Home > Children's Rights > Underage Sex: How to Protect Your Children

Underage Sex: How to Protect Your Children

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 9 Jul 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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Hi I don't know where else to be asking so I'm gonna just give it a try... Me and my girlfriend had been together for about 9 months and not too long ago her man m took her phone and read all her messages. She found out about her daughter and I having underage sex and made us break up and we are not allowed any for of contact I am 16 turning 17 this year and she is 15 turning 16 this year I don't know what to do as it really doesn't feel the same without her, its horrible Could anyone give feedback on what can be done as we really love each other
Ted - 9-Jul-18 @ 6:31 PM
My younger brother has admitted to becoming sexually active. He is 14 years old and his girlfriend is the same age. He uses protection and is very mature about it. However, is he breaking the law? Consent is given, protection is used, but they are both 14 years old.
Dan - 9-Jul-18 @ 1:13 PM
I have a 15 year old daugher who i know is sexcually active with her 15 year old boyfreind , is this against the law?they use a condom as i had found and empty one and she is on the pill , what do i do and will i or them get into trouble ? X
Sophie - 20-Jun-18 @ 12:58 AM
Janny - Your Question:
I have a daughter who will be sixteen next month who is dating a boy one year older.I've just been in her bedroom and found used condoms. If I tell her she can't take him upstairs anymore they will probably go & do it elsewhere. I'm proud that she's grown up & responsible enough to use condoms , but they are still breaking the law arentry they?

Our Response:
Yes as the law stands they are breaking it. The police however would be unlikely to pursue a prosecution in a case like this where sex is consensual. Do talk to your daughter about this and also about the possibility of STI etc
LawAndParents - 15-Jun-18 @ 11:40 AM
I have a daughter who will be sixteen next month who is dating a boy one year older. I've just been in her bedroom and found used condoms. If I tell her she can't take him upstairs anymore they will probably go & do it elsewhere. I'm proud that she's grown up & responsible enough to use condoms , but they are still breaking the law arentry they?
Janny - 14-Jun-18 @ 11:01 AM
If a 15 year old girl has consentual sex with a 13 year old boy, is it illegal?
Micheal - 13-Jun-18 @ 5:06 PM
Dee - Your Question:
We have found out yesterday that a friend of my eldest daughter (who is 23) has been having sexual contact with our 15 year old daughter. They had sex once and it was consensual. This guy has known us for 5 years and has frequented the house regularly. She’s heartbroken because she had feelings for him , he has pinned it all on her and takes no responsibility for his actions. He told her to delete all the messages and photos they’ve exchanged, she has , apart from the message asking her to delete it all. He’s also denied having had sex with her. What should we do? We’re all in shock and don’t know how to deal with this situation. My daughter is in the middle of her GCSES!

Our Response:
The person in question knew that your daughter was underage - therefore he has committed a criminal offence. What does your daughter want to do?Is there someone whom she can talk to advice at school for example? Does she want to press charges? If so, contact the police, they will be supportive. A good resource for more advice is Family Lives, they also have a confidential helpline.
LawAndParents - 6-Jun-18 @ 11:54 AM
We have found out yesterday that a friend of my eldest daughter (who is 23) has been having sexual contact with our 15 year old daughter. They had sex once and it was consensual. This guy has known us for 5 years and has frequented the house regularly . She’s heartbroken because she had feelings for him , he has pinned it all on her and takes no responsibility for his actions. He told her to delete all the messages and photos they’ve exchanged, she has , apart from the message asking her to delete it all. He’s also denied having had sex with her. What should we do? We’re all in shock and don’t know how to deal with this situation. My daughter is in the middle of her GCSES!
Dee - 5-Jun-18 @ 12:45 PM
Pe - Your Question:
My wife shares a bed regularly with our 6,year old son, ive also heard them discussing their lower bodies, is this health for the boy?

Our Response:
We don't know all the details, so you may have to use your own judgement here. It is common for children to get into a parent's bed and vice versa especially if a child is frightened/poorly etc. It's also common for children to ask questions about their bodies and the difference between male and female bodies, but if you feel there is more to this then talk to your wife first. If you're not happy and it continues, you may need to consider getting independent advice from an organisation like the NSPCC.
LawAndParents - 1-Jun-18 @ 1:59 PM
He is 16 she is 14 they had sex and he is telling her what to do and who she can speak to. What can be done about this?
...... - 1-Jun-18 @ 1:21 AM
My wife shares a bed regularly with our 6,year old son, ive also heard them discussing their lower bodies, is this health for the boy?
Pe - 31-May-18 @ 10:26 AM
Vikkysicky - Your Question:
My boy 14 and sleep with a 16 year old can she be done if police are involved

Our Response:
Please read the above article - the section entitled "Children Under 16" explains the situation concisely and is probably more comprehensive than trying to abridge for you here.
LawAndParents - 29-May-18 @ 10:41 AM
My boy 14 and sleep with a 16 year old can she be done if police are involved
Vikkysicky - 28-May-18 @ 12:40 AM
Sazzz - Your Question:
My son is 19 and slept with a 14 year old. She consented but is he still likely to get charged? Or what will happen?

Our Response:
If he's reported he may be charged or investigated.
LawAndParents - 22-May-18 @ 3:08 PM
Unknown - Your Question:
If a boy is 16 turning 17 in a few weeks and a girl is 14 and they did sexual things what would that mean?/happen?

