ATP Template with bundler

Sexual offences


The age of consent to engage in any form of sexual activity is 16 years old. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 creates offences in relation to rape and sexual activity with children under 13 and children under 16.

Where two children have a relationship with one another and engage in consensual sexual activity, an offence could potentially be made out. However, generally the police will not become involved in cases where the children are of a similar age, unless they become aware of evidence of exploitation, physical abuse etc which exists in the relationship. Action to deal with this situation is usually to provide education and support to the children concerned (for example a school nurse or their GP) may be able to help.

Please see the Crown Prosecution Service website and the other links in the Related Information for further information.

Should you have any concern that your child is being sexually abused by anyone (regardless of that person's age), you can contact your local police force by calling 101. They have a specially trained unit that will help you.


A child (anyone under 18 years of age) is deemed 'vulnerable' and is eligible for Special Measures to assist them to give their evidence in court. One such Special Measure, is the opportunity to have their interview video recorded. The interview takes place in a designated room and is recorded by an operator trained in the use of the video recording equipment. The purpose of recording the interview in this way, is, should the Court deem the video to be acceptable, it may then be produced as evidence-in-chief for the prosecution case (this is instead of the child having to attend court in person to answer questions).

The officer in the case will provide the details on the location of the interview, the rooms to be used and the persons to be present and of their roles. Interview supporters (for example parents or carers) may be present either in an adjacent room or in the interview room. Please be aware that in some instances, the officer may consider that the presence of a parent/carer is not necessary/required. One such example is when the parent/carer is also a witness in the case (perhaps being the first person the child has talked to). In such a case, the parent being present at the interview and hearing the full disclosure of the child could potentially be damaging to the case as a whole and therefore it is best that they do not attend. A further example may be where a child has told the officers that he/she did not wish for his parent/carer to be present.

In each case, ultimately it will be at the officer's discretion as to whether an interview supporter (parent/carer) is to be present at the interview. They will base this on all the circumstances of the case. If you have any queries in relation to the video interview procedure, the officer in the case should be able to assist.

For further information and support services, see the links in Related Information.


A disability should not prevent a person's ability to report a crime. Due to the variety of special needs/mental health issues that people experience, forces often provide specialist training for police officers.

When a case is reported involving an individual with special needs or mental health issues, every effort will be made to ensure that they are treated fairly and sensitively and the evidence that they offer is obtained in a manner that allows it to be used in future criminal proceedings. If, for example, communication aids are needed by an individual these will be provided to enable them to make their disclosure. Likewise, the force will endeavour to cater for any other specific needs.


Any person reporting historic sexual abuse to the police will be treated seriously The matter will be thoroughly investigated and historic offences could still result in the conviction of an offender.

The outcome of any such case could be difficult to predict and as such it is important that a victim under these circumstances keeps an open mind. The passage of time, means that evidence may have been lost, although corroboration of early reports, medical and social services records are examples of lines of enquiry that may be pursued. Once the suspect has been interviewed, the case papers will be assessed by the police and if there is sufficient evidence the case may be forwarded to the Crown Prosecution Service who will look at:

  • the legality of the case;
  • the public interest of commencing a prosecution;
  • the likely prospect of a conviction;

before they decide whether to take the matter forward. For further support please see the websites in Related Information.


Police take all reports of sexual attacks seriously.

You will first be spoken to by a uniformed officer who will ask you some general questions (you can ask to speak to an officer of a particular sex if that makes you feel more comfortable) and then you will be taken to a specialist suite where you will be spoken to by specially trained officers. The questions that these officers ask will be more in depth.

Do not worry if you feel embarrassed or ashamed, the officers are specially trained to help you. With your consent you will undergo a medical examination by a trained police medical examiner. An officer will be allocated to your case and will receive regular progress updates.


Possession of indecent images of children is an offence, as is the manufacture and distribution of them. You should not forward the images to anyone, even the Police, it is a very serious matter.

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is the UK Internet Hotline for anyone to report online child sexual abuse imagery anonymously.

IWF works internationally to make the internet safer. They help victims of child sexual abuse worldwide by identifying and removing online images and videos of their abuse.

Please see Related Information for a link to their website.


Whilst there is no legal requirement to report a crime, there is a moral duty on everyone of us to report to the police any crime or anything we suspect may be a crime.


It depends upon the type of incident you are reporting. This area of law is very complex, so the following is a basic guide only (as there are exceptions).

