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If you are facing charges of a sexual offence, you may feel confused, lost, and isolated from those around you. The first thing you need to do is consult a solicitor. In Scotland, the law relating to sexual offences prevents an accused person from representing themselves without a solicitor. Therefore, your first step is finding the right solicitor for your case and getting someone in your corner.

Sexual offence cases often pose unique challenges due to the sensitive and serious nature of the allegations. The Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 creates a code of sexual offences that is said to be intended to reform this area of the law. Together with other legislation, they provide guidance for various sexual offences including rape, sexual assault, abuse of a position of trust, possession of indecent images of children, sharing private sexual materials without consent (commonly known as “revenge porn”), etc.

The number of allegations made to the Police has been rising, and the media frequently discusses the topic. Allegations can be recent or historic and impact individuals of all ages. Between 2019 and 2022, reports indicated a 40% increase in incidents of sexual assaults and rapes involving individuals under the age of 18, both as complainers and accused parties.

An allegation of a sexual nature can be life-changing. Police arrests for sexual offences cause extreme stress and upset for most people. The Court process is lengthy, and during that time, we appreciate that you will likely be concerned about rumours or speculation that can quickly and irreparably damage your reputation. You may also have concerns about the impact the allegations will have on your mental health and your family, perhaps you have concerns for your safety.

In the modern world of social media, many accused persons may be concerned that groups of individuals will take it upon themselves to try to publish personal details on social media platforms. Ultimately, you will likely have lots of questions about what happens next. This article explores what you need to know and intends to answer some frequently asked questions.

Arrested by Police

The Police take allegations of sexual offences extremely seriously and conduct thorough investigations. You may need to attend a voluntary police interview at the police station as part of this investigation. It is crucial that you instruct a solicitor ahead of this interview.

You have the right to consult with a solicitor, either in person or over the phone, prior to the interview. Having a solicitor with you during the interview is your right. If your solicitor is not available, they may be able to reschedule the interview to a time that they can attend with you. Please do not rush into an interview alone. Changing your representation is possible after this interview. At this early stage, having a solicitor is crucial.

The interview will shed some light on the allegation(s) made and your answers will set the tone for the rest of the case. An experienced solicitor will support you through this process, and should the Police decide to charge you, your solicitor can advise you of the next steps in preparation for Court. Please bear in mind that, during this stage, the Police may take your photograph, fingerprints, and DNA.

In other cases, the case may begin with the Police attending at your home with a warrant to search your property and remove items of interest. These items could include laptops (including work laptops), mobile phones and desktop computers. The Police will be able to seize any device under the warrant, whether it belongs to you or not. Any device taken will be kept for the duration of the case and you will be advised when it can be returned to you. On that basis, some items may be taken and retained by the Police for months, sometimes years. In the first instance, be polite and compliant with the Police during the search and seek immediate legal advice. We would recommend that you consult a solicitor prior to giving any PINs to unlock the devices.


Your solicitor will have several consultations with you over the course of your case to fully support you through this process. As the case progresses to the Trial, you may be concerned about discussions relating to the future of these cases, namely the prospect of juryless trials. Alternatively, you may have worries relating to the way you believe the jurors may see you. The courts can try sexual offences summarily (before a Sheriff) or under Solemn procedure (before a Sheriff & Jury or at the High Court).

It is a fundamental human right to have a fair Trial. Certain witnesses may request special measures during your trial. These special measures can include screens, giving evidence by commission, giving evidence by video link, having a supporter from witness services, etc., or a combination of these measures. These measures are afforded to both the accused and the witnesses. The intention is to create an environment that will allow the witness or accused to give their best evidence. Rest assured, these measures will not lead to negative inferences.

The Trial

Trials for sexual offences can range in duration. The Courts can try these offences summarily (before a Sheriff only) or under Solemn procedure (either by a Sheriff and Jury or at the High Court). If your case will be heard before a Jury, legal guidance will be given to the Jury both before evidence is led and prior to the consideration of their verdict. The Jury will be advised that they may only consider the evidence heard in court. Direction will be given to leave any preconceptions and prejudices at the door. Furthermore, the presiding judge will direct the jury to refrain from conducting any external investigations about you, the witnesses, or the case using the internet during the trial. Fairness will be paramount.

Over the course of your trial, both the Crown and the Defence will question witnesses. If you choose to give evidence, you will also be subject to questioning by the Crown and the Defence, albeit the Defence will question first.

Sexual Offence Witness

You may worry about giving evidence if you are a witness in a sexual offence case. The purpose of the trial is to obtain evidence of the facts. There is no need to feel embarrassed when giving your evidence. Some may struggle to discuss intimate details or struggle to say certain terms. It is important that you know that you are not alone. You are there to give the facts, and you can apply in advance for the above measures, such as a screen or a supporter. The Solicitor will rigorously test the evidence through robust questioning, ensuring professionalism and utmost care in obtaining evidence in a dignified and respectful manner at all times. Both the Crown and the Defence will question you in the interests of fairness.

Overall, whether you are an accused person, a juror, or you are a witness, it is important to bear in mind that this is a very difficult process for all involved. Sexual Offences are highly sensitive and subject to more public attention than other offences. By impartially considering the evidence, we can each uphold the principles of fairness and due process, regardless of the case’s complexity.


Ultimately, the prosecution of a sexual offence will be more of a marathon than a sprint. The Trial may be several months, or even years, after the offence itself. The most important thing you can do for your case is seek legal representation as soon as possible. Getting the right advice, at an early stage, can make all the difference.

Our multi-award-winning, experienced team of Solicitors has gained extensive experience throughout Scotland in the management, direction, and presentation of High Court, sheriff and jury, and summary trials. Don’t panic! Regardless of how serious the nature of the sexual offence charges against you are, we can help. Contact us today. We’re here to safeguard your interests, protect your livelihood, and preserve your reputation.

This article provides information only. not legal advice. It’s not a substitute for specific advice. Scullion LAW accepts no responsibility for the content of any third-party website to which this article refers.

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