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Underage Sex: How to Protect Your Children

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 24 May 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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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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