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What Is the Penalty for Making False Rape Accusations?

Two and ten per cent of sexual accusations made over the last twenty years were revealed to be false. 

However, sexual assault accusations of this kind are extremely damaging to the party being blamed – professionally, socially and mentally. It can lead to the loss of a job, the breakup of a family and severe health complaints such as anxiety and depression.

What do you do if you have been falsely accused of a sexual offence? Is there a particular form of punishment for untrue complaints of sexual abuse?

Legal Penalty for Making False Accusations

While there is not one specific offence for which a false accuser can be tried, there are a number of categories under which their actions may fall. The first is “Wasting Police Time”. If found guilty, the individual can face up to six months in prison with or without a fine included. It’s also possible that they will not be tried at all, and will simply be served with a fixed penalty notice – usually of £90.

The second offence a person could be tried for is that of “Perverting the Course of Justice”. A person must be formally indicted before they can be taken before the court for this. The maximum possible sentence for this crime is life in prison. For this offence to be considered, all that is required is that the prosecution can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the individual intended their complaints to be taken seriously by the police. They do not necessarily need to have planned for their victim to be arrested.

The accuser is more likely to be tried for wasting police time if they withdrew their complaint and admitted it was false within a reasonably short period of time. This is also the case if the accusation was not made maliciously or if there was no arrest or revelation of the identity of the individual who was accused, meaning that no damage has been done to their reputation.

A charge of perverting the course of justice is more likely if the accusation was made maliciously, with the intent to cause damage to a person’s reputation or to hurt them in some way. This is also the case if the complaint was never retracted or was upheld for a considerable period of time, or if it resulted in the victim being arrested or tried.

Cases where victims are considered to be in a vulnerable position or have experienced a significant blow to their reputation and quality of life also fall under this category, as do cases where the accuser has a history of making false claims.

Can I Sue for False Accusations of Sexual Assault?

The possibility of taking a false accuser to court for damages depends on a number of factors. Firstly, it must have been fully proven that their allegations were baseless. Secondly, the nature of the accusations must be considered. If the complaint was written down or spoken publicly – posted on social media, for example – it may be possible for you to sue the individual in question for libel (written) or slander (spoken). For a slander case, the accuser needs only to have told a single third party about the matter.

The individual could also be liable to be sued for malicious prosecution – the act of reporting a person you know is innocent to the police with the intention of that person then being tried and punished for the crime. You need to be able to prove in court that the individual knew their allegations were false, and you will also need to have been found innocent of any wrongdoing related to the case before you can take this route.

For further information about the legal action you can take against a false accuser, simply get in touch with DPP Law today via our online contact form, who have a team of sexual offences solicitors ready to sensitively support your case.