Road Traffic Accidents:

  • Reportable road traffic accidents (see questions in related topics for more details) must be reported as soon as is reasonably practicable and in any case, within twenty-four hours.
  • Minor road traffic incidents e.g. failing to wear a seatbelt, have a time limit on prosecution of 6 months.
  • Serious road traffic incidents (e.g. dangerous driving) have no such time limit for prosecution.


  • Most crimes do not have a time limit for reporting them.
  • The crimes that do have time limits are 'summary only' which means that they can only be tried at a Magistrates Court and are relatively minor offences; they must be prosecuted within 6 months e.g. common assault, harassment and taken without owners consent (TWOC).
Do bear in mind that the more time there is between the incident happening and reporting it to the police, the harder it will be for the police to gather the evidence.


Details of registered sex offenders are kept on a register for the Police only, it is not for public access. If you have any concerns over the activities of a local resident then you should speak to your local police force.

The Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme (Sarah's law) allows members of the public to make a request that the police investigate a person. Anyone who looks out for the welfare of a child can make an enquiry. This can include parents, carers, guardians, extended family, friends and neighbours.

Disclosures however, will only be given to the person best placed to protect the particular child or children and who needs to know the details in order to keep the child safe, usually a parent, carer or guardian.

Once an application for an investigation has been made the police will require the applicant to specify the grounds for the investigation and the nature of the relationship between the applicant and the child, the applicant and the individual and the individual and the child. The applicant will be invited to an interview with the police where matters will be enquired into further.

Whilst the police have a duty to explore the request, there is no requirement for the police to disclose any information and all requests for information about named individuals will be discussed by the police, probation and safeguarding children staff in order to determine whether the release of information will provide additional protection for the child(ren ) in question.

If information is disclosed, the applicant will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement and be subject to sanctions should any unlawful disclosure be made. See link in related information for more details.


The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime in England and Wales sets out the services that a victim of crime can expect to receive throughout the criminal justice process in England and Wales. It lists the organisations that must provide those services to the victim and sets a minimum standard for these services.

The full Code can be accessed via the relevant link in the Related Information section. However please find a summary of the Code below:

Right 1 - To be able to understand and to be understood

You have the Right to be given information in a way that is easy to understand and to be provided with help to be understood, including, where necessary, access to interpretation and translation services.

Right 2 - To have the details of the crime recorded without unjustified delay

You have the Right to have details of the crime recorded by the police as soon as possible after the incident. If you are required to provide a witness statement or be interviewed, you have the Right to be provided with additional support to assist you through this process.

Right 3 - To be provided with information when reporting the crime

You have the Right to receive written confirmation when reporting a crime, to be provided with information about the criminal justice process and to be told about programmes or services for victims. This might include services where you can meet with the suspect or offender, which is known as Restorative Justice.

Right 4 - To be referred to services that support victims and have services and support tailored to your needs

You have the Right to be referred to services that support victims, which includes the Right to contact them directly, and to have your needs assessed so services and support can be tailored to meet your needs. If eligible, you have the Right to
be offered a referral to specialist support services and to be told about additional support available at court, for example special measures.

Right 5 - To be provided with information about compensation

Where eligible, you have the Right to be told about how to claim compensation for any loss, damage or injury caused as a result of crime.

Right 6 - To be provided with information about the investigation and prosecution

You have the Right to be provided with updates on your case and to be told when important decisions are taken. You also have the Right, at certain stages of the justice process, to ask for decisions to be looked at again by the relevant service provider.

Right 7 - To make a Victim Personal Statement

You have the Right to make a Victim Personal Statement, which tells the court how the crime has affected you and is considered when sentencing the offender. You will be given information about the process.

Right 8 - To be given information about the trial, trial process and your role as a witness

If your case goes to court, you have the Right to be told the time, date and location of any hearing and the outcome of those hearings in a timely way. If you are required to give evidence, you have the Right to be offered appropriate help before the trial and, where possible, if the court allows, to meet with the prosecutor before giving evidence.

Right 9 - To be given information about the outcome of the case and any appeals

You have the Right to be told the outcome of the case and, if the defendant is convicted, to be given an explanation of the sentence. If the offender appeals against their conviction or sentence, you have the Right to be told about the
appeal and its outcome.

Right 10 - To be paid expenses and have property returned

If you are required to attend court and give evidence, you have the Right to claim certain expenses. If any of your property was taken as evidence, you have the Right to get it back as soon as possible.

