Age of Consent -- United Kingdom

coolteensites.net
[Cool Teen Sites]

Updated 01-2001:

Source:  http://www.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts2000/20000044.htm#1



Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000
2000 Chapter 44     ARRANGEMENT OF SECTIONS   Section

1.Reduction in age at which certain sexual acts are lawful.
2.Defences available to persons who are under age.
3.Abuse of position of trust.
4.Meaning of "position of trust".
5.Notification requirements for offenders under section 3.
6.Meaning of "sexual offence" for the purposes of certain enactments.
7.Short title, construction, commencement and extent.

An Act to reduce the age at which, and to make provision with respect to the circumstances in which, certain sexual acts are lawful; to make it an offence for a person aged 18 or over to engage in sexual activity with or directed towards a person under that age if he is in a position of trust in relation to that person; and for connected purposes.

[30th November 2000]

BE IT ENACTED by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Commons in this present Parliament assembled, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949, and by the authority of the same, as follows:-

Reduction in age at which certain sexual acts are lawful.
1. - (1) In the Sexual Offences Act 1956-
(a) in subsections (1A) and (1C) of section 12 (buggery); and
(b) in sub-paragraphs (a) and (b) of paragraph 16 (indecency between men etc.) of Schedule 2 (punishments etc.),
for the word "eighteen" there shall be substituted the word "sixteen".

(2) In the Sexual Offences Act 1967- 
(a) in subsections (1) and (6) of section 1 (amendment of law relating to homosexual acts in private), for the word "eighteen" there shall be substituted the word "sixteen"; and
(b) in section 8 (restriction on prosecutions), for the word "twenty-one" there shall be substituted the word "sixteen".

(3) In section 13 of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995 (homosexual offences)-
(a) in subsections (1) and (5)(c), for the word "eighteen"; and
(b) in subsection (8), for the word "18",
there shall be substituted the word "sixteen".

(4) In paragraphs (1) and (5) of Article 3 of the Homosexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 1982 (homosexual acts in private), for the word "18" there shall be substituted the word "17".

(5) Section 145 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (which is superseded by this section) is hereby repealed.

Defences available to persons who are under age.
2. - (1) In section 12 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956-
(a) in subsection (1), after the words "subsection (1A)" there shall be inserted the words "or (1AA)";
(b) in subsection (1A), after the word "circumstances" there shall be inserted the word "first"; and
(c) after that subsection there shall be inserted the following subsection-

"(1AA) The other circumstances so referred to are that the person is under the age of sixteen and the other person has
attained that age."

(2) In section 13 of that Act (indecency between men)- 
(a) after the words "another man", in the first place where they occur, there shall be inserted the words "otherwise than in the
circumstances described below"; and
(b) at the end there shall be inserted the following paragraph-
"The circumstances referred to above are that the man is under the age of sixteen and the other man has attained that age."

(3) In subsection (1) of section 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 1967-
(a) the words from "a homosexual act" to the end shall become paragraph (a); and
(b) after that paragraph there shall be inserted the words "and

(b) a homosexual act by any person shall not be an offence if he is under the age of sixteen years and the other party has attained that age."

(4) In section 13 of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995, after subsection (8) there shall be inserted the following subsection-

"(8A) A person under the age of sixteen years does not commit an offence under subsection (5)(a) or (c) above if he
commits or is party to the commission of a homosexual act with a person who has attained that age."

(5) In paragraph (1) of Article 3 of the Homosexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 1982-
(a) the words from "a homosexual act" to the end shall become sub-paragraph (a); and
(b) after that sub-paragraph there shall be inserted the words "and

(b) a homosexual act by any person shall not be an offence if he is under the age of seventeen years
and the other party has attained that age."

Abuse of position of trust.
3. - (1) Subject to subsections (2) and (3) below, it shall be an offence for a person aged 18 or over-
(a) to have sexual intercourse (whether vaginal or anal) with a person under that age; or
(b) to engage in any other sexual activity with or directed towards such a person,
if (in either case) he is in a position of trust in relation to that person.

