Carmelite Chambers is at the forefront of many of the leading cases involving serious sexual offences, from pre-charge advice, to trial and at the appellate level.

Such cases include: Historic Sexual Abuse; Violent Sexual Assaults involving sexual offences committed in the course of a Murder; Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation; Grooming; Abuse in Care Homes; Indecent Images; Internet Offences and Obscene Publications.  

Members of Chambers are renowned for their expert knowledge on the legal issues, and for their effective oral advocacy in sensitive, high profile and complex cases, often involving multiple defendants.  We excel in dealing with the particular demands that such trials involve.

The Law

One of the issues encountered is jurisdiction. One notable example being R v Simon Harris which concerned the Chief Executive of a UK based charity was jailed for abusing children in Kenya, which was one of the first of its kind to use legislation which allowed British citizens to be tried for sexual offences in England which had been committed abroad.

In sexual offences detailed knowledge of the disclosure and third party regime is crucial, and we are well-versed in this aspect.  One key case being R v Oliver Mears where a student at Oxford University was charged with Rape; the Prosecution eventually offered no evidence after the Defence team repeatedly raised issues about the flawed disclosure process and the nature of the Prosecution’s unused material.  

Other legal issues which arise frequently include consideration of severance of multi-count indictments and the operation of ‘section 41’ of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 as regards the admissibility of a complainant’s sexual history at trial.  Members of Chambers have had success in both areas.  In R v N, a successful section 41 and bad character application allowed the Defence to put a previous false allegation of rape before the jury, leading to an acquittal.

Other crucial experience includes the need to argue the admissibility of data from telephones and computers seized during the police investigation, an example being the case of R v W.  where the defendant was charged with 17 counts of sexual activity with children in South East Asia. Mobile phones and computers were seized on the Defendant’s arrest in the UK and their contents used to mount a prosecution. Much of the electronic data consisted of anonymous hearsay evidence which was ruled inadmissible at the Crown Court. This case raised the important issue of contesting the admissibility of such data often adduced at trial.

We can also demonstrate through experience an in-depth understanding and ability to identify and challenge DNA and other scientific forensic evidence.

Vulnerable witnesses and Defendants

Members of chambers undertaking this area of work have completed the requisite vulnerable witness training and members of chambers are trained to deliver such training. It is rare to find sexual offences charged where examination of vulnerable witnesses including children and those with mental health issues and use of intermediaries are not important issues.  

As an example, in R v R the Defendant was charged with rape. He was deaf, autistic and had been diagnosed with learning difficulties. The use of multiple intermediaries at court to address the complications he faced allowed the Defendant to properly engage in the trial process and give his evidence to the jury in a clear and comprehensive style resulting in an acquittal.  

Serious sexual offences are increasingly being prosecuted in the Youth Court rather than the Crown Court in relation to children and young people under the age of 18. Members of Chambers are trained to work with vulnerable young people and have a specialist knowledge of the law and procedure in this complex area. Increasingly the Modern Slavery Act has been used to avoid criminalisation of victims of criminal exploitation especially in the context of ‘county lines’ gangs.  

Appeals and Awareness

At the Appellate level, Chambers has a strong commitment to working closely with Miscarriage of Justice organisations and seeking to overturn wrongful convictions.

As well as appearing in court, Members of Chambers lecture extensively both nationally and internationally on sexual offences and changes in the legislation. For example, on s.28 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 and recorded cross-examination and the new offences under the Voyeurism (Offences) Act 2019. They frequently write articles for legal journals and the national press, and appear on TV and radio. Evidence has also been provided to Parliamentary Committees both in the UK and abroad.  

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