Consequences, media impact and disclosure
This section will help you:
- understand the criminal justice system and sentencing
- understand the impact that your conviction can have on your family, insurance coverage, and employment
- develop strategies for dealing with media coverage
- learn how to tell your partner, children, employer and friends about your offences
Being conviction of a sexual offence has lots of significant consequences. One of the main outcomes is being involved with the police and the criminal justice system.
When the police become involved, they will investigate the offence. Based on the evidence they will proceed in one of three ways.
No further action
If the police do not find substantial evidence or believe that there is insufficient proof to press charges, no further legal action will be taken.
Formal police caution
At the decision of both the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, a formal caution may be offered. This caution can be provided and accepted at a police station without the need for a court hearing. Although not establishing a criminal conviction, a caution will be recorded on an individual’s criminal record and will be visible in standard and enhanced disclosure checks. Furthermore, accepting a caution for a sexual offence entails inclusion in the sex offenders register for a period of two years.
In cases where you are charged with a sexual offence, a court date for your appearance will be given. This initial hearing typically takes place in a Magistrates Court, but depending on the nature of the offences, your case might be transferred to a Crown Court.
During the court appearance, you will have the opportunity to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If you plead not guilty, a trial date will be set. If you enter a guilty plea, a sentencing date will be scheduled. The court might also request a pre-sentence report from the National Probation Service to help determine an appropriate sentence.
The various sentencing options are detailed below. However, predicting the specific outcome of sentencing can be challenging. It is therefore important to seek legal advice in all cases.
If you are convicted, there are, several sentencing options are available.
This involves serving the sentence within the community under the supervision of a probation officer, who works for the probation service. It often comes with a requirement to engage in rehabilitation, which could encompass offence-related work or community service activities. Community orders typically span at least two years to allow completion of all order requirements, but this period can extend to up to three years.
A suspended sentence is a custodial sentence wherein the individual is not required to go to prison as long as they refrain from committing further offences and comply with imposed requirements. Failure to comply or committing additional offences can lead to the activation of the suspended sentence, requiring the individual to serve the suspended period in custody. Similar to a community order, a suspended sentence can include specific conditions, such as offence-related work.
Upon receiving a custodial sentence, the offender will be taken directly from the court to the designated prison where the sentence will be served.
You can find information on possible sentencing outcomes for different offences on the Sentencing Council website.
Sex offender notification requirement
Anyone cautioned or convicted for a sexual offence is put on the sex offenders register (SOR).
All those on the sex offenders register must register with the police within three days of their conviction or release from prison. If you are convicted, you will be required to go to your local police station and sign the register. If you do not register, you will be charged with another criminal offence.
Sexual harm prevention order
A sexual harm prevention order (SHPO) is a court order put in place to prevent a person from engaging in a particular activity. It is very common for a person who is convicted of online sexual offences relating to children, to be subject to a SHPO and is often given at the time of sentencing.
You can find more information and examples of SHPO here.
Children’s Services involvement
Children’s Services may become involved if you have interactions with children and the police tell them about an arrest. The level of involvement can change during an investigation, and sometimes restrictions may be re-evaluated, especially during the sentencing phase.
In some cases, a ‘Section 47 enquiry’ might be conducted to determine if further engagement with your family is necessary. This assessment helps decide the appropriate actions to safeguard and enhance the well-being of the relevant child or children.
If you want to understand more about the process please see here. We encourage people to be open and honest and engage with Children’s Services as much as possible to ensure the welfare of your child/ren. If you find any aspects of the involvement confusing or want to talk to someone about how you are coping then please call our advisors for confidential support and advice.
Criminal convictions can affect your insurance policies. Individuals with such convictions statistically face a higher risk of becoming victims of crime, leading insurers to view them as higher-risk clients. For detailed information, please look at our resources and see the specific policies to determine whether disclosure is required.
During an investigation for a sexual offence, you may be at risk of losing your employment. It’s important to review your employment contract to understand whether you need to disclose a caution or conviction.
When looking for a new job, certain roles may not be suitable for you, particularly those involving children or vulnerable adults. When applying for specific jobs, you’ll likely be asked to declare any spent or unspent convictions. Failing to disclose spent convictions could lead to prosecution, and such convictions might be revealed if your employer conducts a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.
The media don’t publish information about every online child sexual abuse offence but people often tell us they’re worried about it when a loved one is arrested.
Court reporters attend criminal courts and may choose to cover any case. These reporters are overseen by the Independent Press Standards Organisation, adhering to clear reporting guidelines. They are permitted to report information presented in court about the criminal case, as long as the details are publicly available.
There are steps you can take to mitigate the impact of media coverage.
What to do
- You might want to think about whether to tell close family or friends if you’re worried they discover the situation through the media.
- For people under investigation and their families, we recommend temporarily deactivating social media accounts or adjusting privacy settings during sentencing hearings to minimise exposure to media coverage.
