Sexual Abuse Punishment & Sentencing – A Guide for Child & Adult Abuse

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Sexual assault is when a person sexually touches another without that persons consent. It is a crime under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and includes rape, child sexual abuse or grooming and crimes that exploit others for a sexual purpose. 

Offenders found guilty of committing a sexual assault offence can face punishment under the criminal justice system. We will discuss the different punishments and sentencing further in this guide.

What are the punishments for sexual assault?

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

Does the assaulter have to go on a register or be monitored if not imprisoned?

The Sex Offenders Register contains details of offenders who have been cautioned, convicted or released from prison for a sexual offence against both children and adults since 1997.Under the Sex Offenders Act 2003, all convicted sex offenders must register with the police, in person within 3 days of their conviction or release from prison. 

Failure to register could result in a 5 year prison sentence. The courts will normally notify the police following a conviction enabling the police to monitor when the individuals must come to register.

Once registered, a sexual offender must continue registration on an annual basis, the offender must notify the police of any changes to their name or address, failure to do this is a criminal offence. The public protection team who are part of the police will visit the offender at their home address to ensure they are living there and undertake an assessment. 

The police may continue to make periodic home visits depending on the level of risk involved, high risk offenders may be subjected to further surveillance such as electronic tagging.

Can you go to prison for sexual assault and how long for?

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

All 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, these will vary depending on the circumstances of the case. 

The average custodial sentence for sexual offences in the UK is between 5 and 10 years, some would argue whether this is long enough for those found guilty of such horrendous crime.

Can you be deported or denied immigration status for sexual assault and rape?

Offenders can be deported or denied immigration status for sexual offences, the following legislation may apply;

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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