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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

The Role of The Crown Prosecution Service

The Crown Prosecution Service is the government department responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales.

As the principal prosecuting authority in England and Wales, we are responsible for:

  • advising the police on cases for possible prosecution
  • reviewing cases submitted by the police
  • determining any charges in more serious or complex cases
  • preparing cases for court
  • presenting cases at court

Find out more about the role of the Crown Prosecution Service

Jail for Facebook child sex offender


A man who used multiple fake Facebook profiles to blackmail children into sending him recordings of them committing sexual offences has been jailed for 16 years.

Paul George Leighton, 32, of Malvern Crescent, Seaham, was sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court today (4 September 2017) after pleading guilty at earlier hearings to numerous charges; the majority of which related to the coercion of children through social media.

These included three rape charges, which the Crown Prosecution Service was able to prosecute even though the offending, which Leighton instigated online, took place in another country.

In December 2016, Northumbria Police arrested Leighton after receiving information he had been exchanging indecent images via Facebook. During interview he admitted to officers that he had created 30 to 40 fake profiles on the social media site, through which he had incited children to send nude images of themselves.

An examination of his phone revealed the further appalling abuse of as many as 100 children in the USA and Canada. Leighton's coercive activity had succeeded in persuading young people to perform sexual assaults and rapes on younger relatives, including the rape of a two-year-old girl by one victim.

Leighton then threatened to expose those children to friends and family if they did not send him videos of themselves committing these offences.

He also admitted two sexual assaults of a child under 13, offences which he committed in the UK.

Gary Buckley of the Crown Prosecution Service said: "The offences unearthed during the investigation of this case will be chilling reading for any parent. By using fake Facebook profiles Paul Leighton preyed on the vulnerabilities and insecurities of young children, coaxing them into increasingly extreme forms of sexual activity.

"Leighton's actions were motivated by his pursuit of sexual gratification and, by the very nature of his offences, he has caused significant and lasting damage to the many children he came into contact with.

"The CPS has worked closely with Northumbria Police throughout this complex international investigation, building a robust case that left Leighton no option but to admit to the numerous charges against him.

"The CPS was also able to successfully prosecute Leighton for the serious offence of rape, proving that he was as guilty in instigating the overseas offending as he would have been committing the crime itself."

"This case perfectly illustrates the very real risks to children of sharing images of themselves online and I would encourage anyone who believes they are being targeted in this way to report it to police at the earliest opportunity. Taking swift action may well prevent others from falling victim to similar crimes.

"It is difficult to overstate the damage caused by Paul Leighton, but it is our sincere hope that the sentences passed today bring a measure of comfort to all of his victims."


Notes to Editors

  1. Gary Buckley is the Senior Crown Prosecutor for CPS North East
  2. Paul George Leighton (dob 02/05/85) pled guilty to:
    • four counts of causing a child to engage in sexual activity
    • four counts of blackmail
    • three counts of rape of a child under 13
    • three counts of making indecent photographs of a child
    • two counts of sexual assault of a child under 13
    • causing a child under the age of 16 to engage in sexual activity
    • assaulting a child under 13 by penetration
    • possessing an extreme pornographic image
    • possession of a Class B substance
    • distributing indecent images of a child
    • possession of an indecent video
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