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Underage Sex: How to Protect Your Children

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 22 Jan 2018 |
 
Underage Sex Child Parent Criminal

Whether you have a son or daughter, or both, the topic of underage sex can be an extremely difficult one in which parents and their children often have conflicting views. Some parents take the view that they would rather their child was having sex under their roof, rather than sneaking off and having sex elsewhere, but views differ enormously.

This article does not seek to persuade parents either way, but it points out the law in relation to underage sex so that parents have a sound understanding of the potential penalties involved. Although it is a notoriously difficult area to prove in terms of criminality, there can be significant sentences for offenders. ‘Sex’ isn’t merely defined as penetrative sex, but constitutes masturbating together, oral sex or penetrative sex.

Children Under 16

It is against the law for children under the age of 16 to have heterosexual or homosexual sex. In Northern Ireland, children have to be 17 years old. However, there are different degrees of criminality in sexual situations – creating a grey area in terms of the law. For example, two 15-year-old teenagers who have sex with each other just weeks before their 16th birthdays are much less likely to be prosecuted than a 25-year-old man who has sex with a 15-year-old girl.

If the two 15-year-olds who had sex were found out by the police, and the police referred it to the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service), this may still not result in prosecution as the CPS may take the view that it is ‘not in the public interest’.

Children Under 13

There are different rules relating to children who are under the age of 13. Whereas a child who is 13, 14 or 15 can be said to have consented to intercourse, a child of 12 or under cannot. This is a concept that is very similar to the minimum age at which a child can be criminally prosecuted, which is at 10 years old.

There are no defences to having sex with a child under the age of 13. This means that a defendant charged with this offence cannot say that he (or she) thought the child was over the age of consent, or that he or she consented to having sex. If a defendant is found guilty of ‘statutory rape’, they can be sentenced to life imprisonment. Average prison sentences are, however, between five and seven years.

Your Role As A Parent

If you allow your child to have underage sex, for example by giving them condoms, you could, in theory, be prosecuted for aiding and abetting unlawful intercourse. But again this is very difficult to prosecute successfully, as everyone knows that if children want to have sex, they’re going to do it regardless of what you say or try to do.

Doctors are, however, bound by a duty of confidentiality. If your daughter goes to her GP and asks about contraception, whether she’s 12, 13, 14 or 15, she is entitled to do so and to have this kept confidential – the rationale being that if she is capable of making decisions about her own health then she is also entitled to the duty of confidentiality. However, there are always exceptions: if a doctor suspects that a child is being abused, they are legally obliged to protect them from abuse and the duty of confidentiality could be overridden.

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My son 15 has been accused of having sex with girl aged almost 13. He says he hadn’t He has adhd & is classed as vulnerable. We’re Awaiting social services. What are implications for him if found to be lying ?
Metaljesusfan - 22-Jan-18 @ 12:46 PM
If two girls 14 nearly 15 and 15 nearly 16 engage in outercourse and have been together for 3 months would they be prosecuted??
E.D - 19-Jan-18 @ 2:27 PM
Hi. Brought my daughter up on since a baby. There have been enormous difficulties during her childhood had has spent years self harming to an alarming extent. Although the self harming has stopped, social services remain involved and have continued to support. Just after her 16th birthday she told me she had a 25 yr old boyfriend. He has a string of convictions for various violence and drug offences. The common factor in these crimes is that there are young or vulnerable victims. Over the last 6 months my relationship with her has deteriorated despite me supporting the relationship in as much as I can (better to be there for her than be excluded). I recently had to go away for a few weeks to care for a relative. During that time my daughter abruptly cut off all contact with me for no apparent reason and I found out some time after the event that social services had tried to get her out of there in my absence (I'd changed the sim card on my phone and forgot to tell them and they couldn't get hold of me). Her actions are those of someone subjected to grooming. What powers do social services/police have to get her out of there? He has no past (as far as I am aware) of sexual exploitation, only manipulation. Thanks in advance.
Bill - 17-Jan-18 @ 2:49 PM
Hi. Brought my daughter up on since a baby. There have been enormous difficulties during her childhood had has spent years self harming to an alarming extent. Although the self harming has stopped, social services remain involved and have continued to support. Just after her 16th birthday she told me she had a 25 yr old boyfriend. He has a string of convictions for various violence and drug offences. The common factor in these crimes is that there are young or vulnerable victims. Over the last 6 months my relationship with her has deteriorated despite me supporting the relationship in as much as I can (better to be there for her than be excluded). I recently had to go away for a few weeks to care for a relative. During that time my daughter abruptly cut off all contact with me for no apparent reason and I found out some time after the event that social services had tried to get her out of there in my absence (I'd changed the sim card on my phone and forgot to tell them and they couldn't get hold of me). Her actions are those of someone subjected to grooming. What powers do social services/police have to get her out of there? He has no past (as far as I am aware) of sexual exploitation, only manipulation. Thanks in advance.
Bill - 17-Jan-18 @ 1:37 PM
Nero - Your Question:
What about a 16/17 year old dating someone who is 23? The law in the uk is confusing on this stuff

