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Underage Sex: How to Protect Your Children

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 21 Sep 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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What is the legal situation between an 11 year old & a 15 year old?
Sasy - 21-Sep-18 @ 6:51 PM
Ok , if my daughter was 14 and having sex......Um first of all , she should have been taught better than that. But after the girl is pregnant I say keep it......abortion is the same as taking a life.....I have 6 girls .....how ever if she is too young to be having a baby most likely her body will get rid of it on its. Own
Janean - 10-Sep-18 @ 8:00 AM
I really need some advice as I don't know what to do. My daughter is 14 and her boyfriend is 16, I've just found out she's pregnant an I'm devastated as i didn't knoe she was sexually active. I've sat them both down an spoken to them about the whole situation and they don't know what there going to do yet ( keep it or have a abortion).I know what i would like her to do but I can't force her to have a abortion! Will her 16 year old boyfriend get in trouble if she decides to keep it? Can someone plz give me some advice, thank you
Unknown - 7-Sep-18 @ 9:28 PM
My just turned 14 year old daughter has had sex once with her ‘boyfriend’ who is in the year below her at school . He is 12 . Children’s services aren’t taking it any further but will this affect her in future ? Will it prevent her getting a job working with children or in healthcare ?
David - 7-Sep-18 @ 6:42 PM
Jade - Your Question:
I had sex with somone 6 years older than me when I was 15 a week before my birthday I am 18 now and want a relationship with him if anyone ever found out would he be prosecuted.

Our Response:
We can't really say as we don't have enough information about the circumstances but 6 years is quite a gap if you hadn't reached 16.
LawAndParents - 29-Aug-18 @ 10:59 AM
I had sex with somone 6 years older than me when I was 15 a week before my birthday I am 18 now and want a relationship with him if anyone ever found out would he be prosecuted.
Jade - 26-Aug-18 @ 5:40 PM
Sp- Your Question:
My girlfriend is 15 and lives in care I am 17 and we just found out she is pregnant. Will social services prosecute me when the baby is born even though she will be 16 giving birth?

Our Response:
This will depend on the circumstances and whether the police/CPS consider it to be in the "public interest".
LawAndParents - 24-Aug-18 @ 12:07 PM
My girlfriend is 15 and lives in care I am 17 and we just found out she is pregnant. Will social services prosecute me when the baby is born even though she will be 16 giving birth?
Sp - 21-Aug-18 @ 8:22 PM
I am 15 and my boyfriend is 16, we keep getting told by our parents that we cannot be in the same room together or we shouldn't be in the room together. As they can get in trouble for us to being in the room. My question is can we be in the room together without parents getting in trouble? We don't do anything as we know it's illegal. I have the implant just in case though. Can we or can we not sleep in a bed together at night with someone in the room?
Hayjay - 21-Aug-18 @ 4:26 PM
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
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