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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

Wendell Baker convicted in double jeopardy rape case


Wendell Baker was convicted today at the Central Criminal Court for the rape of Hazel Backwell in January 1997.

Tony Connell, Complex Casework Unit lawyer for CPS London, has been involved in the case for more than 10 years. He said: "In 1997 Wendell Baker subjected Hazel Backwell to a horrific sexual assault and he has now been brought to justice.

"Not only did he carry out this brutal attack, he then locked her in a cupboard, scared and alone, until she was found by the police after they were alerted by a neighbour.

"Hazel Backwell died in 2002 and will sadly never see that justice has been served but we hope that Baker's conviction today will offer some small sense of justice to her family.

"This case demonstrates the commitment of the CPS to bringing criminals to justice notwithstanding the obstacles to be overcome.

"Although the House of Lords decided that the ruling excluding the DNA evidence at the original trial that led to Baker's acquittal in 1999 was wrong, we were unable to prosecute him again until new double jeopardy legislation allowed us to use the DNA as it had not been adduced in court before.

"In August 2011, the DPP gave his consent for the Principal Legal Advisor and an in-house crown advocate to go back to the Court of Appeal and ask the Court to take the exceptional step of quashing the acquittal.

"That was successful, and led to the retrial which has today resulted in the conviction of Wendell Baker for this dreadful crime.

"On a personal note, as the lawyer who has covered both trials and who met Hazel Backwell in 1999 to explain to her why her attacker was freed, I am glad that we have been able to go some way to righting the awful wrong perpetrated upon her."


Notes to Editors

  1. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  2. The DPP has set out what the public can expect from the CPS in the Core Quality Standards document published in March 2010.
  3. The CPS consists of 13 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). In addition, there are three specialised national divisions: Central Fraud Division, Special Crime and Counter Terrorism, and Organised Crime. In 2011-2012, The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Department of Health (DoH) prosecution functions were transferred to the CPS. A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales.
  4. In 2010-2011 the CPS employed around 7,745 people and prosecuted 957,881 cases with 116,898 of these in the Crown Court, and the remaining 840,983 in the magistrates' courts. Of those we prosecuted, 93,106 defendants were convicted in the Crown Court and 727,491 in the magistrates' courts. In total 86% of cases prosecuted resulted in a conviction. Further information can be found on the CPS website.
  5. 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.