Expert Defence Solicitors for Alleged Child Sexual Offences
Table of Contents
What are Child Sex Offences?
Sexual offence allegations where children are the alleged victims are exceptionally serious. Cases of this nature include various forms of sexual exploitation or abuse of children and there are a number of different offences that a person can be charged with if they have been accused of inappropriate sexual behaviour where alleged victim is a child.
The offences provided for in Irish law relating to sexual abuse of children include the following:
- Statutory Rape
- Defilement of a Child
- Defilement of a Child under 17 years of age
- Reckless Endangerment of a Child
- Child Trafficking and Child Pornography
We will explore each of these offences below.
It is important to note that a person accused of a child sex offence is presumed innocent until proven guilty. It is therefore vital for anyone facing such charges to obtain legal representation from a qualified and experienced criminal defence solicitor. Your solicitor should have a speciality in representing people accused of child abuse or child sexual offences. A solicitor will ensure that their client’s rights are protected throughout the legal process, and can work to build a strong defence against the charges.
What are the different types of child sex offences?
Statutory rape is a serious offence in Ireland, defined as unlawful sexual conduct with a person under the age of 17. The term also applies to sexual activity with someone under the age of 18 where the alleged offender is or was in a position of authority over the child. This, for example, might arise where a teacher has sex with a student who is 17 years old. While the term “statutory rape” is not used in the legislation, it is commonly used to describe this offence. This offence arises under the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2006.
Statutory rape, put simply, is where someone engages in what might be termed “consensual” sexual activity with someone who is not legally able to consent. It is important to note that statutory rape is a strict liability offence in Ireland. This means that a person can be found guilty of the offence regardless of whether they knew that the victim was under the age of 17, or not, however, it can be an offence to show that you had an honest belief that the child was over the age of 17.
Penalties for statutory rape can be severe, including imprisonment for up to life in some cases.
Defilement of a Child
Defilement of a child under the age of 15 is a serious criminal offence under Irish law. This offence is defined in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2006, which makes it illegal to engage or attempt to engage in a sexual act with a child under the age of 15 years. The term ‘defilement’ is used to describe this offence, and it carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
A sexual act under the law includes sex, or sexual touching between two people. Under the legislation, any kind of sexual contact with a child under the age of 15 years is considered illegal and can result in a charge of defilement of a child.
It is important to note that consent is not a defence in cases of defilement of a child under the age of 15. Even if the child appears to consent to the sexual act, it is still considered illegal as children under the age of 15 cannot legally consent to sexual activity under any circumstances.
Defilement of a child aged under 17 years
Defilement of a child aged under 17, but over 15, is also a serious offence in Ireland, which is punishable by a term of imprisonment. According to Section 3 of the Criminal Law (Sex Offences) Act 2006, as amended by Section 5 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) (Amendment) Act 2007, engaging or attempting to engage in a sexual act with a child under the age of 17 is a criminal offence. The maximum sentence for this offence is five years imprisonment, and if the accused is a person in authority, (such as a parent, step-parent, teacher, sports coach, etc) the maximum sentence is ten years imprisonment.
Reckless Endangerment of Children
The safety and protection of children are of paramount importance in Ireland, and any act that endangers the welfare of a child is a serious criminal offence. One such offence is the reckless endangerment of children, which is defined under the Criminal Justice Act 2006. Although this is not purely a sexual offence, the legislation is often used to prosecute sexual cases.
This offence can be committed by any person who has authority or control over a child and intentionally or recklessly puts that child in danger. The endangerment can occur by either causing or permitting a child to be placed or left in a situation that creates a substantial risk to the child’s safety or failing to take reasonable steps to protect a child from such a risk while knowing that the child is in such a situation.
An example of this legislation being used to prosecute a child sex offence would be where the mother of a child allows or fails to prevent her child from being sexually abused by her partner.
A person convicted of reckless endangerment of a child can face a fine and a maximum prison sentence of ten years.
Child Trafficking and Pornography
The Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 is a piece of legislation that aims to protect children under the age of 17 from various forms of exploitation. This law was amended by the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) (Amendment) Act 2007 to strengthen its provisions.