Our Response:
The age of consent is 16 so this would be legal. Some people would consider it strange as the level of maturity of a 16/17 year old is not that ofa 22 year old.
LawAndParents - 10-Jan-18 @ 11:17 AM
What about a 16/17 year old dating someone who is 23? The law in the uk is confusing on this stuff
Nero - 7-Jan-18 @ 3:55 PM
what if 2 males have sex by the penis when they are under the age of 12 but refuse to use condoms
not - 22-Dec-17 @ 11:03 PM
Laylay77 - Your Question:
If two 15 year olds ( male and female )have consensual sex one day , and the female ends up pregnant, would either of them risk jail time? what would happen?

Our Response:
It doesn't usually result in jail. See The Mix for more information.
LawAndParents - 28-Nov-17 @ 12:04 PM
if two 15 year olds ( male and female )have consensual sex one day , and the female ends up pregnant, would either of them risk jail time? what would happen?
Laylay77 - 27-Nov-17 @ 5:02 AM
Hi my16 year old daughter is having sex with her 15 year old boyfriend. They were having sex before her 16th in October and he turns 16 end of January. His mother has just become funny and started calling my daughter rapist. Would she be prosecuted
Worried - 24-Nov-17 @ 9:19 AM
Kiki - Your Question:
If a girl who is 14 year old nearly 15 year old and has been sexually active for over a year and is in a stable healthy relationship with a boy who is 17 years old. If the 14 and 17 year old are having consensual sex can the boy still get in trouble if she falls pregnant but wants to fall pregnant on purpose. (this is for a friend) there is only 2 and a half years between them and they have been together for a while now.

Our Response:
The law (Sexual Offences Act 2003) says: " it is a criminal offence for any kind of sexual activity to take place between two people where one or both participants is under 16". If your friend is only 14, the boyfriend could be dealt with quite severely. The most decent thing your friend can do it to inform her boyfriend of the laws and the possible penalties (fine, imprisonment, being placed on the sex offenders' register etc), so he can make a decision based on this. Your friend should also make her intentions of becoming pregnant clear to her boyfriend.
LawAndParents - 20-Nov-17 @ 10:06 AM
If a girl who is 14 year old nearly 15 year old and has been sexually active for over a year and is in a stable healthy relationship with a boy who is 17 years old. If the 14 and 17 year old are having consensual sex can the boy still get in trouble if she falls pregnant but wants to fall pregnant on purpose. (this is for a friend) there is only 2 and a half years between them and they have been together for a while now.
Kiki - 20-Nov-17 @ 7:57 AM
what if a 12 year old boy had sex with a 13 year old girl and the girls pregnant and the boys birthdays in like 2-3 weeks
not.saying - 1-Nov-17 @ 7:24 PM
I’ve just found out that my girlfriends daughter of 13 has been having sex with her 15 year old boyfriend.Last week we found out she was pregnant ..what can we do,as I want him prosecuted
Rich - 24-Oct-17 @ 9:00 PM
My 13 (nearly 14)year old son disclosed to me last night that he's been having sex with another boy of the same age. While I am happy that he has trusted me enough to tell me, I'm concerned because it hasn't been safe sex. I want to provide condoms to ensure he doesn't expose himself to unnecessary risks, and he also asked if I could provide lubricant, but I'm worried about the legal ramifications.Can you please advise me as his safety and health are paramount but if they get caught I worry about police or social services view of my approach
Bolshygirl - 11-Oct-17 @ 10:30 PM
So what if two 11 year olds having sex ?
Numpty - 11-Oct-17 @ 5:26 PM
taz - Your Question:
If a girl at 16 17 in a month has fell pregnant to a a boy at 14 not 15 till next year in may will there be any prosecuations he already has a child but they were both underage at this time ??

