Section 3 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 defines the offence of sexual assault as:
(1) A person (A) commits an offence if—
(a) he intentionally touches another person (B),
(b) the touching is sexual,
(c) B does not consent to the touching, and
(d) A does not reasonably believe that B consents.
(2) Whether a belief is reasonable is to be determined having regard to all the circumstances, including, any steps A has taken to ascertain whether B consents.
Got a question?
- The offence covers intentional touching.
- If the touching is accidental, no offence will have been committed.
- The touching can be to any part of the body and with any part of the body or with anything else.
- It also does not have to have been to the skin. The offence can be committed over clothing.
- The offence can be committed by a man or a woman.
- The issue in relation to whether the touching was sexual, in accordance with the section 2 offence of assault by penetration , will be for the jury to decide having heard all the facts of the case.
- The issues surrounding consent apply equally as they do to the offence of rape, which you can read about here.
The offence of sexual assault is an either way offence which can be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court.
The maximum sentence for sexual assault is 10 years imprisonment.
A number of matters will be taken into account when sentencing an individual convicted of this offence such as:
- the nature of the touching
- the effect or vulnerability of the victim
- the offender’s previous convictions.
Further details in relation to sentencing guidelines for sexual offences can be found here.
It is imperative that you instruct an experienced solicitor as soon as you are aware of an allegation being made.
Crucially, it is always important to have a solicitor present in interview at the police station, whether it is an interview by appointment or under arrest.