The Act covers a range of offences, including child trafficking, taking a child for sexual exploitation, meeting a child for the purpose of sexual exploitation, allowing a child to be used for child pornography, producing, distributing, printing or publishing child pornography, and possession of child pornography. These are serious offences, and the penalties for committing them are severe.
Child trafficking and taking a child for sexual exploitation are two of the most serious offences covered by the Act. These offences carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Meeting a child for the purpose of sexual exploitation is another offence covered by the Act. This offence carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment. This law aims to prevent adults from meeting children with the intention of exploiting them sexually.
Allowing a child to be used for child pornography is also a serious offence that is covered by the Act. The maximum penalty for this offence is a fine of up to €31,000 and/or 14 years imprisonment. This law aims to prevent individuals from exploiting children by using them in the production of child pornography.
Producing, distributing, printing or publishing child pornography is another offence covered by the Act. The maximum penalty for this offence is an unlimited fine and/or up to 14 years imprisonment. This law aims to prevent the production and dissemination of child pornography. Someone may be guilty of distribution of child pornography if they download and then subsequently send child pornography to another person.
Possession of child pornography is also an offence covered by the Act. The maximum penalty for this offence is €6,350 and/or five years imprisonment. In a typical scenario, people convicted of this offence will have downloaded child pornography into their possession but will not have distributed it to any other person.
What are the defences to Child Sexual Offences?
Child sex offences are different to other types of sexual offences cases in that it is not generally a defence to claim that the child consented to that act, as we know that children under the age of 17 cannot legally consent to sexual activity. However, in some cases, consent can be a defence. This is called the ‘proximity of age’ defence. In this scenario, where someone is charged with engaging in sexual activity with another person who is between the ages of 15 and 17, the alleged offender may argue that they should not be found guilty because they themselves were less than two years older than the victim, or they were younger than the victim. In this case, if there was consent, that may be accepted as a defence to the charge. This is a complex defence but we can use it in appropriate cases.
The next possible defence is to show that no sexual activity actually took place. For example, we may be able to show that you were not with the alleged victim at the time of the alleged offence. We can do this by using witnesses who can say where you were at the time, CCTV, mobile phone tracking etc.
Secondly, if sexual contact did take place, we can look to defend the case in a different way. In cases like this the prosecution must prove the following three things:
- That physical contact took place
- That the contact was sexual in nature
- That the alleged victim was too young to consent
- That the alleged offender did not hold an honest belief that the alleged victim was over the age of consent
In child sexual offences cases we will usually have to defend the case by showing that:
- No physical contact took place
- If physical contact did take place, it was not sexual
- If sexual contact did take place, the alleged victim was over the age of consent
- Or, that the accused person honestly believed that the alleged victim was over the age of consent
In order to properly advance these defences, we regularly rely on witness testimony, text messages, WhatsApp messages etc.
In the case of child pornography charges it is often the case that these offences can be defended on the basis that the images were downloaded by mistake, or that they were downloaded by another person using the computer of the accused.
In the case of reckless endangerment of a child the defence will usually be that the alleged offender could not have known to the risk they were exposing the child to. Or indeed, that the child was not really at risk at all.
This is just a brief overview of the many potential defences that can be relied upon by someone accused of a child sex offence. Our team has years of experience in defending these types of cases and we can advise you on the possible defences open to you.
What is the sentence for Child Sexual Offences in Ireland?
In Ireland, sentencing for child sex offences can vary greatly depending on the circumstances of the case. Some people will receive completely suspended sentences whilst others will receive life in prison. The court will consider several factors when determining the appropriate sentence, including the level of violence used, the degree of harm caused to the victim, and any aggravating or mitigating circumstances present. Aggravating factors can lead to a longer sentence, whilst mitigating factors can reduce the sentence. Examples of these are set out below.
Mitigating factors in a child sex case can lead to shorter sentences, these include:
- a guilty plea;
- an apology;
- mental health issues;
- having no previous convictions;
- addiction issues.
