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What to do if you are accused of sexual harassment or misconduct

What to do if you are accused of sexual harassment or misconduct

Being accused of a sexual offence or misconduct can result in one of the most devastating experiences of your life. The effects are very often not just personal, but can extend into work and family life.

There is no doubt that over the last few years, complains of a sexual harassment have increased tremendously. I have been a criminal defence lawyer for 20 years. The number of sexual allegations I have been advising on has risen significantly over the last 2 or 3 years. Many of those are reliable complaints, but at the same time, many are simply false.

The reality is that once the finger has been pointed and a police investigation follows, it can be very difficult to remove the stigma attached to allegations of this type.

It has never been easier for a someone to make a complaint of a sexual nature to the police. The police and prosecution are now charging alleged offenders more than ever. Cases which historically would have been dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service are now being prosecuted. The evidential test the Crown Prosecution Service should apply in every case is not being applied strictly. The prosecution is simply leaving cases, often with very little evidence, to be decided by a jury at trial.

Once a complaint is made, it can take months for an investigation to be completed. Lives can be destroyed, careers can be left in tatters and, in some cases, lives are never the same again.

However, there is much that can be done for someone facing an investigation or even prosecution for a sexual offence.

The most important consideration is the immediate instruction of a criminal solicitor who has experience dealing with allegations of this type. Many accused will have no previous criminal history and will have appointed the duty solicitor at the police station. You do not need to keep this solicitor. It is sensible to research lawyers online and find one who has experience in defending sexual allegation cases.

Once the right lawyer has been identified, you should meet with that lawyer to see what can be done. Just because you are under investigation it does not mean that you cannot make enquiries which will help to prove your innocence. An experienced lawyer will always advise on this. If there are witnesses that need to be traced and contacted or enquiries that need to be made, those should be made immediately. This can mean the difference between being charged and not being charged. It can also make the difference between a successful outcome at trial or being convicted.

We strongly advise anyone under investigation or facing prosecution, to instruct the right legal team. There is a common misconception that a suspect needs to spend tens of thousands of pounds to secure the right representation. In many cases, suspects are entitled to legal aid. Solicitors who truly have the interests of the client in mind, will prepare and present a case in the same professional way, whether or not a case is privately funded or through legal aid.

Recent high-profile investigations, such as the Harvey Weinstein allegations, have highlighted the true impact of a sexual harassment or misconduct allegations. As the weeks and months go on, there will be many revelations, both high-profile and low-key. Whether or not it's a criminal investigation which requires a formal interview under caution; or whether it's something more severe such as formal prosecution, which requires representation at court, the need for competent representation and advice is essential. It will be equally important to get advice and assistance before any formal investigation has taken place. Complaints of this nature often circulate around families, in the workplace or amongst friends. We would advise that you contact a solicitor immediately when such rumours are heard of.

If you find yourself accused of sexual harassment or misconduct, we can help.

David Wells
Wells Burcombe

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