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Protecting the public: strengthening protection against sex offenders and reforming the law on sexual offences. 5668.The Stationery Office2002

Causing or inciting sexual activity with persons who have a mental disorder

25 November 2021
Volume 30 · Issue 21


Richard Griffith, Senior Lecturer in Health Law at Swansea University, discusses the implications of a Court of Appeal decision that considers the scope of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, section 39, in relation to care workers


Parliament enacted the Sexual Offences Act 2003, which has been in force since April 2004, with the broad aim of modernising the law and enhancing protection for children and vulnerable adults from unlawful sexual conduct (Home Office, 2002). The 2003 Act has been praised for creating a range of specific offences that may be committed against children and vulnerable adults and for providing continuing protection from further sexual abuse by strengthening the notification requirements for sex offenders, managing high-risk offenders in the community through multi-agency public protection panels and creating a new civil prevention order.

A key weakness of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 has been the difficulty in interpreting the clauses that make up the offences, creating uncertainty when applying the law in practice.

The 2003 Act had attempted to provide some clarity by defining two key terms: ‘consent’ and ‘sexual’ but these have been described as complex and ambiguous and difficult to interpret in practice.

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