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Sexual Offences

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 updated the law, much of which dated back to 1956.

The main provisions of the Act include the following:

  • Rape is widened to include oral penetration
  • Significant changes to the issue of consent
  • Specific offences relating to children under 13, 16 and 18
  • Offences to protect vulnerable persons with a mental disorder
  • Other miscellaneous offences
  • Strengthening the notification requirements and providing new civil preventative orders

Find out more about how we prosecute sexual offences

Support for Victims and Witnesses

Being a victim or a witness to a crime is not easy, but, with your help, we work hard to bring offenders to justice. Throughout the justice process we will support you and treat you with dignity.

The aim of witness care units is to provide a single point of contact for Victims and Witnesses, minimising the stress of attending court and keeping  victims and witnesses up to date with any news in a way that is convenient to them.

Witnesses are essential to successful prosecutions and we are committed to making the process as straightforward as we can.

Read the fact sheet about witness care units

Find out more about being a witness

DPP discusses the CPS strategy on Violence Against Women and Girls


The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, discusses the progress made after four years of the CPS strategy on Violence against Women and Girls.

"Four years ago, the Crown Prosecution Service developed a new strategy for dealing with cases of Violence against Women and Girls. There are a number of strands to that strategy. The most important are: putting in place policy and guidance that was very clear about how to handle these cases; training all relevant prosecutors in relation to domestic violence and rape; setting up scrutiny panels so that we could invite others in to see what we were doing; and making sure that we were using specialists in these cases. So that's the strategy that we've been following for some four years now.

"The results of the strategy that we've been following have been quite encouraging. The volume of cases involving Violence against Women and Girls has gone up from 75,000 to 91,000. And the rate of conviction in that group has also gone up. So, for example, for domestic violence, the rate of conviction is now 73 per cent. It's never been so high. And the rate of conviction for those that were charged with rape and convicted of rape or serious sexual offences or violence is now 62.5 per cent - that's a higher conviction rate than has ever been achieved before. The number of individuals actually pleading guilty has also gone up, so in all cases of Violence against Women and Girls, the rate of guilty plea has gone up from 60 to 66 per cent and, in relation to rape, that has gone up from 35 per cent to 40 per cent.

"The achievements to date are small steps on a long journey, and it's very important that we, as prosecutors, keep our focus when it comes to cases involving Violence against Women and Girls. There are also other issues emerging that we will need to confront. For example, there's evidence to suggest that teenagers in relationships are more at risk of domestic violence than others - this may be a new generation of victims waiting in the wings. There are also an increasing number of cases of child sexual exploitation, whether in groups, as in the recent Rochdale case, or as individual victims. These cases need very careful analysis. And of course, there is the issue of female genital mutilation. This has been an offence for a very long time, yet, to date, there haven't been any prosecutions. We need to work hard to see why that is and what more needs to be done to ensure that these offences can be investigated and can be prosecuted.

"What we've achieved in the last four years would not have been possible without the hard work and commitment of CPS staff. But equally, it would not have been possible without the hard work of others; for example, the police teams, who have investigated the cases and brought them to us as prosecutors. But also those who work in a 'support and advise' capacity, whether they're charities, independent advisers, or specialist groups who care for and support victims. Working together with all of these - groups, individuals and partners - we've brought about these achievements, and it's very important that we continue to work with our colleagues in this way.