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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 prosecuting and convicting more cases of rape, domestic abuse, sexual offences and child abuse than ever before


The Crown Prosecution Service is prosecuting and convicting a record number of rape, domestic abuse, sexual offences and child abuse cases, a report published today shows.

The CPS's annual Violence against Women and Girls report shows that rape, domestic abuse and sexual offences now account for 18.6 per cent of the CPS's total caseload and this figure has been increasing year-on-year. In 2015/16, the CPS prosecuted 117,568 defendants for all crimes grouped together as Violence against Women and Girls (VaWG).

More than 100,000 defendants were prosecuted for domestic abuse, with over 75,000 convicted - the highest volumes ever recorded, also reaching the highest ever conviction rate of 75.4 per cent by March 2016. In December 2015, the new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour also came into law, and our statistics show there were five prosecutions of this offence completed by the end of March 2016.

Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions said: "Domestic abuse, rape and sexual offences now account for nearly 19 per cent of our workload - an increase over the past six years from just under 9 per cent. While the volume of these cases is increasing, the report also shows the volume of convictions has risen by 11 per cent.

"Today a rape, domestic abuse, sexual offence or child abuse case is more likely to be prosecuted and convicted than ever before."

The report also includes data on the new offence of disclosing private sexual images without consent. The offence was introduced in April 2015, and there were 206 prosecutions over the period covered by the report. The number of obscenity offences prosecuted rose 20 per cent, from 5,782 to 6,940 - this includes prosecutions under the malicious communications act, and for possession of extreme pornographic images.

Alison Saunders said: "There is a growing trend of crimes committed on or through social media. Since the new legislation came into force, there have been over 200 prosecutions for disclosing private sexual images without consent. We have also found that defendants in controlling or coercive cases rely on tactics such as GPS tracking and monitoring phone or email messages.

"The use of the internet, social media and other forms of technology to humiliate, control and threaten individuals is rising.

"Over the last year, I have doubled the resources in specialist units that handle rape and serious sexual offence cases, including child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. Prosecutors have received detailed training including on vulnerable victims and the issue of sexual consent.  Following this work we have seen a rise in the rape conviction rate to 57.9 per cent and, significantly, there has also been a fall in the number of acquittals after trial."

The volume of human trafficking prosecutions has risen by almost 60 per cent, where the gender breakdown of potential victims, from the National Referral Mechanism, shows predominantly female victims of sexual exploitation and domestic servitude, and male victims of labour exploitation. The Modern Slavery Act was implemented in July 2015, and the CPS provided revised guidance and training for prosecutors.

Rachel Krys, Co-director, End Violence against Women Coalition said: "We welcome this comprehensive report, the transparency it offers and the CPS' ongoing attention to violence against women and girls in all its forms. The increase in prosecutions shows that more women are seeking justice.

"But it is still the case that the majority of women and girls subject to these crimes do not report them to the police, and the specialist services which support them are fighting for survival.

"The CPS has been committed over many years to analysing its data and practices to improve justice outcomes in this area. This is a model which, in collaboration with specialist services, could ultimately prevent abuse of women and girls. We urge other statutory agencies to work in a similar way."

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women's Aid, said: "Survivors of domestic abuse are starting to have more confidence in the criminal justice system, which is why we are seeing another rise in the volume of prosecutions and convictions. However, we know that much more work is still needed, particularly in understanding of the nature and impact of coercive control, right across the criminal justice system.

"As we know from the recent HMIC reports, the police are dealing with more cases of domestic abuse now than ever before - 'Recorded cases rose 31 per cent between 2013 and 2015, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) said'. Survivors of domestic abuse who report to the police deserve to have their case treated seriously and the perpetrator prosecuted wherever possible."

Read the full report on the CPS website.


VaWG (domestic abuse, rape and sexual offences):

  • Volume of VaWG crimes prosecuted in 2015/16 rose 9.8 per cent to 117, 568
  • Volume convicted (87,275) increased 10.8 per cent to the highest level ever recorded
  • Conviction rate rose from 73.5 per cent to 74.2 per cent
  • The CPS recognises, acknowledges and helps male victims of crimes identified as 'VaWG' offending. The report therefore includes data on both male and female victims and defendants.

Domestic abuse:

  • Volume of referrals from the police fell slightly from 122,898 to 117,882
  • Highest charging proportion ever recorded in 2015/16 of 69.7 per cent
  • Volume of prosecutions (100,930) highest ever recorded
  • Volume of convictions rose 9.7 per cent to 75,235 - highest ever recorded
  • By March 2016 the conviction rate was the highest ever recorded - 75.4  per cent
  • New offence of controlling or coercive behaviour was implemented December 2015


  • Volume of referrals from the police rose 11.3 per cent (6,855 referrals)
  • 7.2 per cent rise in volumes charged, now 57 per cent of referrals
  • Volume of prosecutions (4,643) and convictions (2,689) are the highest ever recorded
  • Conviction rate rose from 56.9 per cent to 57.9 per cent
  • Rape and Serious Sexual Offence (RASSO) resources doubled in the past year
  • Comprehensive rape training programme undertaken

Sexual offences (excluding rape)

  • Volume of prosecutions (11,995) rose 22.5 per cent to the highest ever recorded
  • Volume of convictions (9,351) highest ever recorded, with a conviction rate of 78 per cent

Stalking and harassment:

  • Volume of prosecutions started was the highest ever - now 12,986
  • 69.9 per cent of harassment and stalking offences starting prosecution were domestic abuse-related
  • 1,102 prosecutions under the new stalking offences
  • 15,384 prosecutions for breaches of restraining order offences, a rise of 13.5 per cent

Child abuse:

  • Volume of referrals from the police increased from 12,840 to 13,282 in 2015/16
  • 66.9 per cent (8,889) of these referrals were charged
  • Child sexual abuse prosecutions rose by 15.4 per cent from 5,387 to 6,217 to the highest volume recorded
  • Convictions for child sexual abuse rose by 16.8 per cent from 3,975 to 4,643
  • Conviction rate for CSA reached 74.7  per cent

Forced marriage, honour-based violence and FGM:

  • Volume of forced marriage referrals from the police rose from 82 to 90
  • 57 (63.3 per cent) were charged, highest volume recorded
  • 60.4 per cent of prosecutions were successful
  • Volume of honour-based violence referrals from the police fell from 251 to 216
  • 145 (67.1 per cent) of these referrals were charged
  • 182 defendants were prosecuted
  • 91 defendants were convicted
  • Action plan on forced marriage and honour based violence has been developed and is now in place to improve prosecutions
  • New provisions for FGM prosecutions and victims were introduced under the Serious Crime Act 2015
  • CPS areas have carried out a range of initiatives to address the low referrals of FGM offences

Human trafficking and prostitution:

  • Rise in the volume of human trafficking convictions from 130 to 192
  • Modern Slavery Act 2015 implemented in July 2015 with revised guidance and training for prosecutors
  • DPP chaired a summit on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery in 2016 with representatives from Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

Pornography and obscenity:

  • 206 prosecutions of disclosing private sexual images without consent and three of rape pornography
  • Rise of 4.5 per cent in the prosecution of child abuse image offences from 21,580 to 22,545
  • Rise of 20 per cent in the volume of obscenity offences prosecuted from 5,782 to 6,940


Notes to Editors

  1. For the latest in breaking news from the CPS Press Office follow @cpsuk on Twitter and visit our official News Brief -
  2. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926