R v Thomas [1985] Crim LR 677

Sexual offences and indecent assault on children under sixteen under the Sexual Offences Act 1956.

Facts

A school caretaker was convicted on two counts of indecent assault on female students. The first count concerned an 11-year-old girl’s allegation that the caretaker rubbed the bottom of her skirt and lifted it on two occasions, yet with no witnesses. The second count concerned a 12-year-old girl’s allegation that the caretaker touched the bottom of her skirt and rubbed it whilst she was in the library. The jury had acquitted the caretaker on ten other similar allegations.

Issue

The first question concerned whether the testimony of other alleged victims of similar assaults can constitute corroborative evidence. The second question raised concerned whether the incident of touching a girl’s skirt is capable in law to amount to an indecent assault for the purposes of the Sexual Offences Act 1956.

Held

Regarding the first count, the Court held that the testimony of other alleged victims of a similar assault, which the jury acquitted, cannot constitute corroborative evidence to support the victim’s testimony. Regarding the second count, the Court held that to constitute an indecent assault for the act must be either ‘inherently indecent’ or occurred in circumstances to allow an inference of indecency. The Court held that the nature of the act was not inherently indecent nor could the inference be drawn. The Court suggested that putting a hand up the skirt or touching limbs would be examples of an indecent assault. While the Court did confirm that the touching of the clothing without consent an assault, it held that it does not constitute an indecent assault under the Sexual Offences Act 1956 (ss. 14(1)(2), 15(1)(2)). Accordingly, the Court allowed the appeal on both counts.