Right 11 - To be given information about the offender following a conviction

Where eligible, you have the Right to be automatically referred to the Victim Contact Scheme, which will provide you with information about the offender and their progress in prison, and if/when they become eligible for consideration of parole or release. Where applicable, you also have the Right to make a new Victim Personal Statement, in which you can say how the crime continues to affect you.

Right 12 - To make a complaint about your Rights not being met

If you believe that you have not received your Rights, you have the Right to make a complaint to the relevant service provider. If you remain unhappy, you can contact the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

The police's responsibilities to a victim of crime are as follows -

A victim is classed as a person who is -

  • a person who has suffered harm, including physical, mental or emotional harm or economic loss which was directly caused by a criminal offence;
  • a close relative (or a nominated family spokesperson) of a person whose death was directly caused by a criminal offence;
  • 'businesses' are not included in this definition (see Note 2 on Page 3 of the Code for more information on this).

As a victim of crime you are entitled to receive the following from the police -

  • if the crime is finalised at source (not investigated) then the victim must be notified of this within 5 working days (1 working day under Enhanced Rights – see page 10 of the Code);
  • must supply the victim with written information on what to expect from the criminal justice system as soon as possible, and not later than 5 working days after reporting the crime;
  • must inform Victim Support services of the victims' details within 2 working days of the crime report (unless the victim asks them not to do so);
  • If the case goes to court the police must inform victims of the date, time and location of the first court hearing;
  • inform victims within 5 working days of receipt from the court, if an arrest warrant has been issued for a suspect who failed to attend court and the outcome of a hearing if the suspect is re-arrested;
You are entitled to be informed by the police of the following information and to have the reasons explained to you within 5 working days of a suspect being:
  •  being issued an out of court disposal
  •  interviewed under caution;
  •  released without charge;
  •  released on police bail, or if police bail conditions are changed or cancelled.
Informing the victim can include by letter, telephone, personal visit, fax, text message or email.

Vulnerable victims

Vulnerable victims are provided with an enhanced service. You may be classed as vulnerable if -

  • you are under 18 years of age at the time of the offence or
  • the quality of your evidence is likely to be affected because:

(i) you suffer from mental disorder within the meaning of the Mental Health Act 1983;
(ii) you otherwise have a significant impairment of intelligence and social functioning; or
(iii) you have a physical disability or are suffering from a physical disorder

Vulnerable victims must be informed within 1 working day if a suspect has been arrested or a warrant has been issued due to the suspects failure to attend at court.


It depends on the circumstances as to whether the police can become involved, however, if the video or photo is of a child (a person under the age of 18) and is indecent, then the police will become involved regardless of the circumstances (see below).

Revenge porn is the publication of explicit material portraying someone who has not consented to the image or video to be shared. It is an offence to disclose a "private sexual photograph or film" without the consent of the person depicted in the content, and with the intent to cause them distress.

A person found guilty of this offence will face a fine or even imprisonment.

If the circumstances do not fit the above offence, i.e. there is no intent to cause distress but the photo/video is, for example, on one of the social networking websites, you could speak to the administrator of the internet site who may remove the material. Otherwise, you would need to obtain a restraining order from the courts to order the removal of the material. You should seek advice from the Citizens Advice or a solicitor about this matter before going ahead. 

With regards to showing photo/video footage of yourself without your permission and there is no intent to cause distress, if you are over 18, the footage needs to be classed as grossly offensive or indecent, obscene or menacing character (the legal threshold of which is quite high and would not normally cover what could be classed as merely offensive).

If you are under 18 then the footage needs to be classed as indecent before the police can become involved.


This is a 'hidden crime' perpetrated from behind closed doors. If you notice suspicious activity at any premises, you should report the matter to the local police by dialling 101 or, anonymously, through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Thousands of girls and young women from the UK and the rest of the world are groomed, conned, coerced and forced into prostitution in every town and city in the UK. They are the victims of well organised gangs of criminals that make millions from this awful trade. It is estimated that about 10 - 15% of people reading this answer will have a brothel within a few hundred yards of their home.

The organisation Parents against Sexual Exploitation (Pace) has a lot of useful information on the issue including help for worried parents who want to know the signs in case their own children get into the wrong company.


The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme gives members of the public a formal mechanism to make enquires about an individual who they are in a relationship with or who is in a relationship with someone they know where there is a concern that the individual may be violent towards their partner. This information may be disclosed via a request from a member of the public (Right to Ask) or be initiated by the police where a proactive decision is made to disclose information in order to protect a potential victim (Right to Know).