Our Response:
There is always a possibility, but the police will not usually prosecuteif both parties are older teenagers and there is no doubt about consent.
LawAndParents - 11-Oct-17 @ 12:24 PM
If a girl at 16 17 in a month has fell pregnant to a a boy at 14 not 15 till next year in may will there be any prosecuations he already has a child but they were both underage at this time ??
taz - 10-Oct-17 @ 10:43 AM
Sick- Your Question:
I just found out that my 12 year old and his girlfriend, almost 13 have been having sex in her mother's house and mom has been aware and providing condoms! Childline is telling me that criminal charges cannot be filed because they are both the same age. That doesn't seem right.

Our Response:
The law is so complex especially the Sexual Offences Act which seems to make a lot of exceptions. Your son is under 12 and while the mother of his girlfriend may feel she is protecting her child from becoming pregnant she is encouraging sex with an under 13 year old. It's your decision whether to tell the police or not, we recommend you call Childline back or the NSPCC helpline for more detailed advice.
LawAndParents - 2-Oct-17 @ 10:51 AM
I just found out that my 12 year old and his girlfriend, almost 13 have been having sex in her mother's house and mom has been aware and providing condoms! Childline is telling me that criminal charges cannot be filed because they are both the same age. That doesn't seem right.
Sick - 28-Sep-17 @ 10:26 PM
LL - Your Question:
My 13 yr old had sex with her boyfriend. She thinks it's normal. She told me she had no plans to repeat it and regretted it but she lies to me constantly. I don't know how to impress on her that it's not right. She doesn't seem to care that it's illegal. I explained 3 months ago he'd have been arrested! I can't lock her up???

Our Response:
He can still be held to account. Even though it might not be classed as "rape"because she has consented, it is still against the law to have sex with an under 16 year old. Try calling Childline or the NSPCC for some specific advice on how to protect your daughter. Unfortunately we don't have the facility to communicate individually with our readers. Good luck and let us know how you get on.
LawAndParents - 27-Sep-17 @ 3:45 PM
My 13 yr old had sex with her boyfriend. She thinks it's normal. She told me she had no plans to repeat it and regretted it but she lies to me constantly. I don't know how to impress on her that it's not right. She doesn't seem to care that it's illegal. I explained 3 months ago he'd have been arrested! I can't lock her up???
LL - 26-Sep-17 @ 11:02 PM
Holly- Your Question:
Hi at the age of 15 I had sex and ended up having a child at 16with someone that was 18 At the time I was very naive and stupid but I'm worried that In fact he could do this again

Our Response:
Did he know you were only 15? Did you feel coerced/pressured into having sex with him? If you feel this way and you are worried about him doing the same again with another underaged girl, then you should contact the police or social services. Give Childline a call for some individual advice.
LawAndParents - 25-Sep-17 @ 2:34 PM
Hi at the age of 15 I had sex and ended up having a child at 16with someone that was 18 At the time I was very naive and stupid but I'm worried that In fact he could do this again
Holly - 23-Sep-17 @ 12:54 AM
Hi - Your Question:
Whats the implications of a 24yr old male having a relationship and intercourse and bearing a child with a 14 year old even though the girls mum accepted the relationship and allowed the partner to live with them?

Our Response:
There is a chance the male could be prosecuted for this, the details are in the above article and because we don't have the full details it's difficult for us to comment specifically on individual cases.
LawAndParents - 14-Aug-17 @ 2:50 PM
Whats the implications of a 24yr old male having a relationship and intercourse and bearing a child with a 14 year old even though the girls mum accepted the relationship and allowed the partner to live with them?
Hi - 13-Aug-17 @ 12:00 PM
MM - Your Question:
I just found out that my 14 year old son who's two months away from his 15th birthday is sleeping with his 13 year old girlfriend. I'm not happy to say the least and I'm tackling this today but I need to know what are the legal implications are please advise

Our Response:
The police can still take action and prosecute for this, though often when it's consensual, they might not take it that far.
LawAndParents - 15-Jun-17 @ 2:42 PM
I just found out that my 14 year old son who'stwo months away from his 15th birthday is sleeping with his 13 year old girlfriend. I'm not happy to say the least and I'm tackling this today but I need to know what are the legal implications are please advise
MM - 13-Jun-17 @ 2:30 PM
What do I do if I know a 35 year old woman has been grooming my 15 year old son for sex?? And this 35 year old woman is known to sleep with everyone!?
jodey - 8-Jun-17 @ 12:03 PM
Hypertheticaly if you were 16 could you have sex with your old coach who is 31 because he no longer provides care
Ari - 2-Jun-17 @ 12:22 PM
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