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Defending rape allegations

Contesting a rape allegation can be extremely difficult and it is essential that you seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity if you have been falsely accused. Our solicitors recognise the distress caused by such an allegation and will deal with your case in an understanding and confidential manner, for specialist advice call 01616 966 229.

Due to the severity of a rape allegation rape cases are always dealt with in the Crown Court. In the most serious of cases convictions can carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, although, any person found guilty of rape will be given a significant prison sentence.

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Investigating an allegation of rape

The most common issues in a rape case are firstly determining whether the act did in fact take place, and secondly if the act was consensual. The issue of consent is extremely important in determining a verdict. However, establishing whether the sexual relationship was consented to can be difficult and can be affected by several factors.

To be found guilty the defendant must not have reasonably believed that consent was given. When determining whether consent was given prosecutors will consider if the claimant had the capacity to give consent which will depend on age, mental capacity and the influence of drugs or alcohol on the ability to make an informed decision. They will also consider if the claimant was able to make the choice freely without constraint.

Rape allegations can seriously damage your reputation, ruin personal relationships and put your career at risk and so it is important that you obtain legal advice as soon as possible. Our team of criminal justice solicitors are recommended by the Legal 500 and can help you to contest a false rape allegation. Call a member of our team on 0161 696 6188 or fill in an online enquiry form and a member of the team will get in touch with you.

The law on rape

This is a brief introduction to the law on rape. It discusses the sentencing guidelines and considers defences that may be relied upon if a not guilty plea is entered.

What is the legal definition or rape?

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 states that a person (A) commits the offence of rape if:

"(a) he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth or another person (B) with his penis;
(b) B does not consent to the penetration; and
(c) A does not reasonably believe that B consents."

The term ‘consent’ is defined at Section 74 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and states that a person consents if “he agrees by choice and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice.”

To elaborate, the consenting party must be fully aware as to who they are having sexual intercourse with (they cannot be misinformed or misled). They must also have the capacity to understand that they are consenting to having sexual intercourse. It may not be possible for a person to provide this consent if they are heavily under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

What is the maximum sentence for rape?

If a defendant has been found guilty of rape it will then be the responsibility of the judge to sentence the defendant in accordance with the relevant sentencing guidelines. The sentencing guidelines help to categorise the type and length of sentence imposed by the judge and provide factors to be considered when sentences are determined.

If you are found guilty of committing the offence of rape the custodial sentence ranges from 4 – 19 years with the maximum sentence being life imprisonment.

In addition to a custodial sentence you will also be placed on the Sex Offenders Register and/or a Sexual Offence Prevention Order may be imposed. Both require you to adhere to certain conditions for examples register your address and bank account details etc. If you breach any of those conditions you run the risk of being charged with an offence and receiving a custodial sentence.

Are there any defences to rape?

If you are charged with rape, there are several defences that can be relied upon. For example:

Consent - The most common defence is that the alleged victim provided consent to the sexual intercourse that took place, or at least that the defendant believed that they were consenting.

Factual - That no penetration took place.

Duress - This defence is where a defendant states that they were forced by someone to commit the offence. The court will determine whether the defendant reasonably feared a serious injury or death should the offence have not been committed by them. The court will also consider whether the defendant acted in the same way that any reasonable person would have done under the same circumstances.  

Insanity - This defence can be relied upon if the defendant had a mental illness at the time that the offence was committed and therefore did not have the capacity to commit the offence. This must be proved on the balance of probabilities.

Fabrication - This defence is when the defendant asserts that the alleged victim is fabricating the allegations.

Research conducted by the Home Office suggests that 4% of sexual assault allegations that are reported to the Police are or are suspected to be false.

It is important that you seek specialist advice immediately if you are accused of committing a sexual offence. We are currently representing people before they have been arrested through to those who have been charged and awaiting trial. 

At Stephensons, our criminal defence department has a combined 150 years of experience of successfully representing people that are facing criminal charges. Please do not hesitate to contact a member of the department on 0161 696 6188 if you require assistance or complete an online enquiry form.

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