- If you are worried about potential targeting by people in the community, it’s advisable to get in touch with the police, who can assess the possibility of implementing added security measures.
What not to do
- Don’t look for similar cases covered by the media. It can be distressing and sentencing outcomes vary from case to case.
Find a story here explaining the experience of someone we supported who faced media coverage and how they managed the situation and how they coped.
It can be very difficult to talk about sex, particularly sexual offences. It’s hard to know how to approach these conversations and who to share with. This section aims to give you the communication skills and insight to help talking to other people about your offending.
Understanding how other people might feel can help you anticipate how they might react. Sexual thoughts or behaviours involving children are unexpected and naturally raise numerous questions. For instance, your partner might wonder about your motivations, the consequences for you, how it impacts them, the well-being of any children you have, and the implications for the future. Think about your own emotions of fear and distress. Other people are likely to share these emotions and will also be shocked by finding out about behaviour through you or the police.
People’s reactions might not align with your predictions. Shock could stop people being able to think of questions, while others might have many questions or repeatedly ask the same thing. Tears, anger, and even self-blame are possible responses.
It’s important to tell people that you know you are accountable for your actions and try to listen to them and respect their needs, such as requiring space to process the situation.
Communication involves both speaking and listening. To understand other peoples’ emotions, it’s important to ask questions and genuinely listen. This can be tough, especially if they express negativity or intense anger due to your behaviour.
How listening can help
- Understanding of the other person’s perspective.
- Show respect and that you value their thoughts.
- Improve their sense of value and interest in you.
- Improves positivity and encourages future conversations.
Indicators of effective listening
- Body language: nodding and appropriate gestures signal your engagement.
- Verbal responses: offering pertinent comments, sounds, and relevant questions displays active involvement.
- Eye contact: maintaining eye contact shows the speaker they have your attention.
Mastering these communication skills will aid you in navigating challenging conversations surrounding sexual offences and foster a supportive environment for discussions.
Talking to your partner
When discussing the situation with your partner, remember all the skills we’ve discussed. Your partner can be deeply affected by your actions, and they might have questions. It’s crucial to be honest without sharing graphic details. This helps them understand and decide how they want to proceed in the relationship. It’s better for them to hear about this from you than from the police or other people.
- Give time for processing: understand that partners need time to grasp the situation’s impact
- Monitor how they cope: the arrest can be distressing for them, possibly leading to mental health challenges. Offer support, and if needed, suggest contacting professionals.
- Understand their feelings: partners might experience anger, worry, and anxiety. Be a listening ear and guide them toward trusted individuals if they wish to talk more.
- Help them understand sexual offending: help your partner understand the complexity of the situation by offering information about sexual offending. Refer them to reliable resources or helplines.
Talking to children
Telling children about offending can be tough for parents. Think about these points when speaking to them.
- Address changes clearly: if significant changes occur, children might speculate and make assumptions. Provide a clear explanation to prevent misconceptions.
- Answer the “why” question: children will likely want to know why their parent did what they did. Explain that it’s complex and that even adults struggle to understand. Assure them that their parent is seeking help.
- Embrace their feelings: children will have various emotions about the situation. Give them time to process, encourage communication, and offer another trustworthy adult for them to confide in.
Understand more on supporting children in the family.
Talking to employers
When disclosing convictions to employers, these suggestions might help.
- Be prepared: have a script ready for explaining past offences.
- Know your record: understand your criminal record’s content and how it impacts job applications.
- Check employer policies: understand your potential employer’s policy on hiring individuals with convictions.
- Honesty in interviews: you don’t always need to disclose details on application forms. Instead, confirm you have a conviction and are happy to discuss at interview where you can explain them and the changes you have made in your life.
- Present progress: explain the offence simply, discuss positive changes made since then, and express your commitment to not re-offend.
- Positivity and honesty: stay confident, honest, and true to yourself while discussing the situation.
Talking to friends
When disclosing to friends, prioritise their feelings and reactions. These tips might help.
- Choose a neutral location: meet at a neutral place to reduce pressure and discomfort.
- Conversation setup: set up the seating to ensure privacy and comfort.
- Calm and clear: speak calmly and clearly, explaining that you’re about to discuss a difficult topic.
- Agenda: provide a structured discussion agenda for clarity and comfort.
- Offer breaks: recognise the weight of the conversation and take breaks if needed.
- Moderation in details: avoid graphic details that might disturb them.
- Know your limits: share as much as you’re comfortable with, based on your knowledge of them.
- Take responsibility: emphasise that you recognise your offense’s wrongness and take full responsibility.
- Ending respectfully: end by thanking them for listening and acknowledging their choice to stay in touch or not.
If you have any concerns, questions, or would just like to talk about what you are going through, our non-judgemental helpline advisors are here to support you. You can stay anonymous and don’t have to give your real name or any contact details. If you’re not ready to speak to anyone yet, you can also use our live chat or send a secure email.