A recent case in the Court of Appeal has highlighted that when it comes to sexual assault cases, the defendant can be found guilty, even if he did not intend the assault to be sexual.
The facts of the case
This case centres around a kiss that took place on a train between two strangers. The complainant says the defendant boarded the train while seemingly drunk. He tapped her on the arm, grabbed her face and kissed her on the lips. He was charged with sexual assault. However, he argued that there was nothing sexual about the incident – it was not a sexual kiss and he was not hoping to gain any sexual gratification.
This raised the question: should the defendant’s intent be taken into account? The defence argued that the defendant did not intend his actions to be sexual, and so he could not be guilty of sexual assault. It was also argued that the prosecution must prove that the defendant intended his touching to be sexual. The trial judge agreed and he was acquitted of sexual assault by a jury.
The Court of Appeal
This was a controversial decision by the trial judge, prompting the Attorney General to refer the case to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal opposed the trial judge’s opinion, saying that the prosecution did NOT need to prove that the defendant intended his touching to be sexual. Rather, the offence requires that:
- The offender intentionally touched another
- The touching was without consent (or the offender did not reasonably believe the complainant consented); and
- The touching was sexual (the touching is deemed to be sexual if a reasonable person would consider this was the case).
Therefore, a sexual purpose or sexual gratification does not need to be proved.
Sexual assault is a complicated area of law, as shown in this case where the trial judge got it wrong. That is why if you have been accused of sexual assault, you must have an experienced criminal defence lawyer on your side. At Ashmans Solicitors, we know how to build a robust defence and will help you to clear your name of all charges. Read why some jurors don’t believe in the evidence presented, and why the reports of sexual abuse in schools is rising.
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