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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

Seven child sex abusers sentenced to total of 107 years


Seven men were sentenced at Bristol Crown Court today for a total of 107 years for child sexual abuse offences, including the rape of a child under the age of 13.

Robin Hollyson, Adam Toms, Christopher Knight, Matthew Lisk and David Harsley pleaded guilty to offences of sexually abusing a baby and young children. Adam Toms admitted to drugging and raping a four year old child. Robin Hollyson pleaded to the rape of a baby.

After denying conspiracy to rape or sexually assault a baby both John Denham and Matthew Stansfield were convicted in April by a jury. Denham was convicted of conspiracy to sexually assault a baby and Stansfield for conspiracy to rape a baby on two occasions.

Gregor McGill, Head of the Crown Prosecution Service Organised Crime Division, said: "This case has exposed a horrific world that many would never have believed existed. These men had a shocking interest in sexually abusing young children, including raping a baby when only months old.

"This abuse was planned and calculated. They arranged the abuse when there was only a small amount of time to be alone with a baby or child, including when one of the men was trusted to be alone by unsuspecting parents. They would sometimes live stream the abuse via the dark web or Skype.

"Much of the evidence in this case was recovered messaging on social networking websites and tracking of phones and cars putting the men at relevant locations at particular times.

"It's hard to find the right words to describe this profoundly disturbing abuse but I hope today's sentence will be of some very small comfort to the families of the children and sends a clear message to abusers and others tempted to become involved in this type of criminality."

Graham Gardner, Deputy Director of Investigations at the National Crime Agency said: "Today's sentences highlight the depravity of these men - a depth of depravity that thankfully we rarely see.

"These offenders demonstrated a determined ruthlessness to identify vulnerable babies and infants who were unable to protect themselves. Their callousness beggars belief.

"This national investigation has now moved to an international one and the NCA will continue to work with our partners, at home and abroad, to ensure those who abuse children are brought to justice".

Sentencing details:

  • Robin Hollyson - 24 years custodial + 8 years extension = total of 32 years
  • Adam Toms - 12 years custodial + 4 years extension = total of 16 years
  • Christopher Knight - 18 years custodial + 6 years extension = total of 24 years
  • John Denham - 8 years custodial + 4 years extension = total of 12 years
  • Matthew Stansfield - 10 years custodial + 4 years extension = total of 14 years
  • Matthew Lisk - 4 years custodial + 3 years extension = total of 7 years
  • David Harsley - 2 years


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 CPS consists of 13 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). In addition, there are three national casework divisions: Specialist Fraud (formerly Central Fraud and Welfare, Rural & Health Divisions), Special Crime & Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime. CPS Direct is a 'virtual' 14th Area which provides charging decisions to all police forces and other investigators across England and Wales - it operates twenty-four hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
  3. At 31 March 2014 we employed a workforce of approximately 6237 staff (full time equivalent), including around 2226 prosecutors and 3629 caseworkers and administrators. Further information can be found on our website:
  4. 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.