R v C – Case Summary

R v C

Court of Appeal

Citations: [2012] EWCA Crim 2034


The complainant was the defendant’s stepdaughter. When she was around 5 years old, the defendant began sexually abusing her. The abuse lasted over twenty years before the complainant went to the police. the defendant told police that he had only begun a sexual relationship with the girl when she turned 16 (the legal age of consent). He claimed that all subsequent activity had been consensual.

There was photographic, film and text message evidence that after the age of 16, the complainant initiated or welcomed sexual activity with the defendant. This included sexual pictures where she was smiling, or graphic text messages sent to the defendant. However, there was also evidence that the complainant tried to avoid the defendant and that the defendant sent her threatening messages and stalked her at university. The complainant also testified that the defendant was generally domineering, controlling and violent. She stated that she initiated or appeared to welcome sexual activity because she was afraid of what he would do if she did not.

The jury did not believe that their relationship only began after she turned 16, and convicted him of a number of sexual offences. Half of these related to offences committed before the girl turned 16, while the other half related to incidents which took place afterwards. The defendant appealed his conviction for those offences which took place after the complainant turned 16. He argued that the girl was consenting, and so those charges should have been withdrawn from the jury.

  1. Should the post-16 charges have been withdrawn from the jury?

The Court of Appeal upheld the convictions. The prolonged grooming and abuse cast doubt on the apparent consent evidenced by the texts, film and photograph. The defendant’s childhood abuse of the complainant clearly impacted on her as an adult. His continued dominance and control over her made clear that she was not giving real consent and that the defendant did not believe her consent was real.

This Case is Authority For…

Evidence of childhood abuse, control and coercion can provide evidence that the complainant does not consent to sex even if their behaviour at the time of the sexual encounter appears to show that they want sex.