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Underage Sex: How to Protect Your Children

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 15 Jan 2024 |
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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Tt - 15-Jan-24 @ 10:26 PM
I, caughtmy six years daughter,withmy girl daughter 8 masturbatingyesterday , pleasehowdo i helpmy daughterto comeout of it
Gift - 14-Mar-21 @ 5:41 AM
That first comment is not okay your boyfriend is using you!
Me ;) - 2-Mar-21 @ 7:15 PM
I’m 12 and I have a crush on an 11 Yr old girl. She is very hot. I’m in California is there any legal way to say “I wanna fkkk you”?
WHY???????? - 7-Jan-21 @ 6:54 AM
I totally agree with the comment about, borderline paedophilia.What are you people hoping to achieve.Some of the stories...are fairy tales at best. This is a serious problem and all people are doing is titillating their sick fantasies.Shame on all of you.
Mr plod. - 6-Dec-20 @ 12:20 PM
I'm a 11 year old girl and I'm dating a fourteen year old girlfriend dad knows but not my mom. When I'm around my girlfriend I feel very weird it feels like I want to do more when were alone but then my mind starts to flash some things that get me hyped.it so hard for me to control myself
Nope - 26-Nov-20 @ 9:06 AM
Me and my boyfriend are 15 and we where going to do stuff while my mum was in work but I didn't know she would be back early and as soon as me and my boyfriend got naked my mum walked in my room and know I don't know how to feel as she told his parents which is making me not want to go his house
Anomanous15 - 17-Nov-20 @ 7:24 AM
When I was young, around 11, I was a bad kid. I would sneak out of my house and visit someone who was 3 years older than me. We are together now, but anyways, I would visit her, and I lied to her, saying that I was also 14. After she turned 15, I asked her if she wanted to do it. I knew she would answer "No" but I thought it would be proof that "I was her age" Anyways, I just wanted to share my expirence with this. I knew then, and I know now that it was very wrong, and shouldn't have asked her, or even been dating her. (Don't think i'm a boy. I am bi girl lean and a girl) She is now 25, and I'm 21. She also knows that I lied to her, but after a while she understood why
Eli - 17-Oct-20 @ 6:31 PM
Childline is important also. If you are a child and need support, they are there for you. You deserve care and supportx
Jaz - 9-Aug-20 @ 6:20 AM
The places mentioned before are places to get support in feelings and also home to information on the websites. Sending more care your way x
Jaz - 9-Aug-20 @ 6:00 AM
I don't seem to be able to forward the links, so wanted to mention that there is information on these websites for help and support: - Childline - Time to Change has a list of call lines if anyone wants someone to speak to - NHS a list of mental health support charities to talk to/ email/ text - NHS has information regards to abuse also Sending care x
jaz - 9-Aug-20 @ 5:05 AM
Never have I read such filth. I came to this site for advice, it’s borderline paedophilia
Really??? - 24-Jun-20 @ 3:56 PM
I’m 12 my boyfriend is 16 I might be pregnant but I’m not sure yet I have a way of making money but it’s not legal I want to get emancipated soon and go live with my aunt but I’m scared that my boyfriend to get prosecuted I gave consent but now that I’m reading all this on google I’m terrified that he’s gonna get in trouble as stupid as it sounds I really do love him he’s my bestfriend he’s always there no matter what it probably sounds wrong but age is just a number and love is love in my opinion.!
Anonymous - 9-Jun-20 @ 2:11 PM
my 26 yr old son made his 11 yr old yr old girlfriend pregnaut her belly is real big and she cries from the pain
m20 - 12-May-20 @ 10:53 AM
So i'm an 11 year old girl and im super horny my mom says i act grown and im bossy but i dont think i am also i have my menstrel cycle. And pubic hair on my armpits and down there and a lot of it.
Jaz?? - 30-Apr-20 @ 5:45 PM
I am litterally tripping at the majority of the comments on this site! I thought the first couple was a sick joke, but as I scrolled, all of these comments are sick, twisted, child molesting crap! What is wrong with you people? Your going to hell in a hand bag! I'd hate to be any of you when it comes time to stand before God!
Mark6t9 - 18-Apr-20 @ 4:16 AM
Hi, I would and will allow my kids to sleep and date whoever they want to after they turn 12 years of age. Its their business whom they choose and what age. Why as a society have we started making laws on who people can sleep with. We need to sop all the governing of our body by our government. Our body, our life, our partners.
Prnt - 24-Jan-20 @ 7:55 AM
My 11 year old daughter is dating my 22 year old nephew but she is pregnant I don’t want him to get prosecuted so I wondered if I could change the law ? Could I sue him instead my family needs more money is that legal ?
J.L - 28-Dec-19 @ 2:40 PM
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
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