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Man Acquitted of Child Grooming Charges Crown Court 2023
Our client faced charges of meeting a child for sex following grooming, and having sexual activity with a child. The alleged background to the case was that he had encountered the complainant online at a time when the complainant was still only 15. They had then gone onto meet and have consensual sex. Our client believed the complainant to be older than the age the prosecution asserted.
Offences against children under the age of 16 are defined in the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The main defence available to these offences is to prove that the defendant ‘reasonably believed’ that the child was over 16. This defence only applies if the child was over 13. Reasonable belief is determined in regard to all the circumstances including any steps the defendant took to ascertain these facts. The burden of proof in demonstrating a reasonable belief lies with the defence. The test for proving this involves demonstrating to the jury that the defendant reasonably believed the complainant to be 16 or older and that they had taken all reasonable precautions to determine the age of the child before engaging in sexual activity with them.
The Prosecution's case was that the defendant had been told very clearly that the child was not 16. Our client disputed this accusation, expressing that he possessed reasonable belief in the complainant’s age. We were instructed privately by our client and we left no stone unturned to establish our client's case. Our defence submitted this to the jury and after a four-day trial, the jury acquitted our client of all charges relating to sexual activity with a child after deliberating for a little over an hour, therefore determining that the reasonable belief criteria was met.