(2) Where a person ("A") is charged with an offence under this section of having sexual intercourse with, or engaging in any other sexual activity with or directed towards, another person ("B"), it shall be a defence for A to prove that, at the time of the intercourse or activity-
(a) he did not know, and could not reasonably have been expected to know, that B was under 18;
(b) he did not know, and could not reasonably have been expected to know, that B was a person in relation to whom he was in a position of trust; or
(c) he was lawfully married to B.

(3) It shall not be an offence under this section for a person ("A") to have sexual intercourse with, or engage in any other sexual activity with or  directed towards, another person ("B") if immediately before the commencement of this Act-
(a) A was in a position of trust in relation to B; and
(b) a sexual relationship existed between them.

(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable-
(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to a fine not exceeding the statutory
maximum, or to both;
(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or to a fine, or to both.

(5) In this section, "sexual activity"-
(a) does not include any activity which a reasonable person would regard as sexual only with knowledge of the intentions, motives or feelings of the parties; but
(b) subject to that, means any activity which such a person would regard as sexual in all the circumstances.


http://uk.news.yahoo.com/001130/79/aqkxq.html

Thursday, 30 November, 2000, 14:49 GMT
Gay consent at 16 to become law

The age of consent for homosexuals in Britain is set to be reduced from 18 to 16 by late on Thursday. [see follow-up reports for details] The House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin has announced that the government is using special powers to push the measure through Parliament. The Speaker told MPs that the rarely used Parliament Act had been invoked to
get the measure onto the statute book. The move is going ahead in the face of bitter opposition from the House of Lords and religious leaders. This means that the bill to equalise the age of consent for homosexuals could complete its journey through Parliament by late on Thursday. For the first time the Bill will see gay men and lesbians have the same age of consent as heterosexuals. The age of consent for gay men had previously been 18. The age of consent in Northern Ireland [both gay and straight] will be 17.


Special powers
Ministers were entitled to use the special powers granted under the Parliament Act after the measure was approved twice in the Commons, but blocked in the Lords.

But Baroness Young, the former Tory minister who has led the Lords campaign against the Bill, said the government's decision was "a constitutional outrage". "The Commons never had an opportunity to look at the compromises we put up. "It has never been sent back to MPs. It is a classic example of by-passing parliament," she said. Lady Young ruled out a legal challenge against the government's use of the Parliament Act, saying that she had been advised against it. But she pointed to a poll in Tony Blair's Sedgefield constituency which said 70% of Labour supporters were against the government using the Parliament
Bill on the issue.

"This is a piece of legislation driven by Metropolitan, London attitudes and is completely out of step with the rest of the country," she told a news conference. Gerald Howarth, Conservative MP for Aldershot, said he was seeking a meeting
with the Speaker to urge him not to use the Parliament Act on legislation that has been rejected by the House of Lords and has not been debated by MPs.  "A lot of us have put him (Mr Speaker) under pressure to exercise his independence from the executive and assert his function to protect the rights of MPs.  "I shall seek to do that, but we only have a few hours left - it is a tight timetable."

Religious objections
Earlier, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph, religious leaders pleaded with the government to think again, to "protect young  people of both sexes from the most dangerous of sexual practices". Among the 17 signatories are Archbishop of Canterbury   George Carey, Cormac Murphy-O'Connor head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Yousof Bhailok, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Great Britain. 

Moral objections
The letter says: "There are strong moral and health objections to what is proposed, which also goes against the beliefs of many religious people - Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs.   "The Bill has been subject to a free vote in both Houses, and should be a matter of conscience. We believe that the Parliament Acts should not be used on this Bill."   Gay rights campaign Stonewall said the religious leaders had "missed the point" about the proposed new law.   "This bill is about the principle of equality and principle of protecting young people," Stonewall spokesman Sebastian Sandys told BBC News Online.
"The Archbishop and his co-signatories cannot cherry-pick the law because they disagree with the House of Commons.
"It is a perfectly proper use of the Parliament Act. "Most other civilised countries in the world have an equal age of consent
and we do not believe that the dire predictions of the Archbishop and Baroness Young have any basis in reality."
- - -
(extract from Euroletter #84, on-line at:
http://www.steff.suite.dk/eurolet.htm )


 

 

Via Email - 11/2000:
Lesbians
There is no age for lesbian sex laid down in statute. However, a girl under 16 is deemed not capable of consenting to any sexual behaviour which could be classed as sexual assault. The courts have taken this to mean an age of consent for lesbians of 16.

