Historic Rape Allegations – The Law
The law in relation to rape has changed over the years and the question of which law applies to any particular allegation depends on when the alleged incident took place.
Offences committed before 1 May 2004 are prosecuted under the Sexual Offences Act 1956 where rape is defined as any act of non-consensual vaginal or anal intercourse by a man with a male or female. It does not include non-consensual oral sex.
Consent is not defined and is deemed as having its ordinary meaning. A lack of consent can be inferred from the surrounding circumstances, such as submission through fear. It is a defence if the accused believed that the victim was consenting even if this belief was unreasonable - the accused’s belief is a matter for the jury to decide upon.
There have been a number of further amendments to the law since the 1956 Act came into force. For example, as referred to above, ‘consent’ was never defined in the 1956 Act and was given its ordinary meaning. From 1975, the ‘honest belief’ test (the Morgan Defence) applied which allowed the defence to argue honest belief in consent even if that belief was unreasonable. This has now been changed by the 2003 Act.
Understanding what law applies to any specific case is not a straightforward exercise. We are specialists in defending historic allegations and we know the law in detail. We will advise and guide you through the case to ensure that you are fully informed at all stages.
What does 'historic' allegation mean?
There are an ever-increasing number of reports of historic sexual offending. Often these are reports of alleged abuse over a number of years within a family or marriage, at a school/club or in residential care homes.
Prosecuting authorities do not consider that a delay in reporting is indicative of a false allegation and more and more historic cases are now being prosecuted.
We understand that historic allegations arising out of alleged sexual incidents from the distant past are devastating for the person accused. It is crucial to seek expert advice on how to defend an allegation.
We have extensive experience of representing client’s accused of serious sexual offences that allegedly took place many years ago and an excellent record of successfully defending them.
How we defend historic allegations
Historic allegations are extremely difficult and complex, particularly when alleged incidents happened 20 to 30 years ago. Memories will have faded, contemporary evidence is likely to have been destroyed and key witnesses are often no longer available. The complaints may be vague as to details and timing. The successful defence of these allegations requires meticulous preparation We are rigorous and relentless in our approach to undermining the allegations from the start. We analyse and scrutinise every detail of the prosecution case including the details of what has been alleged and any evidence that the Prosecution intend to use to prove their case.
We will fully explore all possible defence lines of enquiry, for example similar previous complaints, mental health issues, financial and/or emotional motives for making a false complaint. Our client’s background can often be of equal importance. We will seek and obtain evidence of your character through witness statements and other sources of information to demonstrate the person you are. Witnesses may well give live evidence in Court