The number of allegations regarding historical sex offences has seen a sharp rise in the UK over recent years, in part due to a number of high-profile prosecutions for such offences. Following the Jimmy Savile scandal, Operation Hydrant was set up to investigate cases of ‘non-recent child sexual abuse’ by people of public prominence and those within institutional settings. This led to a significant increase in the number of cases being investigated.
The Operation has been the subject of some criticism in recent months. Some commentators have argued that the police have been too quick to accept allegations made by complainants as true.
Guilty until proven innocent?
We all know the expression that in the eyes of the law you are “innocent until proven guilty”. However, in respect of historic sex offence allegations, it can often feel like you are guilty until proven innocent. Being accused of such an offence can have a devastating effect on you and your family. Your reputation can be quickly and irreparably damaged. It is therefore vital to seek legal advice as soon as possible, in order to ensure that all necessary steps are taken to safeguard your reputation and to ensure that you have the best possible advice during the investigation. This creates the framework for a robust defence to be put forward in the event that you are charged with an offence.
Historic sex offence cases are often extremely difficult and complex matters to deal with, particularly when the alleged offences are said to have occurred many years ago. Hence, evidence which would have been available for use by the defence at the time cannot be utilised as it has been destroyed, or witnesses who may have assisted cannot be traced, have died or cannot recall events due to the passage of time. Being accused of a historic sexual offence is likely to make someone feel victimised and alone. Allegations of this nature carry significant stigma. Our legal team can provide a comprehensive legal defence that is both compassionate and robust.
What is the law surrounding historical sex offences?
The laws regarding sexual abuse have changed significantly over the years. It is therefore vital to obtain expert legal advice from a law firm that understands the interaction between the old law and the current law.
What happens if you are accused of a historical sex offence?
Most historic sexual abuse investigations commence with a statement being made to police by a complainant. Due to the length of time that may have elapsed since the alleged offence, it is unlikely that there will be any physical/forensic evidence available, and often limited or no corroboration of the allegations. The investigation and any subsequent prosecution is often based solely upon the word of the complainant and little else.
The first part of the process is to understand exactly what you have been accused of, as well as the potential consequences of those allegations. If you are contacted by the police in respect of a sexual offence allegation, you should contact us immediately. There is a common misconception that if you choose to have a lawyer present, you are somehow indicating that you are guilty. In fact, everybody is legally entitled to free legal representation at a police station interview and you should not feel anxious about exercising this legal right, which in no way signifies that you are guilty or have something to hide.
We are there to help you understand the allegations, the process of investigation, to prepare your defence and advise as to the possible outcomes. We will help you put your point across, consider the evidence and advise you in robustly defending any such allegations.
Contact Wells Burcombe
Lawyers at our firm have a vast amount experience in dealing with cases of this nature and you can contact a solicitor who is a partner in the firm to discuss such a case by calling our offices in West Drayton on 01895 449288 (Alan Burcombe or Ravinder Khumra) or St Albans (David Wells) on 01727 840900.