For any parent, the thought of their child being labelled a sex offender is terrifying. As parents, we have all experienced the intrigue, awkwardness and confusion of sexual learning and experimentation in our children, as they grow and develop.
But if your child is accused of a harmful sexual behaviour what should you do? It might be sexting, grooming, inappropriate touching, exchanges on social media, underage sex or indecent images. There are many things we can do to help and we offer a Parental Support Package which will ensure that you get the right support at the right time.
In a world where any sexual allegation is rightly taken seriously, taking control of the process and protecting your child from a future label is essential. Whether an allegation has come from another parent, the school, the police, social services, or online, we can work with you and your child to make it right.
- Do I need a solicitor?
Getting advice from someone who has experience of what you’re going through will definitely help. We are independent. We are non-judgmental and we are on your side, but we are also realistic and robust. Decades of experiences has shown us to say it as it is. If the police are involved you definitely need a lawyer. If the allegation has not gone that far then you will have to decide where to find the help for you and your child. It might be from friends, other family or a wider support network, perhaps at school, college or through a trusted social worker. If either you want expert professional advice, or if you can’t turn elsewhere right now, we are the right people to call.
- The police want to interview my child?
You definitely need legal advice and support and you should seek it as soon as possible. It is usually possible to make arrangements that are mutually convenient to all, including an appropriate adult. It is almost always possible to get details of the evidence of an allegation before the interview and it will be important to support your child if they have to give their version of events. Sometimes we will draft a written statement of what happened to make sure your child can communicate this clearly.
- Can I get Legal Aid to help with costs?
Your child will likely be entitled to legal aid if they are being interviewed at a police station or have to go to court, however we do not do any of this work on a legal aid basis. We are not the police solicitor or the duty solicitor. If you want a free lawyer for a police interview you should ask the police to arrange one or find a supplier who does this work on legal aid. You can contact the Legal Aid Agency for a list of all the suppliers in your area. As a parent, there is almost certainly no legal aid for you, and in any event, we do not advise and represent parents or children on these cases on a publicly funded basis.
- Who can come to the Strategy Meeting?
We will agree this when we arrange it, but generally whoever you want to come can come. It may be just you, it may be both parents and/or another carer, and sometimes it is even more. There’s no limit - it’s about getting the right advice to the right people. Whether your child comes with you will always need to be considered. In some cases that is appropriate, in some cases it is not, and we will discuss this with you beforehand. Sometimes we meet a parent first and a child later, sometimes both come and we invite the parent to step out of the meeting at some point so we can speak to the child alone. We are focussed on whatever works, on getting the best outcome for your family.
- I know my child has done wrong, so how can you help?
Most cases we handle involve a young person having made some error of judgment or immature decision, and our work involves making sure that the consequences are limited and the support is right going forward. If your child has displayed troubling harmful sexual behaviour and we wish to consider seeking external help for them going forward to support them into healthy relationships and sexual behaviour then we have a specialised Treatment Pathway. We will explore this further with you as part of an overall strategy meeting. Help is available.
- My child is innocent but the thought of an allegation is terrifying?
We are instructed by parents who understand a sexual allegation has been made about their child, but where there has not yet been a formal complaint to the police or school. The question is how to respond to such an allegation, and what to do about it. We all know that it is possible for allegations to be formalised months, years or decades after the event, so how can we protect your child and your family? Doing nothing rarely feels right. Gathering evidence, retaining accounts, being proactive, taking protective steps may all be on the agenda.
- Case Study
Ben had recently turned 15. There had been a small problem a couple of years before at the school with him taking pictures of girls, but he seemed to have grown up and moved on. Then there was a call from the school. Could I come in for a ‘chat’. A 14-year-old girl had told her teacher that she and Ben had exchanged pictures of their ‘private parts’. He would have to be suspended whilst there was an investigation. The school had to tell the police.
Ben’s mother, Mrs P, came to us not knowing what to do. Were the police involved? What would happen to Ben? Would he get a criminal record? How could they get Ben back into education? It turned out Ben had been having similar exchanges on social media with various girls at the school. Nothing had been shared more widely, though there was some bragging.
Mrs P was in our office the following day. We quickly established the police were involved and that there would be an interview. We made arrangements for a voluntary interview and in advance drafted full written legal argument about the how the case should be resolved, without Ben getting a criminal record. The police wanted to caution Ben, but we eventually persuaded them to apply outcome 31 (no criminal record) which meant Ben volunteering to undertake an educational program with the local education officer.
He went back to school, finished his exams and learnt some valuable lessons about online safety.