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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

Crimes involving young people

Young people as victims and witnesses

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

Find out more about how we support young victims and witnesses

Youth crime

The Crown Prosecution Service acts in partnership with other agencies such as the police, the youth justice board, children's services, courts and youth offending teams. Each area of the CPS has a youth justice specialist who oversees the prosecution of youth crime in their area.

Find out more about how we prosecute youth crime

Decision to Charge

Once the Police have completed their investigations, they will refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service for advice on how to proceed. We will then make a decision on whether a suspect should be charged, and what that charge should be.

Find out more about private prosecutions

Tracy Dawber's conviction brings shocking paedophile case to a close


The retrial of Tracy Dawber brings to an end the prosecution of one of the most shocking child abuse rings in the country, said Ann Reddrop, the Crown Prosecution Service lawyer who dealt with all the cases.

Miss Reddrop, Head of the Crown Prosecution Service's South West Complex Casework Unit, dealt with the investigations from five police forces. She was involved from when Colin Blanchard - the man at the centre of the paedophile ring -and Vanessa George, first appeared in court in June 2009.

The first trial of Tracy Dawber, the only defendant to stand trial, ended with a hung jury in July 2010 at Bristol Crown Court. The CPS decided there should be a retrial, which started on 4 October 2010 at Winchester Crown Court and she was convicted today.

Miss Reddrop said: "Colin Blanchard turned out to be an evil man who controlled four women in one of the most sickening paedophile rings this country has seen. He encouraged these women to take and share ever more horrific images of the sexual abuse of children. As if that was not bad enough, he encouraged them to physically abuse children to produce those pictures.

"In the case of Vanessa George, this led to a hideous betrayal of trust of those parents who relied on her to look after their children at the nursery where she worked. She showed a complete disregard for the lives of the victims and their families, all of whom have been left devastated by these crimes."

What was discovered on Colin Blanchard's computer by Greater Manchester Police was to lead to investigations into four women, said Miss Reddrop: in Devon and Cornwall for Vanessa George, Nottinghamshire for Angela Allen, Hampshire and Isle of Wight for Tracy Lyons, and Merseyside for Tracy Dawber.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC said: "This is exactly the sort of case which shows what we mean when we talk about the Core Quality Standards in the CPS. We had early involvement, clear lines of communication with the police over evidence, prepared the case thoroughly and the result was guilty pleas from four out of five defendants, saving a lot of anguish for people who might have had to give evidence.

"This has been a difficult case for those involved in preparing it as they had to look at images of child abuse in order to assess the evidence."

As the case developed into two very distinct groups of defendants who came from locations all across the country, Miss Reddrop explained: It was necessary that somebody took an overview of what was going on, which was my role. It was important to bring together all the criminal elements of the activity to show they were linked.

"The irony was that just as the defendants used the internet in pursuit of criminal behaviour, the police and I used the internet to develop the cases against them, sharing evidence over secure connections to build up the prosecution case.

"Anyone who was in court to hear details of these cases cannot fail to be horrified at why three women -Vanessa George, Angela Allen and Tracy Lyons -committed such shocking acts of child abuse when prompted by Colin Blanchard or why Tracy Dawber encouraged such activity to take place in her presence. I hope the sentences for public protection as given to Vanessa George and Angela Allen give a little comfort to them."


Notes to Editors

  1. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926.
  2. On 1 October 2009 at Bristol Crown Court, Colin Blanchard pleaded guilty to 19 charges; Vanessa George to 13 charges; Angela Allen to five charges. Vanessa George pleaded not guilty to one charge, and this will lie on file.
  3. On 5 March 2010, Tracy Lyons pleaded guilty to six charges.
  4. The retrial of Tracy Dawber started on 4 October 2010. She denied six charges.
  5. The DPP has set out what the public can expect from the CPS in the Core Quality Standards document published in March 2010.
  6. The CPS consists of 42 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). These are organised into 12 Groups, plus CPS London, each overseen by Group Chair, a senior CCP. In addition there are four specialised national divisions: Central Fraud Group, Counter-Terrorism, Organised Crime and Special Crime. A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales.
  7. The CPS employs around 8,316 people and prosecuted 982,731 cases with a conviction rate of 86.8% in the magistrates' courts and 80.7% in the Crown Court in 2009-20010. Further information can be found on the CPS website
  8. The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media. This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests. Read the Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media