Historic offences illustrate the problems that arise with the way in which government loves to produce more and more criminal offences means that some areas such as sexual allegations get very complex as the dates of allegations will be likely to cross various timelines. The important dates are:-

  • 1 January 1957 to 21 December 1976 fall under Sexual Offences Act 1956, s 1 (SOA 1956). Consolidated statutes, amended by SOA 1967, in relation to homosexual acts•
  • 22 December 1976 to 2 November 1994 fall under the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1976 (SO(A)A 1976), s 1, and
  • 3 November 1994 to 30 April 2004 fall under the SOA 1956 s 1 (as amended by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994).
  • offences committed from 1 May 2004 onwards fall under SOA 2003, s 1

The Prosecution of such historic cases is not easy, there are too many problems and for this reason the DPP issued interim guidelines on Prosecuting Cases of Child Sexual Abuse for the investigation and prosecution of offences on or after 11 June 2013. The interim guidelines set out clearly what is to be expected of the police and prosecutors with responsibility for these cases from the start and include:

  • the requirement that child sexual abuse cases are only dealt with by specialist teams of prosecutors, ie the Rape and Serious Sexual Offences Units the DPP is establishing in each CPS Area
  • arrangements for early consultation and joint work between the police and prosecutors to agree a case strategy and address evidential issues head-on
  • a rule that every case must be considered on its facts and merits—myths, stereotypes and prejudices must be ignored for the purpose of deciding whether there is a realistic prospect of conviction
  • a requirement that the police and prosecutors ensure that appropriate support is available for victims including, where appropriate, counselling
  • a duty on prosecutors to challenge myths and stereotypes in court, and to ensure that cases are progressed as swiftly as possible and trial delay minimised

The transitional provisions for the introduction of the SOA 2003 on 1 May 2004 were not brought into force. The gap was filled by the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 (VCRA 2006), s 55. Where the evidence is unclear as to whether it falls under SOA 2003 or ‘old’ law specified in VCRA 2006, s 55(2), the defendant should be charged under the alternative statutes in order to allow VCRA 2006, s 55 to be relied upon. Where the offences charged span the old and new law, the counts should be drafted under old law (up to and including April 30 2004) and new law (from 1 May 2004) in the alternative and the case reviewed at the close of the Crown’s case.Re A (Prosecutor’s Appeal) [2006] 1 Cr App R 433. Where the only matter preventing the defendant from being found guilty of an offence is the fact that the time that the offence took place has not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, it is conclusively presumed that the conduct took place when the old law applied if the offence attracted a lesser maximum penalty under the new law; otherwise it will be presumed that the conduct took place after the introduction of the new law. If this procedure is not followed and the evidence is too vague as to when the offence occurred, the conviction will be unsafe. (F v The Queen [2008] EWCA 994 and R v Chaney [2009] EWCA 52).