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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

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CPS and ACPO sign protocol on handling of rape cases


A model protocol designed to improve the investigation and prosecution of rape cases throughout England and Wales, has been signed today by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

Mike Kennedy, Chief Operating Officer of the CPS who signed the protocol on behalf of the organisation said: "Rape is one of the most serious and damaging offences. It always has a life long impact and significant personal ongoing consequences for victims. It is vital that perpetrators are apprehended and brought to justice.

"It is essential that the police and CPS co-ordinate our efforts and co-operate with each other to investigate thoroughly and prosecute effectively those responsible for this dreadful crime. This new protocol represents a re-doubling of our efforts to ensure this happens.

"We believe this protocol can ensure more improved and consistent police and CPS performance, leading to the public having greater confidence in the way we deal with rape complaints."

Chief Officers of Police and Chief Crown Prosecutors will be encouraged to adopt the protocol, said Mr Kennedy, and working in partnership for the benefit of victims of rape, could tailor the protocol to suit local circumstances.

Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service John Yates, who is the ACPO lead on rape said: "The police service has taken significant strides over the last few years, at a number of levels, both in terms of the investigation, training, use of forensic science and most importantly in providing victims of rape with the care and attention they require.

"However, more remains to be done. We have the tools, we have some really dedicated and professional people and we have some of the best training in the world available. There is no reason why we cannot not deliver the high standards expected of us."

The protocol sets out how cases will be handled from first response, through the investigation, including forensic examinations, early consultation with the CPS, charging, case preparation, dealing with victims and witnesses, to the trial and sharing any lessons to be learned at the end of the case.

To introduce the protocol, eight regional joint workshops for Police Rape Champions and CPS Area Rape Co-ordinators will be held around the country. The workshops will also be attended by Independent Sexual Violence Advisors, who support victims of rape locally, who will explain their work.

The objectives of the protocol are:

  • To reflect national ACPO and CPS policy;
  • To ensure the adoption of the recommendations of Without Consent, the 2007 report on the joint review of the investigation and prosecution of rape offences;
  • To achieve improved and consistent performance in the investigation and prosecution of rape;
  • To improve the service to, and increase confidence in the Criminal Justice System for, victims of rape.
  1. The "Protocol Between the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service in the Investigation and Prosecution of Allegations of Rape" can be found on this website in the Publications section.
  2. The protocol was signed at a workshop held in Bristol on 7 March 2008.
  3. Download "Without Consent" (PDF) - a report on the joint review of the investigation and prosecution of rape offences by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and HM CPS Inspectorate from the HMCPSI website.
  4. Media inquiries to: CPS - 020 7796 8180, ACPO - 020 7084 8947.