Dealing with an allegation of sexual abuse as a foster carer is clearly both extremely serious and causes great emotional upheaval. When an allegation is made, it can be challenging as the foster carer to understand how best to approach this difficult situation. This is why it is important to promptly access expert legal services and speak to someone who can navigate each stage of the investigation and prosecution process.
Initial Investigation and Decision to Prosecute
Under the Children Act 1989, section 47, local authorities have a duty to investigate circumstances where a child is considered at risk of significant harm. An investigation into allegations of sexual abuse will usually involve the relevant local authority and the police. The aim of the investigation will be to explore the allegations made and decide how the allegations should be dealt with.
During the investigation, the police may interview the foster carer under caution. The purpose of this interview is to gather evidence. A prosecution will only go ahead if there is sufficient evidence and therefore this interview is very significant. Once the police have decided if there is enough evidence, the matter will be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The CPS will then decide if they believe there should be a prosecution. When deciding whether to prosecute, the CPS will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and whether a prosecution is required in the public interest.
Defending a Prosecution
If the decision to prosecute is taken, it is important to have expert representation to deal with the complex factual, legal and evidential matrix involved in sexual abuse cases.
In England and Wales, the key legislation that deals with sexual offences against children is the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The law in this area is very complex. For example, the age of consent under the Act is 16 but specific offences have been created for the abuse of children under the ages of 13, 16 and 18.
A child under 13 can never consent to sexual activity as they have no legal capacity. As for offences against children under 18, these offences relate to situations where it may seem that consent has been given but that consent is not relevant because of the nature of the relationship with the abuser. These provisions aim to protect young people aged 16-17 who are vulnerable to being exploited by those they trust.
Alongside this complicated legal background, the facts of the situation are also often complex. An important strand in any defence, therefore, is the use of Third Party Disclosure. Third Party Disclosure involves obtaining documents from agencies such as social services, medical services and education departments which are relevant to the case at hand. These documents can offer vital insights into the background to the case and prove crucial in returning a not guilty verdict.
Expert legal advice
Statistics from the NSPCC suggest that there is less than one substantiated allegation per 100 children in foster care. It is not uncommon for allegations to be made against foster carers and carers must have access to expert legal advice in order to safeguard their personal and professional interests. I have particular expertise in this area – having developed a niche practice of defending carers accused of sexual offences against children in their care.
Allegations of this nature are life-changing and you need to know that your lawyer can navigate the complexities of the case and provide the support you need to protect your position as innocent until proven guilty.
Contact Mark Kelly Barrister today
My professional experience, approachability and considerable expertise, means that you will be in a very safe pair of hands when it comes to your defence, and my track record is second to none. I consistently obtain favourable results for clients, and so I am well placed to support, advise and represent you in respect of your case.
Serving Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, London, Bristol, Yorkshire and the rest of the UK. If you wish to discuss allegations of sexual abuse against foster carers or other related matters, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me directly on 0800 054 1170 or fill out a contact form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
In the sex cases in which I am instructed, I invariably work with Stuart Sutton from Sutton Defence Lawyers. Stuart has a national practice. He has many years of experience in these types of cases and he has a profound knowledge and understanding of the myriad of issues that arise. I can say without fear of contradiction that his work ethic, professionalism, dynamism, good humour and client care are second to none.