Aggravating factors in a child sex case can lead to longer sentences, these include:
- abuse of trust by the person who committed the offence;
- abuse of a position of authority or a position of dominance in a family;
- planning the offence;
- the involvement of more than one offender;
- tricking a victim into a position of vulnerability;
Sentencing for child sex abuse, child pornography and the like in Ireland is varied, and will depend on the circumstances of the case.
When do I need to speak to a Solicitor?
The short answer: Now!
The long answer: It is never too early to contact us. A conviction for a sexual offence involving a child is very serious. Many people who are convicted will receive a prison sentence. The reputational damage is huge, and many people convicted of child sex abuse or possession of child pornography will lose their jobs and have difficulty securing work in the future. A conviction for a child sex offence will also have a profound effect on your loved ones.
Given the seriousness of a child sexual offence allegation, it is absolutely vital that you receive specialist advice by speaking with an experienced sexual offence defence solicitor as early as possible. An experienced sexual offences solicitor will make sure that all relevant evidence is preserved, that your case is prepared diligently and that no defence is overlooked.
What we can do for you?
If you have been arrested or charged with sexual assault, you can call Daniel Kreith 24 hours a day, seven days a week for immediate expert advice and representation. We will immediately take steps to:
- Build your defence as early as possible to make sure all relevant evidence is gathered
- Attend Garda Station interviews with you
- Help you prepare a statement
- Take statements from all relevant witnesses
- Secure reports from relevant experts
- Provide you with support and advice
- Secure legal aid for you
- Secure bail for you
- Secure barristers to advise on your case and run your defence
- Engage in damage limitation even if you admit the allegation
- Attempt to have the Gardaí drop the case
- Attempt to have the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) drop the case
What to do if you are accused of Sexual Assault?
If you have been accused of a child sex offence, knowing your rights is crucial. We regularly come across situations where the accused person has not contacted a specialist sexual offences solicitor in the early stages of their case. Often, these people will have unintentionally said something that damages their case. You should never speak to Gardaí about a child sex abuse or child sex offence allegation until you have first spoken with a solicitor experienced in dealing with such cases. You should always obtain legal advice.
Always remember that:
- You do not have to answer any questions asked by the Gardaí
- You should never answer any questions without a solicitor present
- You can choose your own criminal defence solicitor
- Following the interview, you may need to have a solicitor apply for legal aid and bail on your behalf
Why Daniel Kreith And Company Solicitors?
We have represented and advised clients all over Ireland in relation to child sex allegations. If child sexual abuse allegations have been made against you, or you know that you are going to be falsely accused, we are ready to help you 24/7, 365 days a year.
Even if you already have another solicitor, and wish to change, we can help.
We specialise in representing people accused of sexual activity with a minor and we regularly act in high profile cases. We always instruct at least one barrister in child sexual offence cases. That means you will have at least two lawyers working with you at all times, from the start of your case, with your best interests at heart.
We know how difficult child molestation, sexual abuse and child pornography accusations can be, and we know how to to deal with matters in a sensitive but efficient way to limit any damage to your reputation, your job and your family.
Where our clients are not fluent in English, we use trained interpreters. We also know which experts to bring in to your case to provide help with forensics, DNA, digital evidence, mobile phone, app data, etc.
We always offer same day appointments either in person or over the phone. We hold ourselves to the highest standards of confidentiality and we are always open and honest with our clients.
The sad reality is that society tends to reverse the presumption of innocence until proven guilty when it comes to sexual assault offences.
During Garda interviews, our primary objective is to ensure that the investigators do not elicit information from you that might be harmful to your defence. Our sole focus is to prevent you from being charged, but if you are, we are ready to fight the case.
Over the years, we have dealt with numerous false allegation cases. We meticulously examine the evidence in every case. We will always assemble a team of experienced barristers to safeguard your interests from the early stages of your case.
Contact our Child Sex Allegation Defence Solicitors Today
For urgent specialist advice, attendance at a Garda station interview, or to speak to us confidentially about allegations of child sex abuse or any other type of sexual offence, please contact Solicitor Daniel Kreith on 086 0762191.