Gay men
Under the 1967 Sexual Offences Act homosexual acts are not illegal as long as both parties consent and both have reached the age of 18 (formerly 21). Homosexual acts are defined in law as ‘buggery’ or ‘gross indecency’. In 1996 the European Court found in the case of Sutherland v UK the UK’s unequal age of consent laws were in violation of the European Convention on
Human Rights.  The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, which will lower the age of consent for gay men from 18 to 16, has successfully completed all its stages in the House of Commons. It will be debated in the Lords after the 2000 summer recess and the Government has given an undertaking to the European Court that it will become law in this session.

 

Via Email - 09/2000:
The age of consent for homosexuality was reduced to 16 years of age in England, Scotland and Wales in June 2000. It was passed by a large majority in the House of Commons and was given an unopposed reading in the House Of Lords. The bill gained Royal Assent in July 2000. If the House of Lords, which had already rejected the proposed bill twice (1998/1999), had opposed the change of legislation the Parliament Act would have been invoked ensuring the passage of the Bill into law.

The UK laws on sexual consent are very complex and the present Labour Government intend to review all legislation pertaining to sexual acts. That is, it will no longer be an offence for two men to kiss in public, that it will no longer be an offence for more than two consenting males to take part in a sexual act at the same time (though this part of the original legislation, 1967, is very rarely invoked).

Section 28, the legislation which prevented the 'promotion of homosexuality in schools' was to have been repealed in the last parliamentary session. It was passed by a large majority in the lower house but again was rejected by the unelected House of Lords. In Scotland, the same legislation, known as Section 2A, was repealed by the Scottish Parliament in June 2000 and has received Royal Assent. You now have the interesting situation where it is quite legal in Scotland to openly discuss homosexuality in schools and offer support to school age gay males but not in England and Wales. It is worth pointing out that no prosecution has ever been brought under Section 28.

Finally though the ages of consent for all sexual activity has been equalised at 16 years there is a caveat. That is 'no one with direct responsibility for 16-17 year old males and females may have a sexual relationship with this age group'. This would apply only to schoolteachers, youth workers, foster parents. In other words if you teach a 16 year old you may not have sex with him/her.

 

 

Via Email Date Wed, 09 Feb 2000 185037 GMT
Dear Sir
Your "no laws" for f/f is wrong.   It is 16. If a woman has oral sex, kisses, or touches sexually a girl under 16 it is Indecent Assault ( Sexual Offences Act, 1956) - Maximum Penalty 10  yrs. If they are bouth under 16 then they both "indecently" assault each  other so in theory it's an offence too. Also hetrosexual anal sex is 18, in law it is the same as m/m anal sex. Also  it is an offence if a third person is present, even if it is in a private house, as the law calls it "public".

11/15/99 via EMAIL:

In the United Kingdom, it is illegal for a male, of any age, to have sexual intercourse with a female under 16 (17 in Northern Ireland), and only the male is guilty of a crime. If a person 16 or over, of either sex, has sexual intercourse with a person under 13, of either sex, the child is legally incapable of giving consent, and the older person is guilty of statutory rape. 

The age of consent for male homosexual intercourse (the actual word used in the statute is "buggery") is 18. If one or both of the partners is under 18, they are both guilty of a crime. Homosexual intercourse is illegal, at any age, if there are more than 2 people present. There are no laws relating to lesbian relationships, so sexual intercourse between females is permitted at any age. 

