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   Home      R v K [2001]
R v K [2001] UKHL 41 House of Lords

K, a 26 year old man, was charged under s.14(1) Sexual Offences Act 1956 with indecent assault on a girl of 14. His defence was that the sexual activity was consensual and that she had told him she was 16 and that he had had no reason to disbelieve her. The trial judge ruled that the prosecution had to prove an absence of genuine belief that the victim was aged 16 or over. In so ruling the judge relied on the decision of the House of Lords in B (A Minor) v Director of Public Prosecutions [2000] 2 AC 428. The prosecution appealed against that ruling. The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and held that such absence of genuine belief did not have to be proved. The Court of Appeal certified the following points of law of general public importance:

"(a) Is a defendant entitled to be acquitted of the offence of indecent assault on a complainant under the age of 16 years, contrary to section 14(1) of the Sexual Offences Act 1956, if he may hold an honest belief that the complainant in question was aged 16 years or over?

(b) If yes, must the belief be held on reasonable grounds?"


The appeal was allowed. A defendant is entitled to be acquitted of sexual assault under s.14(1) if he has an honest belief that the girl was over 16. There is no requirement that the defendant had reasonable grounds for his belief. Affirmed the principle established in B v DPP that R v Prince did not set any rule relating to age related crimes and even if it had, it had not survived the ruling in Sweet v Parsley that there exists a presumption of mens rea.
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