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: 14 Apr 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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[Add a Comment]
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
I think my 16 year old step son is having sex with a 14 year oldgirl. 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?
Summer18 - 18-Mar-18 @ 2:20 AM
Ive recently found out my precious 13 year old daughter has being courting a nearly 18 year old. He has been texting her he loves her and Ive found out she has been to his parents house in his bedroom with the parents and sister in the house. She says he hasnt touched or kissed her. Any advice what to do? Im at wits end with worry. Im not positive but Ive heard he has an ASBO conviction and on his last warning. Im so worried about the repercussions it may have on my daughter with him being in a gang. Please advise me? Thank you
Jessie - 13-Mar-18 @ 2:55 PM
Bam Bam - Your Question:
Can the doctor tell me if my 11 yr old daughter is having sex if she tell them she doesn't want me to know??

Our Response:
In general a GP must respect confidentiality in all cases (even where teenagers are seeking advice on sex and contraceptives). However under the age of 13 (where sexual activityillegal) there are safeguarding issues and a GP would consider a referral to children's social care.
LawAndParents - 12-Mar-18 @ 10:23 AM
Can the doctor tell me if my 11 yr old daughter is having sex if she tell them she doesn't want me to know??
Bam Bam - 9-Mar-18 @ 5:50 AM
My 13 year old has been having sex with a 21 year old . We did not know until after they had been together several times . She told him she was 18 . How and do I report this as a crime ? And what could the punishments for her be ?
Needhelp - 28-Feb-18 @ 11:48 PM
H - Your Question:
Why hasn't my previous question been acknowledged from the 11th Feb yet others from the 9th and 21st have?

Our Response:
We don't answer all questions sorry. The ones that are answered just depend on resource available at the time. In answer to your question as the article says "It is against the law for children under the age of 16 to have heterosexual or homosexual sex"
LawAndParents - 26-Feb-18 @ 10:25 AM
if a 17 year old girl was to have sex with a 15 year old boy who will turn 16 in a few months and the girl became pregnant what would happen ????
C.T - 23-Feb-18 @ 10:44 PM
Why hasn't my previous question been acknowledged from the 11th Feb yet others from the 9th and 21st have?
H - 22-Feb-18 @ 9:17 AM
Ang - Your Question:
My husband's ex wife has custody of their 4 kids and lives out of state, my husband found out that his ex is letting his 13 year old son live and sleep with a 15 year old girl is there anything my husband can do? What are the laws about this?

Our Response:
We don't know what the laws are in the USA as ours is a UK based website. Here the rules described in the above article apply.
LawAndParents - 21-Feb-18 @ 2:51 PM
My husband's ex wife has custody of their 4 kids and lives out of state, my husband found out that his ex is letting his 13 year old son live and sleep with a 15 year old girl is there anything my husband can do?What are the laws about this?
Ang - 21-Feb-18 @ 2:45 AM
I know 2 teenage girls that have been having sex together for the last 9 months, both were 13 at the start, one turned 14 a month ago and they are still together. Is this legal?
H - 11-Feb-18 @ 7:34 PM
Chris - Your Question:
My 14 year old daughter is in a relationship with a 16 year old boy, they are not having sex, and are always kept an eye on when in the bedroom, can he get into trouble with the police?

Our Response:
If you don't think they're having sex/indulging in sexual activity, it's unlikely you can get in trouble. It's your judgement as to whether they're allowed to be together alone for periods of time etc.
LawAndParents - 9-Feb-18 @ 3:45 PM
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
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