Old Bailey Solicitors

What to consider when choosing a sexual offences solicitor

Co-authored with Camilla Rents

For most people, being accused of any criminal offence will be an alien and daunting experience. That will undoubtedly be the case if the allegation is one of a sexual nature. And that sense of fear and concern might well be heightened if the person facing the accusation is your son or daughter.

The consequences of an accusation of a sexual offence are far reaching and can be immediate. Not only will you be concerned about the social stigma that attaches itself to allegations of a sexual nature and the potential ‘worst case scenario’ of a prison sentence in due course; there may be immediate (as well as long term) implications professionally if you are a person who works with children or vulnerable people; you may be prevented from having contact with your own children, or remaining in your own home; you may find yourself having to engage with Social Services for the first time. You will feel as though your world has been turned upside-down.

The number of sexual offences on the statute books is vast. The law surrounding them can be complex. This might be because the alleged offence is an historic one (an allegation dating back years), there may be an argument relating to whether the alleged conduct was capable of being “sexual” or the issue may be one of consent (which also isn’t as simple as it sounds).  The truth is that dealing with a sexual case can require a different skillset from representing people accused of other types of offences (violence, financial, theft etc).  Experience of being a lawyer is not good enough.  Experience of being a criminal defence lawyer is also not good enough.  Genuine experience of representing a range of clients who have been accused of a sexual offence is the real starting point.

Where do you start?

One obvious suggestion is to ask friends, family or fellow professionals for a recommendation. However, that is easier said than done when the allegation is one of a sexual nature as you may, understandably, have reservations about revealing your situation too widely.

Most of us nowadays would take to Google and hope this leads us to a suitable option.  But, as with all things internet, there is an inevitable element of chance to this.  You may get lucky.  You may not.  We would suggest that your research needs to go rather deeper than that.

You should consider the firm of solicitors as well as the particular lawyer who is going to handle your case.  Will the firm tell you who that lawyer will be at the very outset?  Or will your case be looked after by a team of paralegals, supervised by a more experienced lawyer?  Will the firm guarantee you a degree of consistency and continuity in terms of lawyer contact?  Or do you risk having to speak to a different person every time you have a question or seek an update?   How will you make contact with your chosen lawyer?  Will they accept calls?  Do they tend to respond to email enquiries swiftly?  How easy will it be to arrange a meeting?  These are just a few of the many questions you should ask when deciding who to entrust your case with.

You will need an experienced solicitor who can not only help you to navigate the maze that is our criminal justice system in a way that best protects your or your loved one’s legal interests, but one who gives pragmatic, straightforward and sensible advice whilst demonstrating empathy without judgement.

What are the qualities you should look for when instructing a sexual offences solicitor?

It is difficult to prioritise the qualities you should look for because, when facing an allegation of a sexual offence, they are each as important as the other.  Many cases can take months, if not years, to come to a conclusion so you need to be able to work closely with your chosen solicitor for a long period of time.  It will feel to you as though your life is in their hands and so, ultimately, you need to feel confident that you can trust them.  So, personality and an ability to connect is obviously important.

You will need to assess the solicitor’s level of experience – as a lawyer, as a criminal defence solicitor and in defending client’s accused of sexual offences.

Will the solicitor fight your corner?   You need to instruct someone who will be tenacious in all aspects of your case, not someone who appears to have formed a negative judgement of you from the outset.

Contrary to what many might think, it doesn’t really matter whether your solicitor believes every aspect of your instructions.  It is not their job to cast judgement. They are there to help you build your case.  But, you will need to assess whether there is a genuine degree of empathy for your position.  A lawyer who understands the level of stress you are under and can respond accordingly, throughout the preparation of your case, can make the world of difference to your state of mind and, accordingly, your ability to defend yourself.

Does the solicitor inspire a degree of confidence in you and your close family or friends?   Is there a sense that they know what they are talking about?