An amendment to the Crime and Disorder Bill (the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, available at Her Majesty's Stationery Office - http://www.hmso.gov.uk) which would have reduced the homosexual age of consent to 16 was passed by the House of Commons (the elected chamber), but was rejected by the House of Lords (the unelected chamber, composed of hereditary peers, whose only qualification for membership of parliament is their birth, life peers, appointed by the Prime Minister, "Law Lords", our equivalent of supreme court justices, and Bishops of the Church of England, the established state church, who are also appointed by the Prime Minister). The Government did not insist on the amendment in order to save the rest of the Bill.

Another attempt was made to equalize the ages of consent with the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill (Parliament has been prorogued and a new session begins this week, so the Bill is no longer available on the Internet), which was passed by the House of Commons, but rejected by the House of Lords. This Bill would have reduced the homosexual age of consent to 16 (17 in Northern Ireland, in line with the heterosexual age of consent), and, where one partner was 16 or over and the other under 16, only the partner over 16 would be guilty of a crime. It would also have prohibited sexual intercourse between a person 18 or over and a person under 18, where the person 18 or over is "in a position of trust in relation to" to person under 18 (unless they are married). Only the person 18 or over would commit a crime. This would apply to homosexual and heterosexual relationships.

It is possible that the government will reintroduce the Bill in the parliamentary session beginning Wednesday 17th November 1999. It is less likely to be rejected again by the House of Lords as the hereditary peers have had their voting rights removed by the House of Lords Act 1999 (available at http://www.hmso.gov.uk). The hereditary peers are mainly upper-class landowners who are members of the Conservative Party, and are generally resistant to liberalization of the sex laws. The Conservatives retain a majority in the House, but Prime Minister Tony Blair has appointed many Labour peers, and this is likely to continue, so the House of Lords will challenge the House of Commons less often.

If the Bill is not passed by the House of Lords in this session, the government has the power to submit the Bill for Royal Assent (a formality - last refused in 1706) without it having been passed by the Lords. This is due to the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949, which provide that when there is a dispute between the two Houses of Parliament, the will of the elected House of Commons shall prevail. If the government support this Bill, it will become law in 2000.

There is also a possibility that the law in Scotland may change before it changes elsewhere in the UK, if the new Scottish Parliament, an entirely democratically elected body with a Labour/Liberal coalition administration, passes a Bill to change the law. The Scottish government has announced that it intends to repeal a provision of the Local Government Act 1988 which prohibits local authorities (counties, cities, etc.) from promoting homosexuality as a lifestyle, and has totally excluded homosexuality from school sex education programs. This will be repealed by the Scottish Education Bill, which will be enacted next year.

The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are dependencies of the British Crown, and have the Queen as their head of state, but are not part of the United Kingdom, and have their own legislatures, although the British Parliament has the power to legislate for them, and British Acts of Parliament take precedence over local ones. However, the British Parliament does not usually interfere in their internal affairs. Homosexual intercourse has been legalized in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, in the face of considerable opposition, and ages of consent vary.

 

 

From: David McKelvey   d.mckelvey@sg.gut.edu.au
To: "'research@ageofconsent.com'"
Date: Wed, 28 Oct 1998 12:45:05 

Age of Consent site had the following:
"United Kingdom: A law was passed on 22nd June, 1998 lowering the gay age of consent to 16. It will be enacted later in the year. This was required by the European Parliament."

Greetings from Brisbane,

I am a member of the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Team of Amnesty International in Australia.

You are right that the proposed law was passed by the UK's House of Commons in June 1998.

However, I regret to inform you that the law was not passed by the House of Lords (the upper house) and therefore the age of consent laws have not changed in the UK.

Amnesty International advocated for the reduction of the age of consent in the UK and continues to campaign towards this end.

Keep up the great work. I'm sure that your site will be a great reference point.

I am also involved with the Queensland Association for Gay and Lesbian Rights http://qaglr.queer.org.au so please keep us informed QAGLR@queer.org.au of any developments with your site.