Sexting is the sending of sexually explicit messages and pictures via mobile phones. By way of example, sexting may involve the consensual sharing of an image between two adults or two similar aged children in a relationship, to instances of children being exploited, groomed, and bullied into sharing images, which in turn may be shared with peers or adults without their consent.

The law

It is an offence to possess/send/make/take/distribute/show indecent photos of children (person under the age of 18). That means that the child who takes the photo commits an offence as does any person who it gets sent to. This is the case regardless of whether they forward it on to other people and also applies to anyone who simply shows the image to other people.

However, the position of the National Police Chief's Council (NPCC) and the Child Exploitation Online Protection Centre (CEOP) with regards to the consensual sharing of an image between two children of a similar age in a relationship is that 'prosecution options are avoided, in particular the use of legislation that would attract sex offender registration'.

It is advised that the wider safeguarding issues are looked at rather than the criminal justice element. Placing a child on the sex offenders register could cause serious damage to their future. 

The images
Once an image is on the internet, it is potentially there forever. Even if the child sending the image had no intention for it to end up on there in many cases they do and this can be potentially very harmful to a child now and in the future. Many of the images end up in chat rooms used by paedophiles and sexual predators, even those that were not taken as a result of child exploitation or grooming.

Sexual exploitation
Paedophiles may try to frighten their victims into sending further indecent images of themselves by saying that unless the child continues, it will be reported to the police and the child will be arrested and face prosecution. Safeguarding the victim should be at the centre of any police involvement in not only these types of incidents but also non exploitation scenarios.

If you or anyone you know are being sexually exploited then contact your local police by dialling 101 or 999 in an emergency. Police forces have specially trained officers to deal with these types of incidents.

Additionally, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is the UK internet Hotline for anyone to report online child sexual abuse imagery and non-photographic child sexual abuse images anonymously.

IWF works internationally to make the internet safer. They help victims of child sexual abuse worldwide by identifying and removing online images and videos of their abuse.

For further information and for a link to this, along with other websites, please see links in related information.


The offence of revenge porn occurs when a person publishes/ shares/ discloses a private sexual photograph or film, without the consent of the person who appears in the photograph or film, or threatens to do so, intending to cause that person distress. It is not enough that the person appearing in the photograph or film is distressed, as there must be an intention to cause that person distress, hence the offence being referred to as revenge porn. It is not an offence if the photograph or film is shown only to the person who appears in the photograph or film. It does not have to be published on the internet, it can be sent via text message or shown in person.

There are some defences to this offence -

  • That the material was disclosed as journalistic material and it was in the public interest to do so.
  • That the material had been previously disclosed for reward (for example, someone selling a sex tape of themselves to a newspaper) and that there was no reason to believe that the person appearing in the image or video had not consented to that disclosure.
  • That the disclosure was necessary to prevent, detect or investigate crime.

A person found guilty of this offence may face a fine or even imprisonment. If you believe that you have been the victim of revenge porn then contact your local police via their website, or by dialling 101. A victim of revenge porn can also get advice from the revenge porn helpline, see link in Related Information.

For circumstances that do not fit the above see Q697 for further information.


Grooming can occur face to face or over the internet and involves any communication with a child in order to commit a sexual offence. The individual does this by forming an emotional bond with the child to gain their trust - this can then lead to the offence of child sexual exploitation (CSE) being committed.

If a child is being groomed they may display unusual behaviours which you need to look out for; these may include -

  • becoming anxious or clingy
  • change in eating habits
  • self harm/suicidal
  • taking drugs or alcohol
  • missing school

If you are concerned about a child, you can contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 or you can report it directly to them via the following link -

NSPCC - report child abuse

For further support and advice on grooming and CSE, please see the links in related information.


Upskirting is illegal and typically involves the taking a photograph or video recording beneath the clothing of another person to view their genitals, buttocks or underwear without their consent.

This is a serious criminal offence and the law covers where an image has been taken for sexual gratification. Also where an image has been taken in order to cause humiliation, distress or harm to another person.

It is also an offence when a photograph is taken by a person with the intention of showing other people.

This is a serious offence which is punishable by a fine or by a prison sentence of up to two years. It can also result in individual being placed on to the sex offenders register.

Victims of the offence will be afforded anonymity and their details cannot be published in the media.

If you believe that you have been a victim of upskirting then contact the police by dialling 101.

There are also organisations offering practical and emotional support to victims of crime. Links to such organisations have been included in the related information.

Contact your local police force

Enter your town or postcode to see information from your local force

If you can't find the answer?

Submit A Question