Historic Sexual Offences are where the original offence (of a sexual nature) has been reported a period of time after the incident. This period can be as soon as a year after the assault, though we see cases for allegations which date back to 30-50 years. They are specialist cases which require expert attention due to their complexities.

There has been an increase in cases for Historic Sexual Offences. This may be due, in part, to multiple high-profile celebrity prosecutions in the media. These prosecutions have included celebrities such as Roman Polanski, Rolf Harris, Bill Crosby, Jeffrey Epstein and Gary Glitter.

Cases of historical sexual offences can receive much media attention. This can result in public scrutiny for individuals accused of these offences, which does incredible damage. Many individuals are rightly convicted and sentenced. However, there is not much discussion about people that receive such scrutiny and are then proven to be entirely innocent. This can highlight how much ‘Trial by Media’ can affect those involved.

Many people have been found not guilty, including William Roache, John Leslie, Michael Le Vell and Pete Townsend. They were all innocent and managed to prove it in court. Whilst Cliff Richard successfully brought a libel case against the BBC for the reporting of an alleged sexual offences investigation against him.

The impact of being accused of a sexual offence is devastating. In addition, the fact that the allegation was such as long time ago can mean that it feels hard for the accused person to defend themselves effectively. It can feel unfair and one-sided against you. Can you remember where you were 15 years ago on a certain date? Or who you were with? These are some of the questions a person being investigated for such offences are asked in a police interview.

If you are investigated for historic sexual offences, it’s important that you engage legal representation early. Preparation for voluntary interviews and a review of the investigation is essential to make sure everything is done to prevent the matter proceeding to court.

If you have been charged, discussions with your legal representatives need to happen early to being preparation of your defence. Please reach out for expert advice as soon as possible. Call 01865 260 230 or contact Reeds Solicitors LLP on info@reeds.com. If you wish to contact us out of usual office hours, then phone 01865 920067.

For more information, please consider reviewing the information on the main page regarding sexual offences.

Below are a series of frequently asked questions regarding historic sexual offences


What is the definition of “Historic Sexual Offences”?

There is no set definition of a ‘historic sexual offence’. However, we consider offences that are alleged to have happened a year before they are reported as being ‘historic’. Some offences may date back 50 years, whilst others only 1 or 2 years.

Sexual offences cover a whole array of offences covered under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the Sexual Offences Act 1956.


What are common problems that arise in historic sexual offence allegation?

There are several common issues that arise in historic sexual offence cases. These are


Due to the passage of time, it can be difficult to remember facts, dates, and times to assist your defence.

Loss of Evidence

In addition, vital evidence may have been lost over time, and in some cases important witnesses have passed away.

Third-Party Evidence

There can also be little third-party corroborative information to assist your defence, however the lack of third-party evidence can also inhibit a prosecution significantly.

False Allegations

Often it can be “their word against our word” and this can feel unfair on a suspect as it is all too easy for people to make allegations that are false.


It is important that these issues are highlighted early and investigated thoroughly to put you on the best footing possible.


What are potential Defences for Historic Sexual Assault cases?

There are many potential defences to historic sexual offences, depending on what offence you are accused. However, the two most common are false or malicious allegations, and arguments regarding consent

False Allegations of Historic Sexual Assault

The fabrication of  historic sexual assault allegations can be for a variety of reasons. While we would all like to believe people would not be so vindictive or malicious, unfortunately that is not the case. They may have a perceived justification, or excuse that is little comfort to the victim of malicious allegations who must undergo the process of demonstrating their innocence.

Consent Issues in Historic Sexual Assault Allegations

Frequently, consent can be the central issue among sexual offences relating to adults. Whether the individual received consent is the most common defence to sexual offences. People remember events differently, and the passage of time can distort accounts. Often sexual acts that are entirely consensual are reported as non-consensual and therefore offences.

If the issue of consent is relevant to your case, it is often extremely important to raise this at the first opportunity. Most often this would be in your Police interview. This can remove or limit the possibility of the prosecution asking the jury to draw an adverse inference from your silence in interview, under Section 34 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

There are offences to which the defence of consent does not apply, for example against children who are under the age of consent.

If convicted, will I go to prison for an historic sexual offence?

This is a complex question. It will depend on multiple factors, including which historic sexual offence you are convicted of. Sentencing a case can be more of an art than a science. Every person and every case is different. However, to assist the court, they are provided with sentencing guidelines for each offence.

The Sentencing Council’s Sentencing guidelines for Sexual offences can be found here.

You will see many sexual offences result in custodial sentences, some of them lengthy. However, it is also worth noting that any sentence under two years custody can be suspended. This means the defendant does not go to prison and will likely be ordered to serve his sentence in the community with the Probation Service. The Court also has the opportunity to consider a community order with the probation service.

There is a myriad of factors that go towards achieving a suspended sentence or community order and it would be wise to speak with a lawyer at the earliest available opportunity to discuss your options.

If you are in this position call 01865 260 230 or contact Reeds Solicitors LLP on info@reeds.com.


Will I be placed on the Sexual Offenders Register if convicted of historic sexual assault?

Yes, a person convicted of a sexual offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 will be subject to the notification requirements of the Sexual Offender’s Register.


Could I be subject to any other Order?

The Court may also consider imposing a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO), or a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO). If you wish to read further information on these issues please follow the links provided.


How can Reeds Solicitors LLP help someone under investigation for historic sexual offences?

Reeds Solicitors LLP can assist someone accused of historic sexual offences in a variety of ways.

Firstly, it is important to receive our expert legal advice on your specific circumstances. At Reeds we have several senior lawyers who specialise in sexual offences.

After your initial consultation we can talk through your options, that includes pre-charge assistance, expert instructions, representations, defence case preparation and high-quality advocacy.

For more information, please consider reviewing our main page for sexual offences here.

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