Regards David McKelvey Co-convenor, GLBT Team Amnesty International Australia E-mail: Amnesty@queer.org.au Visit our website: http://www.amnesty.org.au

------------------

Date: Fri, 5 Feb 1999
TO: editor of 'Age of Consent' website
From: Matthew Waites, PhD student, South Bank University, London, United Kingdom.

I'm a PhD student nearing completion of a thesis which explores the changing rationale for 'age of
consent' legislation in the U.K. since the late nineteenth century, particularly legislation in relation to
'homosexuality'. My sincere thanks to you for setting up and updating your excellent website, which
is extremely necessary.

Below are two potential contributions to the site, which I hope you will find satisfactory. The first
relates to international comparisons, and might be included in your 'Comments' section. The second
is intended for inclusion as accompanying notes on the United Kingdom.

The content of the U.K. section implies that you need to change the U.K. age for female-female sex
from none to 16; and that you may soon need to change the male-male age to 16 as well, if current
legislative proposals are accepted. Please contact me: I would love to know more about your
interest in this subject.

Matthew

SOURCES ON INTERNATIONAL COMPARISONS OF THE AGE OF CONSENT. From:
Matthew Waites, PhD research student. Address: Faculty of Humanities and Social Science, South
Bank University, 103 Borough Road, London, SE1 OAA, United Kingom.
Email: waitesma@sbu.ac.uk

There appears to be a lack of authoritative sources comparing 'age of consent' legislation between
states; hence the need for this website. However: The first English language academic text devoted
to the subject is planned for late 1999: Donald Mader and William A.Percy (forthcoming) 'The Age
of Consent' (New York: Haworth Press). The planned text will include chapters on the age of
consent from a variety of disciplinary perspectives: historical, philosophical, medical, psychological
and political etc, together with authoritative summaries of American and global laws. For further
information, contact: D.H.Mader, Waterloostraat 155, NL-3062, TM Rotterdam, The
Netherlands.

A comprehensive survey of European age of consent laws was conducted by Peter Tatchell in
1992, published as: Peter Tatchell (1992) Europe in the Pink: Lesbian and Gay Equality in the New
Europe (London: Gay Men's Press). This contains some legal background info. as will as simply the
basic ages.

An IBSS (British Library of Political and Economic Sciences) literature search of books and
journals reveals little on international age of consent issues. One exception[I haven't read it yet]:
L.R. Helfer 'Finding a consensus on equality - the homosexual age of consent and the European
Convention on Human Rights' in New York University law review, Oct 1990, Vol.65, No.4,
p.1044 [fin]

UNITED KINGDOM The legal framework is extremely complex. The phrase 'age of consent'
nowhere appears in the law. A key source of information on the framework surrounding age of
consent law in the U.K.is a report by a Home Office working party, set up to examine the issue in
the late 1970s. See: Policy Advisory Committee on Sexual Offences (April, 1981) 'Report on the
Age of Consent in Relation to Sexual Offences', Cmnd.8216 [ie.government publication] (London:
HMSO [Her Majesty's Stationery Office]). There is virtually no social scientific academic work on
the age of consent in the U.K.. For a short introduction, see: Matthew Waites "Sexual citizens:
legislating the age of consent in Britain'; in Terrell Carver and Veronique Mottier (eds.)(1998)
'Politics of Sexuality: Identity, gender, citizenship' (London: Routledge).

On the law relating to homosexuality, see: Leslie J.Moran (1996) The Homosexual(ity) of Law
(London: Routledge). What follows is a SKETCH (others feel free to amend). It requires particular
clarification re:oral sex. Male-Female Sex: The legal age for [vaginal] sexual intercourse between a
man and a woman was raised from 13 to 16 by the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act, and has
since remained unchanged. This created an age below which intercourse with a female was
criminalised for all men above the U.K.'s age of criminal responsibility (10), though the female was
considered a victim, not herself criminal. This legislation did not apply to oral or anal sex, on which
is regulated elsewhere. Historically there has been no clearly defined age of consent for the male
having sex with a female. Female-Female Sex: There is no legislation in the U.K. which is intended
to apply to sexual acts between women.

