On the 3rd April 2017 Section 67 of The Serious Crime Act 2015 inserted a new section 15A into the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and created an offence of “engaging in sexual communication with a child.”
The offence is committed when:
(1) A person aged 18 or over (A) commits an offence if—
(a) for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification, A intentionally communicates with another person (B),
(b) the communication is sexual or is intended to encourage B to make (whether to A or to another) a communication that is sexual, and
(c) B is under 16 and A does not reasonably believe that B is 16 or over.
(2) For the purposes of this section, a communication is sexual if—
(a) any part of it relates to sexual activity, or
(b) a reasonable person would, in all the circumstances but regardless of any person’s purpose, consider any part of the communication to be sexual;
and in paragraph (a) “sexual activity” means an activity that a reasonable person would, in all the circumstances but regardless of any person’s purpose, consider to be sexual.
The Offence In Detail
The new offence criminalises conduct where an adult intentionally communicates, for example, by e-mail, text message, written note or orally, with a child under 16, whom the adult does not reasonably believe to be aged 16 or over, for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification, if the communication is sexual or intended to encourage the child to make a communication that is sexual.
The new offence is designed to ensure that it does not criminalise, for example, ordinary social or educational interactions between children and adults or communications between young people themselves.
It is clear from case law that the prosecution would succeed where, either a defendant made a relevant communication in order to obtain immediate sexual gratification or, the obtaining of such gratification was part of a longer term plan, or both.
Case law states that “sexual gratification” has a wide meaning and may take many forms.
What Defences Are Available?
A defence may be available to an accused who can show that it was reasonably believed that the person with whom he/she was communicating was over 16.
The Court Procedure
The new offence is an ‘either-way offence’ meaning it can be dealt with either in the Magistrates’ or the Crown Court.
The offence carries a maximum sentence of 2 years imprisonment in the Crown Court and will mean an automatic placement on the Sex Offenders Register.
Who Can I Contact For Advice & Help?
It is imperative that you instruct an experienced solicitor as soon as you are made 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.
To discuss any allegation of a sexual offence please contact: