On 14 December 2015, DJ Neil Fox was acquitted of numerous sexual offences.
In September 2014, Fox was arrested and subsequently charged with eight counts of indecent assault and two counts of sexual assault. A further five counts of indecent assault were charged but subsequently not proceeded with.
The reason for the different terminology and different offences stems from the repeal of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 and the enactment of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 in 2004. Offences under the 1956 Act must have occurred prior to the repeal and offences under the 2003 Act must have occurred after that date.
Indecent assault (on a woman) is an offence under s.14 of the 1956 Act and can span conduct from mere touching over clothing to penetrative sex. The maximum sentence depends on the date of the offence and the age of the victim.
Sexual assault is an offence under s.3 of the 2003 Act:
A person (A) commits an offence if—
(a) he intentionally touches another person (B),
(b) the touching is sexual,
(c) B does not consent to the touching, and
(d) A does not reasonably believe that B consents.
The maximum sentence is 10 years.
The allegations stemmed from Fox’s time at a radio broadcaster and concerned numerous victims between 1988 and 2014. Three victims were aged under 16.
The Guardian reported that:
One of the complainants has alleged that she met Fox when she was 14 and that he wrote “nice bum” on the back pocket of her jeans when she had asked for an autograph.
The court heard her recorded testimony… alleging that the pair had then “snogged” and that in a later incident he had performed a sex act on her during a tour of the Capital Radio record library when she was 15.
Another alleged victim claimed that when she was 15 the radio DJ put his hand up her skirt at a classic car show in 1991. Three women have also accused Fox of assaulting them when they worked with him at Capital Radio and Magic FM, with one alleging that he squeezed her breasts and pushed her over a desk to simulate a sex act.
One witness said female colleagues were told “early on just to be wary” of Fox’s behaviour.
During the trial, Fox admitted that he, with others, engaged in horseplay and “edgy banter” while at work and that sometimes behaviour could be “saucy” and “over-the-top”.
Fox was acquitted by the magistrates on all counts, having elected to have a summary trial as opposed to one before a jury in the Crown Court.
Of course, that is the end of the case and so there are no offences to sentence for.
However, we have a fact sheet on sentencing for historical sexual offences which provides a little more information. In essence however, judges in such cases will apply the sentencing guidelines currently in force ensuring that he respects any maximum sentence that applied at the time of the offences.