Guidance on Part 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003

Home Office circular 021 / 2004

Guidance on Part 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003

  • Broad subject: Justice
  • Issue date: Mon Mar 29 00:00:00 BST 2004
  • From:
    CRIMINAL JUSTICE GROUP Criminal Law and Policy Directorate
  • Linked circulars:
    No Linked Circulars
  • Copies sent to:
    Group Managers Court Managers ,HM Inspector of Constabulary ,The Justices' Chief Executive of the Magistrates' Court Committee ,The Justices' Clerks' Society ,The Law Society,The Magistrates' Association ,The Registrar of Criminal Appeals ,Association of Chief Police Officers (England,Wales and Northern Ireland),The Association of Police Authorities,The Central Police Training and Development Authority,The Central Council of Magistrates' Courts Committees,Justices' Chief Executives,The Association of Justices' Chief Executives,The Association of Magisterial Officers,HM Chief Inspector of Probation,HM Chief Inspector of Prisons,The Magistrates' Courts Service Inspectorate,Head of Criminal Policy Division (DCA),The Head of Magistrates' Courts Division (DCA),The Director of Criminal Operations (Court Service),Prison Service Management Board,Judicial Studies Board,National Care Standards Commission
  • Sub category: Criminal Justice Legislation
  • Implementation date: Sat May 01 00:00:00 BST 2004
  • For more info contact:
    Helen Musgrove 020 7273 3123
  • Addressed to:
    All Chief Police Officers in England and WalesChief Crown Prosecutors Chief Officers of Probation Boards The Lord Chief Justice Lords of Appeal in Ordinary Lords Justice of Appeal Queen’s Bench Division Judges Chancery Division Judges Circuit Judges Senior District Judge District Judges (Magistrates’ Courts) Prison Governors Association of Directors of Social Services Circuit Administrators

Dear Colleague
1. The document attached provides guidance on Part 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The Act received Royal Assent in November 2003 and will come into force on 1 May 2004. Guidance on Part 2 of the Act, which deals with provisions for sex offenders, has been issued separately (see annex A of the attached document for further details).

2. This Act represents a major overhaul in the sexual offences framework. Sexual crime, and the fear of sexual crime, has a profound and damaging effect on the lives of individuals and communities. A responsibility rests on the Government adequately to protect everyone in society from such crimes. Amongst the important measures contained in this Act, it seeks to clarify issues surrounding consent in rape and sexual assault cases; it gives children the greatest possible protection against sexual abuse; for the first time, it provides a specific set of offences to protect persons with a mental disorder; and it tackles the commercial exploitation of people for sexual purposes through prostitution and trafficking. It also strengthens the protection for society from convicted sex offenders living in the community. Throughout the Act, the maximum penalties for offences have been reviewed and, where necessary, amended to reflect the seriousness of the behaviour involved.

3. This guidance explains the purpose of each new offence, and provides information about how the offences are intended to operate in practice. The purpose of the guidance is to familiarise relevant bodies with the new legislation. It is non-statutory and should not be regarded as authoritative legal advice. If there is any doubt as to the application or interpretation of the legislation, advice should be sought from a legal adviser. Those agencies that will have to administer the law, or deal with those affected by it will provide detailed guidance and training to their staff on the implications of this new legislation where appropriate.

4. None of the offences in the Act apply retrospectively. Offences which were committed prior to commencement of the Act should be prosecuted under the legislation in force at the time the offence was committed.

5. Where more than one offence is capable of being charged for an offence, it is the responsibility of the CPS to decide the appropriate charge.

6. A reference table of the offences and their penalties is provided at annex B of the attached document.

7. Recipients of this circular are asked:
§ to note the changes to the law on sexual offences contained in Part 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003;
§ to communicate this information promptly to staff.

8. Please contact me if you would like further copies of this guidance. It is also available on the Home Office website at the  Home office Website

Helen Musgrove
Criminal Law Policy Unit


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