Our Response:
What's your question, do you mean is it against the law? Yes it is.
LawAndParents - 22-May-18 @ 12:24 PM
My son is 19 and slept with a 14 year old. She consented but is he still likely to get charged? Or what will happen?
Sazzz - 16-May-18 @ 3:36 PM
Dizzy - Your Question:
My friends 14 year old son has had consensual sex with a 12 year old his mum has tried everything to stop them but he keeps going behind her back how can she stop it

Our Response:
Seek help from a professional, the school pastoral staff might be able to help etc. Be sure to try and tackle this somehow though, because it is a criminal offence to have sex with a 12 year old.
LawAndParents - 16-May-18 @ 11:23 AM
If a boy is 16 turning 17 in a few weeks and a girl is 14 and they did sexual things what would that mean?/happen?
Unknown - 15-May-18 @ 10:31 PM
My friends 14 year old son has had consensual sex with a 12 year old his mum has tried everything to stop them but he keeps going behind her back how can she stop it
Dizzy - 14-May-18 @ 7:56 PM
Joshua - Your Question:
I’m 18 and this girl I’m thinking about talking to is 15 would it be illegal if we had sexual contact

Our Response:
Yes it is against the law to have sex with a person under the age of 16.
LawAndParents - 11-May-18 @ 12:48 PM
I’m 18 and this girl I’m thinking about talkingto is 15 would it be illegal if we had sexual contact
Joshua - 9-May-18 @ 11:03 PM
Vee37 - Your Question:
My 12 yr daughter had consensual sex with her 15 yr old boyfriebd. When I found outi took her to the dr to get checked fir stds. Well she was positime for one so automatically cps got involved the clase was clised but then passed to law enfircement because of her age. Anyway the detective fiund the boy and is now charging him with aggravated sexual assault.the biy was 15 and my daughter was 12. I dont wish for this boys life to be ruined. Is there any way I can help him. He did not rape my child also my child was interviewd abd she said it was consensual

Our Response:
The boy would be best advised to find a solicitor, if it goes to court, the judge will take all the circumstances into consideration. The law says that a child of 12 cannot be said to have consented unfortunately.
LawAndParents - 9-May-18 @ 2:17 PM
My 12 yr daughter had consensual sex with her 15 yr old boyfriebd. When i found outi took her to the dr to get checked fir stds.Well she was positime for one so automatically cps got involved the clase was clised but then passed to law enfircement because of her age. Anyway the detective fiund the boy and is now charging him with aggravated sexual assault..the biy was 15 and my daughter was 12. I dont wish for this boys life to be ruined. Is there any way i can help him. He did not rape my child also my child wasinterviewdabd she said it was consensual
Vee37 - 8-May-18 @ 10:21 PM
My friends 16 year old daughter has just told her she is in a same sex relationship which is fine however her partner is 26 years old is this legal ?
Donna Gardiner - 1-May-18 @ 9:10 PM
My daughter is 15 her boyfriend is 16. He was warned by myself and his dad that he wasn’t aloud to sleep with mydaughter. And did then dumped her for another 15 year old she’s seriously distraught because he’s turned all her friends against her and made her out to be a slag. Where do I stand on a police prosecution. As he was warned that she’s too young.
Cheryl - 1-May-18 @ 7:06 AM
Is it illigal for a parent to stop there daughter dating a boy the same age This is happening to my son at the moment and he is always upset because he can't see her
I need to kno - 14-Apr-18 @ 10:36 AM
Lhannings - Your Question:
I'm 15 (16 in January) and my boyfriends 14 (15 in september) and I think I may be pregnant. I'm not sure wether or not I want to keep the baby as it's still early days. But I'm scared that either of us will get in trouble for it. It's not an abusive relationship we argue from time to time but it's nothing major. I need advice on wether or I should keep the baby and on wether either of us would get in trouble for it. Thanks x

Our Response:
We can't tell you whether or not to keep the baby. If you're worried about speaking to your parents at this stage, talk to your school's welfare/pastoral care adviser; they will almost certainly have dealt with problems just like yours before and will be able to help you.
LawAndParents - 11-Apr-18 @ 3:05 PM
I'm 15 (16 in January) and my boyfriends 14 (15 in september) and I think I may be pregnant. I'm not sure wether or not I want to keep the baby as it's still early days. But I'm scared that either of us will get in trouble for it. It's not an abusive relationship we argue from time to time but it's nothing major. I need advice on wether or I should keep the baby and on wether either of us would get in trouble for it. Thanks x
Lhannings - 11-Apr-18 @ 10:43 AM
My 14 year old daughter turning 15 in 4months came home with a hickey from her boyfriend who has only just turns 16. Is this illegal? Is this acceptable??
Gg - 22-Mar-18 @ 5:21 PM
Summer18 - Your Question:
I think my 16 year old step son is having sex with a 14 year old girl. I understand from my wife that the girls mother knows about this and that her daughter has had a contraceptive injection. both the mother and daughter seem to be be in agreement that sex is ok for them both. Is my step son breaking the law, when they are both agreeing to sex?

Our Response:
It is breaking the law - the age of consent to any form of sexual activity is 16 for both men and women. If teenagers are of a similar age and sexual activity is consensual, however, prosecutions do not generally follow.Whether 16 and 14 will be deemed sufficiently "similar" in terms of age at this stage of life, we are not sure. It might be worth seeking further advice.
LawAndParents - 20-Mar-18 @ 9:55 AM
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