Types of sexual offences

There are a range of crimes that can be considered sexual offences, and in this section we set out some of the main offence types the PPS prosecutes.

A full list of offences considered to be sexual offences can be found by clicking the link.  

Offence types


A rape is when a person uses their penis without consent to penetrate the vagina, mouth or anus of another person. Rape is one of the most serious criminal offences that can be perpetrated. The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has a policy document providing guidance about how decisions as to prosecution in relation to rape are taken and the assistance which will be given to victims and witnesses. You can read the policy by clicking the link. 

Sexual Assault by Penetration

Sexual assault by penetration is when a person (either male or female) penetrates the vagina or anus of another person with any part of their body or an object without that person’s consent.

Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault is when a person (either male or female) touches another person sexually without their consent.

Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse involves forcing, inciting, persuading or enticing a child to take part in sexual activity. This may involve physical contact including rape or oral sex or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching inside or outside of clothing. It may also include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities or exploiting or grooming a child in preparation for abuse.

Extreme pornography

Extreme pornography describes pornographic images that are grossly offensive, disgusting or obscene, and portray a range of extreme acts in an explicit and realistic way. This may include images of extreme violence, mutilation, or sexual activity with an animal that are intended to sexually arouse.  It is illegal to possess, distribute or make extreme pornography.

Disclosing private sexual images without consent (so-called ‘revenge pornography’)

This relates to private sexual photographs and films of a person that have been disclosed without the consent of an individual who appears in them, with intent to cause that individual distress.  An example is uploading such images onto the internet, often by a person’s ex-partner, to cause them distress, humiliation or embarrassment.

Indecent images of children 

It is an offence to take, to permit to be taken, to make, to possess, show, or to distribute or publish an image of a child posed or pictured indecently, for example in a sexual way. This can also include images of adults involved in indecent act where a child is present but not themselves portrayed indecently. Images can include actual photographs or video footage, drawings or tracings, or images created digitally. ‘Making’ an indecent image does not just refer to a person taking a photo or video - it can also refer to a person downloading or printing an indecent image, or opening an email attachment containing an indecent image.