Client Reviews and Testimonials

We all check TripAdvisor or Customer Reviews on sites such as Amazon.  There is no reason why you cannot use similar tactics when choosing which solicitor to instruct.   You should consider Client Testimonials, for the lawyer you are considering, as well as their firm.  But you should also consider whether you can trust what you’re reading.  Are the reviews simply listed on the firm website or do they also appear in a more verifiable location?  For example, Google Reviews are generally a reasonably trustworthy source of information.

What do people say about the firm or the particular solicitor?  How often is the standard of care referred to?  Did previous clients feel well-supported or were they frustrated by a lack of contact?  Do the reviews suggest that clients are content with the level of time and effort expended on their behalf?

Of course, outcomes are important.  But one person’s outcome does not necessarily mean yours will be the same.  There are too many variables.  Sexual offence cases generally involve one person’s word against another.  Character and credibility comes into play.   Not all juries are the same.  Different verdicts can be reached on the same evidence.  So judging a lawyer on outcomes alone is only half the story and is often entirely futile.  Your case is not the same as that other person’s case.  But the level of care and attention and expertise brought to that person’s case can help you decide whether this lawyer is likely to work as hard and as well on your behalf.

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Bespoke advice, when you need it the most

We have offices in Brighton, London and Horley and advise clients on all aspects of criminal defence allegations, including sexual offences, violent offences and drug offences.

How do you know if you are dealing with a reputable firm?

Solicitors might move from firm to firm, so their level of experience may not tell you much about the firm as a whole.  As explained above, you can look at Client Testimonials to consider whether the firm is held in high regard or not.  Are the positive comments all about one lawyer or do they demonstrate a range and depth to the team as a whole?  You will need to weigh up whether that matters to you.

If a firm has Lexcel Accreditation, this suggests a high degree of client care and excellence in practice management and compliance, as recognised by the Law Society.

You can gain further insight by considering Legal Directories, such as the Legal 500 or Chambers & Partners.  Firms and individual lawyers are ranked within these publications and so inclusion within one or both is often a helpful sign of particular expertise.

How will you know when you have the best sexual offences solicitor for you?

An initial meeting with the lawyer you are looking to instruct is imperative.  This will give you an opportunity to ask questions, to assess whether they know what they are talking about.  You may find, within 30 minutes of your meeting, that the lawyer is full of grand promises.  Common sense suggests that, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.  Are they being honest with you?  Can they back up their advice with examples?  Can they explain why a certain tactic is unlikely to work or why they would counsel against it?  If they just seem to agree with everything you say, are you really going to benefit from this representation?   A good criminal defence lawyer isn’t there to be your “yes man or woman”.  You need them to set out the options, to explain the pros and cons of each and to offer you some genuine guidance.  This might mean they will challenge your first instincts.  If so, that is generally a good thing.  It forces you to really think through your strategy.  Ultimately, you will make the decisions in your case, but you need some confidence that you are being advised by someone who has dealt with similar issues before and has the wherewithal to adapt to whatever the prosecution is going to throw at you.

Might Old Bailey Solicitors be the best option for you?

If you are facing a police investigation or a CPS prosecution relating to an alleged sexual offence, we would suggest that you contact Old Bailey Solicitors to arrange an initial consultation.  We can meet you at any one of our offices, in Central London, in Surrey or in Sussex.  Or we can meet via videolink to save you the time and expense of travelling.

We will listen to your version of events with care and provide you with an honest assessment of the case against you.  We will explain the likely procedure involved and give you a realistic idea of timeframes.  If needs be, we will refer you to other professionals who can help you through the process.  We will explain the range of potential outcomes and how you can maximise your chances of the best possible result – whether that is avoiding prosecution, being acquitted, staying out of jail or reducing the impact of any finding against you.  We will not tell you things you want to hear for the sake of it.

Should you choose to instruct us, we will support you throughout the process, with tenacity and, perhaps above all else, with care.

To arrange an initial consultation, please contact Old Bailey Solicitors on 0207 8464 999 or email [email protected]

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