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Underage Sex: How to Protect Your Children

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 30 Nov 2019 |
 
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]
Okay. so my boyfriend is a drug addict and he beats both me and his son, his son is 15, and i'm 37, and hes raped me on multiple occasions. I liked it but if i reported it as rape would he get in trouble and not me? By the way my boyfriend gives his son drugs when doesn't know, so this may be the reason his hormones are acting up.
Veronica - 30-Nov-19 @ 12:36 PM
My 13 year old daughter as thought about taking thing to next level with her 15 year old boyfriend. Would this be against the law if he persuaded her to sleep together or she did It off her own!??
Kev - 27-Nov-19 @ 6:52 AM
I’m 14 and dating a 15 year old he’s nearly 16 if I have a baby I don’t want him prosecuted what are the consequences
Alicia - 25-Oct-19 @ 2:02 PM
I have a boyfriend who is 17 and I’m 14 we both really want a baby but I don’t want him to get prosecuted what can I do
Kate - 22-Sep-19 @ 11:01 PM
my 13 year old daughter has recently started dating this boy . they get a long really well and they never seem to be fighting . i always see them in bed together but they are not up to any mischief . but one night i came into the bedroom and starting tickling them when it came to my attention that they were in the nude . what should i do ? he is 25 by the way .
jimmy_tickles - 10-Aug-19 @ 8:18 AM
my 6 year old daughter has recently started dating my 17 year old nephew . she came home and said he tried to eat a banana suggestively and of course my daughter doesn’t have a penis so is he then gay because this puts us in a tight position as we want them to marry next year
jemimaolijide - 10-Aug-19 @ 8:13 AM
Hi my son is 12 years old and lives in a childrens home and a 15 years old girl got my son to run away amd slept with him gave him live bites etc
Kim - 9-Aug-19 @ 8:57 PM
My daughter has just turned 15 and has had a baby. However, the babies father is 18 years old. Will he be prosecuted? We are in NI don't know if laws differ.
Mj - 30-Jul-19 @ 2:13 PM
My 15 year old daughter has just had a baby and the father is 18 years old. Will he be prosecuted?as she can't consent because of her age according to social services.
Mj - 30-Jul-19 @ 2:10 PM
Myson became a father at 15 she was 17 nearly 18 could she be prosecuted ?
M.c - 1-Jul-19 @ 1:09 PM
My 14 year old son sleeps at his girlfriend's house on weekends his mam and I are divorced .his girlfriend is 15 her mother consents to them sleeping together is this against the law.
Mike - 20-Jun-19 @ 11:37 AM
If I was 13 and pregnant would I have the kid tooknof me and would he be arrested ?
No need - 17-Jun-19 @ 2:05 AM
My 14 year oof son was just accused of having inappropriate touching two weeks agoby his 12 year old friend.He said they were just following around. What is going to happen now?
Sa - 18-Mar-19 @ 1:47 PM
My 14 year old son was just accussed by his twelve year old friend that he Inappropriately touched her two weeks ago.My son says it was consensual... They were just fooling around. He brother was in the room.What is going to,happen?
Sara - 18-Mar-19 @ 1:43 PM
My 14 yo stayed with his girlfriend st her home.Her Mom said it was fine with her.She's 11 almost 12.Mom assured me she could hear anything that went on in her home.Well now that they have broken up the girl is saying they messed around but not all the way but Mom is pushing for her to say they have.My question is they were under her Moms care and she left them alone together which I would not have approved of. What can I do to protect my 14 year old?
BJ - 13-Mar-19 @ 6:46 AM
My sister is 15, (I am 12) and I’m really scared that she will break a law as she has already started vaping having drugs and alcohol. She has grown up in Chelsea but is the most disgusting person literally ever!!!! I wish I had a younger sister
Lifeisscary - 26-Oct-18 @ 7:36 PM
What is the legal situation between an 11 year old & a 15 year old?
Sasy - 21-Sep-18 @ 6:51 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
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
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
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
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
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
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