drug assisted rape’ which usually involves either Rohypnol (‘roofies’) or GhB (liquid ecstacy).

Exposure

A person (A) commits this offence if he or she –

  1. intentionally exposes his or her genitals
  2. with the intention that another person (B) will see them, and
  3. B will be caused alarm or distress
  • This offence does not criminalise ‘naturists’ or streakers at sports events as it is almost impossible to prove that they intended to cause alarm or distress.
  • The maximum penalty is two years imprisonment.

Voyeurism

A person (A) commits this offence if he or she –

  1. for the purposes of sexual gratification
  2. observes another person (B) doing a ‘private act’
  3. in the knowledge that B does not consent to being observed for that purpose
  • A private act is one done in a place where B could ’reasonably expect privacy’ (your bathroom, a store changing room but probably not your car) and either the genitals, buttocks or breasts are exposed or covered by underwear, or the person is using the lavatory or performing a sex act.
  • This offence covers the setting up of secret cameras and other surveillance.
  • The maximum penalty is two years imprisonment.

Bestiality

It is an offence to penetrate a living animal’s anus or vagina or to allow a living animal to penetrate the anus or vagina of a person.

  • The maximum penalty is two years imprisonment.

Necrophilia

It is an offence to penetrate sexually any part of the body of a dead person with the penis, any part of the body or an object.

  • The maximum penalty is two years imprisonment.

Sexual activity in a public lavatory

It is an offence to engage in sexual activity in a public toilet.

  • This offence goes to the Magistrates’ Court and carries a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment.