When you have been accused of committing a sexual offence it can feel as though your world has been torn apart. A million questions will race through your mind; how will you prove your innocence? What if you lose your job? How will this impact your family?
While it may seem counter-intuitive, the moment that you discover that you are going to be (or have already been) accused of a sexual offence, you need to seek legal advice. Even if the charges against you are dropped shortly afterwards, it is better to be safe when it comes to this serious allegation.
But then the question arises of what you should look for in a sexual offence solicitor? How do you know you have found a good one to represent your case? Read on to find out.
First things first – is every solicitor on your shortlist qualified to practice this area of law? While it can seem that all solicitors are the same, they are not and a sexual offence solicitor will have undertaken additional training to practice in this area. Ask to see certification and qualifications during your initial meeting. As mentioned before, you don’t want to take any chances with an allegation that can have such devastating consequences.
While a less experienced sexual offence solicitor may seem more eager to take on your case, it is important to choose a representative that has some real-life experience of defending people who have been accused of similar actions. Ask each solicitor you are deciding between about recent examples of their work; have they defended anyone who was in a similar position that you are in? How did they do this and, most importantly, how did the case pan out for the accused? If they state that the accused was sentenced, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but try to enquire further about the details of that particular case.
It is rarely fun having to retell a sexual encounter to someone that you don’t know. However, it is a sure-fire sign of professionalism and experience if your chosen solicitor listens carefully, concisely and takes detailed notes without showing any signs of judgement. Similarly, you should feel confident telling your solicitor all of this information; if you feel that something is off concerning your first choice, then move on to your second choice solicitor and assess their suitability.
Often overlooked but very important when it comes to your first meeting, does your solicitor communicate openly with you? Are they using jargon-free language? Do they offer you their business card and do they tell you the office hours? No? Then move on. With an allegation as serious as sexual assault, you want to make sure you can contact them at any time and if they are less than willing to be open with you in the initial meeting, it is unlikely that this will improve. If they offer you multiple ways to contact them, then that is a bonus!