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Sexual Communication With A Child

Sexual Communication With A Child

Sexual Communication With A ChildSexual communication with a child – what to do if accused.

If you or someone you know has been accused of sexual communication with a child, it is very important to get specialist legal advice as soon as possible.

Because the stigma attached to this kind of crime is large and very real. A specialist sexual offence solicitor can advise you throughout – how to protect your reputation, what to say in the police station, and any possible defence.

Here is everything you need to know about the offence of sexual communication with a child. If you want to talk with an expert sex crimes lawyer right away – in complete confidence and privacy – please reach out to us on 033 03411690 or make a Free Online Enquiry.

What Is Sexual Communication With A Child In The UK?

It is an offence in the UK to communicate with a child under the age of 16 for the purposes of sexual gratification. In order to be charged with this crime, some things must be true:

  1. The person engaging in conversation with the child must be over 18 years of age
  2. They must intentionally be communicating with a child under 16 years of age
  3. They must be doing so to obtain sexual gratification
  4. The communication must be sexual or intend to encourage the child to make a communication that is sexual in nature
  5. The adult cannot reasonably believe the child is over 16 years of age

You will often hear this offence described as “online grooming”. However, it is important to note that it covers all forms of communication. This might include oral or written communications as well as WhatsApp or Facebook messages, texts, and emails.

What Does Sexual Communication Mean?

Communicating with a child is not an offence. It is the sexual nature of the communication that makes it illegal. A communication is said to be sexual if any part of it relates to sexual activity or if most reasonable people would conclude that it is.

It is usually fairly obvious whether communication is of a sexual nature or not. Not least because most of these communications take place in written format. Thus, they can be recalled and reviewed.

A key point is usually whether the adult (the person over 18) is seeking to obtain sexual gratification from the communication.

What Does Sexual Gratification Mean?

Sexual gratification is defined as taking pleasure or satisfaction of a sexual nature from the communication or intending to do so in future.

What Is Reasonable Belief?

Reasonable belief is another key term in many sexual offence cases. It is usually defined as a belief based on objective facts that would lead most people to conclude something.

In the case of allegations of sexual communication with a child, this is relevant because it must be shown that the adult had a reasonable belief that the person they were communicating with was 16 years of age or under.

The court will likely take into account any evidence that the adult attempted to determine the age of the child. For example, they might have asked them – or been offered information about – their school day. It may be as simple as looking at a photo of the child if one was available.

Sexual Communication With A Child – Sentencing Guidelines

Sexual communication with a child is what’s called an “either way” offence. This means the case can be heard at a Magistrates’ Court or Crown Court. Whichever is the case, the sentencing guidelines mandate a punishment of:

  • Maximum of 2 years in prison
  • Minimum community service
  • Requirement to sign the Sex Offenders Register

Where the sentencing for any particular crime falls on this scale will be based around set factors of “harm” and “culpability:


Harm is defined as Category 1 or Category 2. Category 2 is the relatively milder offence, indicating that these Category 1 harm factors were not present:

  • Sexual images or digital media were sent or received
  • The victim suffered significant psychological harm or distress and this may have been the intention


Culpability is much the same. Culpability B is the comparatively lesser offence, indicating that these Culpability A factors were not present:

  • There was an abuse of trust
  • There was proof of blackmail, threats, gifts or bribes
  • The child was particularly vulnerable
  • There was a commercial motivation
  • There was an attempt to have the child send sexual images
  • The accused acted in a group with other adults to commit the offence

What Is Attempted Sexual Communication With A Child?

The police – and indeed civilian groups – often attempt to catch people attempting sexual communication with a child by masquerading as young people online.

This can lead to situations where an adult thought they were attempting to communicate with a child, but that child does not actually exist.

In these cases, the courts are instructed to charge as if the equivalent crime was being committed on a real child and then consider a very small reduction in sentence.

What To Do If You Are Accused Of Sexual Communication With A Child

Being accused of sexual communication with a child can be damaging to your personal and professional reputation. It is important to exercise your right to remain silent and get specialist legal advice as soon as possible.

Only an expert sexual offences solicitor can investigate the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence in your case and advise you as to your best defence. Speak with an expert now by contacting us on 033 03411690 or make a Free Online Enquiry. Be assured of complete privacy and discretion.

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