A right to a fair trial (Article 6 ECHR) also plays a significant role in historic sexual abuse cases since evidence can often be scant, making it an important part of the defence to ensure that all evidence is credible to uphold the accused's human rights.
Although incidents may be remembered in detail, the accuracy of the memories of witnesses may be diluted by the passage of time. This is where scrutiny of the evidence is essential in the defending allegations of sexual abuse so that a robust defence case can be made.
If you are accused of a sexual offence, it is crucial you seek the best legal advice and representation available, and at the earliest opportunity. This will give you the best possible opportunity to present your side of the story to the Crown and will help to ensure that if your case goes to court, you have the best chances of a favourable outcome.
The Law on Historic Sexual Abuse Claims in England & Wales
There is no time limit on when sexual offences may be prosecuted, which means allegations will be investigated by the Police however far back the alleged crime was committed. Because the crime is usually charged under the Act of the time it was committed, most historic sex cases are prosecuted under the Sexual Offences Act 1956. Those occurring after 1 May 2004 will be prosecuted under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Where there is uncertainty as to the time, the 1956 Act will apply as this will incur a less harsh sentence.
Operation Hydrant was a major investigation into historic sex scandals across the UK first sparked by Jimmy Saville’s case. Rather than carrying out individual investigations, the operation gathered information from other operations such as Operation Yewtree. Over 2000 suspects came under investigation, including 99 politicians and 147 celebrities from the media, 39 suspects were from the music industry, and 17 from sporting professions and 1,217 operated within institutions such as religious institutions, medical establishments, prisons and young offender's institutes, sports venues and community institutions.
The Goddard Inquiry was established in March 2015 as a public inquiry into non-recent child sexual abuse. It is a statutory inquiry, with wide-ranging powers, set up because of allegations about the failure of institutions to protect children from sexual abuse. The Inquiry looks within institutional bodies, both state and non-state, i.e. schools, hospitals, churches, local authorities, police, media, armed forces. The Inquiry works alongside Operation Hydrant, established in 2014 to oversee the investigation of non-recent child sexual abuse within institutions. The Inquiry will consider the extent to which institutions have failed to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation, look at how those failings have since been addressed and Identify further action needed to address any failings identified. It will also consider what must be done to protect children from future abuse. At its conclusion, the Inquiry will publish a report with recommendations.
Historic Sex Abuse Defence Advocacy
I have developed a niche practice of defending carers accused of sexually abusing children in their care. Often, this raises complex legal, factual and evidential issues, and of course, can also have very serious professional implications for those involved. I have found that in cases such of these, obtaining disclosure, and third Party Disclosure is key to the successful defence of clients. In one such case, the requests for disclosure led to a decision by the Crown to offer no evidence against my client, demonstrating the importance of professional and expert legal representation in cases such as these.
"I believe Mr Mark Kelly to be a truly outstanding professional. I felt entirely safe in his hands at all times. The jury reached unanimous not-guilty verdicts on all three charges in less than 45 minutes." - Anonymous Client