The legal age for young people to consent to have sex is 16. This applies to heterosexual and homosexual sex.
Although it is technically illegal for two fifteen year olds to engage in sexual activity, the Home Office has stated “the law is not intended to prosecute mutually agreed teenage sexual activity between two young people of a similar age, unless it involves abuse or exploitation.”
And young people still have the right to confidential advice on contraception, pregnancy and abortion even if they are under 16.
The government recently reformed and amended the law relating to child sexual abuse in the Sexual Offences Act of 2003. The offences are now split according to age.
All penetrative sex (including penetration of the mouth) of a child aged 12 or younger is classified as rape and carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. A child this old is considered to be incapable of legally giving consent.
Other offences include assault by penetration (with an object or part of the body), sexual assault (any kind of sexual touching), and causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity (this could include making a child strip, or promising them rewards for sexual behaviour).
Assault by penetration has a maximum penalty of life in prison; sexual assault and causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity both have maximum penalties of 14 years in prison.
The following are some examples of the offences where the offender is aged 18 or over (but where the sexual activity takes place between someone below the age of 18 and someone under 16, the offences are similar but carry lower sentences).
Sexual activity with a child
This law covers all intercourse, other penetration or sexual touching of a child and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.
Causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity
This covers causing or persuading a child to engage in any sexual activity, including sexual acts with someone else, or making a child strip or masturbate. Again, the maximum sentence is 14 years in prison.
Engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child
Under this law, it is an offence to intentionally engage in sexual activity when you know that you can be seen by a child, or you believe or intend that they can see you, and where you do this in order to get sexual gratification from the fact that they may be watching you.
Causing a child to watch a sexual act
This makes it an offence to intentionally cause a child to watch someone else taking part in sexual activity for the purpose of your own sexual gratification.
Meeting a child following sexual grooming
Under this new law, if you are over 18 and have communicated with a child under 16 at least twice (including communication by phone or internet) it is an offence to meet them, or travel to meet them, anywhere in the world with the intention of committing one of the offences above.
Arranging or facilitating a child sex offence
This makes it an offence to knowingly arrange or carry out an action in any part of the world which will lead to one of the offences above being committed.
Since most sexual abuse of children takes place in the home, the law now makes it an offence for any child under 18 to engage in sexual activity with a ‘family member’.
Family member now includes foster family, step family and, in some instances, lodgers.
Also, it is an offence for a person working in a position of trust (e.g. a teacher, Connexions Advisor, nurse or carer) to engage in sexual activity with any child under 18. In other cases that age limit would be 16.
LAW Page One ~ Sexual Abuse Laws
Section I: Sexual Abuse Laws
Section II: Sexual Exploitation Laws
Section III: Report Laws
Section IV: Offender Register Laws
Section V: Additional Resources
Law Page Two ~ Internet Crimes Against Children US Justice Department’s Computer Crime Initiative Reporting Internet Crimes US Customs Cash Rewards Protection of Children From Sexual Predators Act of 1998 Brief Overview of Pedophiles on the Web Internet Crimes In the News Child Safety Online: Internet Online Summit You Can Help: Clean Up the Web Research and Statistics on Child Pornography
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LAW Page Three ~ Archive of Abuse LawsSection I: Archive of Abuse Laws Patient Abuse Prevention Act (S1122) Child Protection Act of 1997 (HR2194) Child Abuse Accountability Act (HR1142 ERISA) Safe Havens for Children Act of 1997 (S1129)Also see ~ Protection of Children From Sexual Predators Act of 1998 Volunteers for Children Act, providing for fingerprint checksSection II: Legislative Archives Alaska House Resolution 36 rejects adult-child sex research Delaware Sex Offender ID Driver’s License (04/98) California Law Targets Out-of-State Sex Offenders (8/97) Illinois Legislation Targets Sex Offenders (7/97) Nevada Passes Child Protection Bill (7/97) Connecticut Seeks to Model Kansas Law (7/97) NJ Extends Megan’s Law Mentally Ill Provision (06/98)
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LAW Page Four ~ Archive of Court RulingsSection I: Megan’s Law (State Offender Registry Laws) Supreme Court Upholds Kansas Extended Sentences (06/97) Appeals Court Upholds N.J. Megan’s Law (08/97) Appeals Court Upholds N.Y. Megan’s Law (08/97) Appeals Court Upholds Washington’s Megan’s Law (09/97) Appeals Court Upholds Connecticut’s Megan’s Law (09/97) Limitations of Megan’s Law (01/98) And more on Megan’s Law …. Section II: Other Court Rulings NJ Holds Pedophile Wife Responsible to Warn (05/97) Church, U.S. priest ordered to pay $120 million (07/97) U.S. Judge Backs Law Against Child Pornography (08/97) US Appeals Court Upholds Child Porn Law (02/99) And other updated court rulings ….
Also see ~ Index to Topics on Sex OffendersTop of Page ~ End of Page
Page Five ~ Child Law Guides & Publications Training Curriculum for Judges on Adjudicating Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse When Custody is in Dispute. Guide for Child Protective Services. Understanding & Investigating Child Sexual Exploitation.
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