R v Thomas – 1985

April 01, 2024
Micheal James

Jurisdiction / Tag(s):

Introduction to R v Thomas – 1985

The 1985 case of R v Thomas is a significant decision in English law concerning sexual assault and the admissibility of evidence. This case study delves into the details of the case, the legal questions it raised, and its lasting impact.


Mr. Thomas, a school caretaker, faced accusations of indecent assault on two young female students. The first alleged incident involved an 11-year-old girl claiming Mr. Thomas rubbed the bottom of her skirt and lifted it twice, with no witnesses present. The second incident involved a 12-year-old girl claiming Mr. Thomas touched the bottom of her skirt while she was in the library, again without witnesses. Notably, the jury acquitted Mr. Thomas on ten other similar allegations.


The case presented two central legal challenges:

  1. Corroborative Evidence: Can the testimonies of other alleged victims of similar assaults be admitted as evidence to support the charges against the defendant (corroborative evidence)?
  2. Definition of Indecent Assault: Does simply touching the bottom of a girl’s skirt constitute indecent assault under the Sexual Offences Act 1956?


The court addressed both issues with nuanced rulings:

  1. Corroborative Evidence: The court acknowledged the difficulty of prosecuting sexual assault cases which often lack witness testimony. They allowed the use of similar fact evidence (testimonies from other alleged victims) with caution. However, the court emphasized the importance of such evidence being relevant to the specific case and not unduly prejudicial to the defendant.
  2. Definition of Indecent Assault: The court moved away from a purely act-based definition. They held that touching the bottom of a girl’s skirt, depending on the context and the intent behind the act, could constitute indecent assault. The focus shifted to the sexual motive accompanying the physical touching.


  1. Corroborative Evidence: Recognizing the challenges faced by complainants in sexual assault cases, the court allowed the use of similar fact evidence to strengthen the prosecution’s case. This decision aimed to address the inherent difficulty in securing witness testimony for such crimes. However, the court emphasized the need for strict safeguards to ensure such evidence is relevant and does not unfairly sway the jury towards a guilty verdict.
  2. Definition of Indecent Assault: The court’s decision moved the legal definition of indecent assault beyond the mere act of touching. The focus shifted to the intent behind the act. Touching a girl’s skirt in a sexual manner could now be considered indecent assault, even if the touching itself was minimal.


R v Thomas is a landmark case in English sexual assault law. It expanded the scope of admissible evidence in such cases, allowing the use of similar fact evidence with proper safeguards. The case also provided a clearer and more nuanced definition of indecent assault by focusing on the sexual intent behind the act, not just the physical touching.


R v Thomas remains a vital case in English law, impacting how sexual assault cases are tried and the types of evidence that can be admitted. The case highlights the importance of balancing the rights of the complainant with the right of the defendant to a fair trial. It also demonstrates the ongoing legal efforts to effectively address the complexities of prosecuting sexual assault cases.

Why Choose Us:

As providers of professional law coursework help, we prioritize quality, accuracy, and professionalism in every aspect of our service. Our team of legal experts and experienced academics offer comprehensive support, ensuring that students receive expert guidance and assistance tailored to their individual needs and requirements.



Cite This Work

Select a referencing style to export a reference for this article:

All Answers ltd, 'R v Thomas – 1985' (Mylawtutor.net, September 2012 ) <https://www.mylawtutor.net/cases/r-v-thomas-1985> accessed 17 April 2024
My, Law, Tutor. (September 2012 ). R v Thomas – 1985. Retrieved from https://www.mylawtutor.net/cases/r-v-thomas-1985
"R v Thomas – 1985." MyLawTutor.net. 9 2012. All Answers Ltd. 04 2024 <https://www.mylawtutor.net/cases/r-v-thomas-1985>.
"R v Thomas – 1985." MyLawTutor. MyLawTutor.net, September 2012. Web. 17 April 2024. <https://www.mylawtutor.net/cases/r-v-thomas-1985>.
MyLawTutor. September 2012. R v Thomas – 1985. [online]. Available from: https://www.mylawtutor.net/cases/r-v-thomas-1985 [Accessed 17 April 2024].
MyLawTutor. R v Thomas – 1985 [Internet]. September 2012. [Accessed 17 April 2024]; Available from: https://www.mylawtutor.net/cases/r-v-thomas-1985.
<ref>{{cite web|last=Tutor |first=MyLaw |url=https://www.mylawtutor.net/cases/r-v-thomas-1985 |title=R v Thomas – 1985 |publisher=MyLawTutor.net |date=September 2012 |accessdate=17 April 2024 |location=UK, USA}}</ref>

Related Cases

Dick Bentley v Harold Smith

. Last modified: April 15, 2024

Introduction to Dick Bentley v Harold Smith The world of contracts can be a complex one, especially when it comes to the interpretation of statements made during negotiations. Dick Bentley Productions Ltd v Harold Smith (Motors) Ltd [1965] stands as a significant case in English contract law, offering valuable insights into the distinction between a […]

Performance Cars v Abraham

. Last modified: April 15, 2024

Introduction to Performance Cars v Abraham Performance Cars Ltd v Abraham (1962) stands as a landmark case in English tort law, specifically regarding the concept of causation in negligence claims. This case study delves into the factual background, the legal issue at stake, the court’s decision and reasoning, and the lasting impact of the case […]

R v Hennessy – 1989

. Last modified: April 15, 2024

Introduction to R v Hennessy – 1989 The criminal justice system grapples with complex issues when a defendant’s actions seem involuntary due to a medical condition. R v Hennessy (1989) stands as a significant case in English law, delving into the boundaries of the defense of automatism in the context of diabetic hypoglycemia. This case […]

go to top