Domestic Violence Punishment & Sentencing – All you need to know


This post is a part of our guide series to support anyone who may be experiencing domestic violence or has questions on what they should do:

What is Domestic Violence?
Who Commits Domestic Violence and Why?
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Domestic Violence?
How to Handle & Deal with Domestic Violence
How to Escape (or Help Someone Else Escape) Domestic Violence
How to Heal and Recover from Domestic Violence
What Impacts Does Domestic Violence Have on Victims and Their Family/Friends?
How to report Domestic Violence (and Who to Report it to)
How is Domestic Violence Proven in Court?
Punishment and Sentencing for Violent Domestic Abuse
How can Domestic Violence be Prevented?
What Effects Does Domestic Violence Have on Wider Society?
Domestic Violence Data & Statistics
Domestic Violence Helplines, Support & Further Reading

Unfortunately sexual abuse of children and adults can occur within many situations, including schools, home, care homes. 

This can have a devastating impact on the victim’s physical and mental health, leaving them scarred for life in some cases. 

However, there is punishment under the criminal justice system for these type of offences, we will discuss the sentencing and penalties further in this guide

What are the punishments for sexual abuse?

If an offender is found guilty of a sexual offence involving children, depending on the type of offense they have been charged with, it could potentially carry a life sentence. They may also have their name added to the Sex Offenders Register. 

When the allegations are made public this can have detrimental effect on the offender’s livelihood and reputation. Many employers will refuse to employ individuals that have been charged or convicted of such offences such as schools, colleges and other organisations.


Adult sexual offences can carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, sentencing will depend on the circumstances of the case and the type of offence committed. The offender will face other penalties too such as being barred from working in certain organisation.

Can you go to prison for sexual abuse, and how long for?

In law, sexual offences is a term used to cover several offences including, rape, sexual assault, sexual offences against children and possession and distribution of indecent images. Most of the different sex crimes are set out in the Sexual Offences Act 2003. For sexual abuse involving children, the courts may impose the following sentencing depending on the type of offence the offender is convicted of;

  • Possession and distribution of Indecent Images of children – for possessing the maximum is 5 years imprisonment, for distribution the maximum sentence is 10 years
  • All penetrative sex of a child aged 12 or younger is classified as rape- carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment
  • Sexual assault, causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity- both carry a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison

For sexual offences involving adults, the sentencing for some of the offences include;

  • Rape- maximum prison sentence is life imprisonment
  • Assault by penetration- maximum sentence is life imprisonment
  • Sexual assault- maximum 10 year prison sentence


There are several factors which are taken into account when deciding a sentence for a sexual offence, theses will be different for both child and adult offences. The average custodial sentence for sexual offences in the UK is between 5 and 10 years, whether this is long enough for those found guilty off such horrendous crime is questionable.

Many people are of the view that the minimum and maximum sentencing for sexual offenders should be increased to reflect the seriousness of the crime and that victims deserve better justice.

What happens to children if the parent or guardian was responsible for the abuse?

When sexual abuse takes place within the family environment it can be very difficult for children to understand what is happening. 

The child will be confused further if the perpetrator is a parent or guardian, these people are supposed to be caring for the child and keeping them safe not causing them harm. This may cause devastating long term consequences for the child leading into adulthood, some of which include relationship and trust issues. 

There is of course laws in place for the protection of children, for example some organisations may have policies where reporting may be mandatory for individuals by virtue of their employment, these places are under a duty to have a child protection policy in place. Normally this will include schools, colleges, health authorities and trust. 

If the sexual abuse is carried out by a parent or guardian, social services will normally be involved and will carry out investigations of the allegations. If it is decided that a child is being harmed or is at risk of harm, there will be a Child Protection Conference and action will be taken to protect the child. 

There is guidance for social services if children are unable to live safely with their parents, for example carrying out an assessment on which members of the child’s family or friends could potentially care for that child.

There may be incidents were children will be taken into care, however this will only be done if the police and social workers think the child is in immediate danger and will require permission from the court, called a Care Order.

Can you be deported or denied immigration status for sexual abuse?

Offenders can be deported or denied immigration status for sexual offences, deportation is a statutory power of the Home Secretary. 

  • The Immigration Act 1971, section 3 (5) provides a person who is not a British Citizen is liable for deportation from the UK if the Home Secretary believes their removal to be conductive to the public good. 
  • The UK Borders Act 2007 -a non-British citizen will automatically be considered for deportation if they are convicted of a crime and their prison sentence is for at least 12 months.  
  • The Nationality, immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (Specification of Particularly Serious Crimes) Order 2004- provides details of offences that are considered ‘serious crimes’ for the purposes of deportation. Offences under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 are considered ‘serious crimes’ in this Order.

To be granted British citizenship you must be considered of good character, as part of this assessment there is a criminal record check, for convictions which involve four years imprisonment or longer, the application is likely to be refused. For sentencing less than four years, the application is likely to be refused until a certain period elapses.  This would mean offenders that are found guilty of sexual offences would probably have their application rejected.

Can restraining orders or other measures be put in place?

There are restraining orders and other measures that can be put in place for sexual abuse offences, these include;

  • For matters which involve children; Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO)- this prevents the offender from doing any of the things stipulated, for example not being able to have unsupervised contact with anyone under the age of 18.
  • Non- Molestation Order- to prevent the perpetrator from harassing, attacking, intimidating or threatening the victim and/or children.
  • Occupation Order- can be used to evict the perpetrator from the family home, banning them from coming within a certain distance of it. Usually granted for 6 to 12 months.
  • Domestic Violence Protection Notice- this is served by the police to the perpetrator who poses a continuing risk to the victim, it lasts 48 hours and requires the abusive partner to leave the premises and not contact the victim. This can be extended by the magistrates for up to 28 days as a Domestic violence Protection Order.

We understand how difficult it is to see someone you know or love experiencing abuse, sometimes trying to help a victim is not easy. It’s important to remember that you are not alone and the first step that you should take is to talk to someone. No one should have to deal with abuse alone.

Here at the Criminal Injuries Helpline, we help victims of violent crime and abuse recover compensation. You may want to help the victim gain some justice, get in touch with us today to see if the victim would qualify

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