However, the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, section 52, has the effect of defining all sexual
acts with girls aged below 16 as 'indecent assault on a woman' (Recodified in 1956 Sexual Offences
Act, section 14). Recent legal cases have appropriated nineteenth century laws to create an age of
consent of 16 for sex between females. Male-Male Sex: The framework of laws governing sex
between men derives from various pieces of legislation. The 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act's
'Labouchere Amendment' created the crime of 'gross indecency', covering all sexual acts between
males, though the same acts had [arguably] previously had the potential for prosecution as 'buggery'
or 'attempted buggery' via the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. The 1967 Sexual Offences
Act partially decriminalised homosexuality, stating, with reference to England and Wales only, that 'a
homosexual act in private shall not be an offence provided that the parties consent thereto and have
attained the age of twenty-one years'.

In 1980 the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act, section 80, replicated this partial decriminalisation, and
created an age of consent of 21 in Scotland. In 1994 an amendment to the Criminal Justice and
Public Order Bill lowered the age of consent to 18 in England Wales and Scotland. On 1st May
1997 a Labour government was elected, having given undertakings to facilitate a free vote on
equalising the age of consent during its term of office. 7.10.97 European Court of Human Rights
ruled in favour of Euan Sutherland that a differential age of consent contravenes the European
Convention on Human Rights (Article 8, the right to respect for private life, inconjunction with
Article 14, the right to be free from discrimination). See: 'Euan Sutherland against the United
Kingdom, application no.25186/94, Report of the Commission',
http://www.dhcommhr.coe.fr/eng/25186R31.E.html 21.10.97 U.K. government agrees a formal
settlement with Euan Sutherland, lodged with the European Court, guaranteeing to facilitate a free
vote 'at the earliest appropriate opportunity'. 22.6.98 House of Commons (elected) votes in favour
of reduction to 16 (equality). 22.7.98 House of Lords (unelected) votes against reduction to 16.
28.7.98 House of Commons agrees to abandon equality amendment until following parliamentary
session, when a governemnt bill to achieve equality is promised. 30.7.98 New Home Office
Working Party to examine all Sexual Offences legislation established. 16.12.98 Sexual Offences
(Amendment) Bill, 'First Reading' in House of Commons - a government bill to reduce the age of
consent for sexual acts between men to 16. For copy of bill, see:
http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm199899/cmbills /010/1999010.htm 25.1.99
Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill debated at 'Second Reading' in Commons; House of Commons
again votes in favour of equality. 28.1.99 [unrelated]

The Channel Island of Guernsey's governing body voted in principle to lower the 'gay age of
consent' from 21 to 18, and full legislation is expected within six months.
5.2.99 Latest update on battle for equality: amendments to the bill are being considered in
'committee stage'; it will then progress to the House of Lords, who may again block equality. If this
occurs, the government may invoke special powers to force the legislation through the Lords.

For regular updates on the campaign for an equal age of consent in the U.K, and details on how to
get involved, see: http://www.stonewall.org.uk/aoc/ http://www.outrage.cygnet.co.uk/ Best wishes
to all age of consent scholars/campaigners! Matthew Waites Faculty of Humanities and Social
Sciences South Bank University 103 Borough Road London SE1 OAA United Kingdom Tel. 0171
815 5806 Email: waitesma@sbu.ac.uk

 



The age of consent

The age of consent for gay men, the age at which it is legal for a man to have sexual intercourse with another man of the same age or over, has been the subject of much debate in England recently. Although currently set at 18 in England, gay rights campaigners and a wide range of organisations that work with young people have been pressing the government to bring the age of consent down to 16, in line with the heterosexual age of consent.

Such a reduction is supported by the Government in England and was added to a piece of legislation that has recently been debated by Parliament, the highest legislative body in the United Kingdom. All Bills drafted by the government have to pass through Parliament, which is divided into two Houses, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. After a Bill has successfully gone through Parliament, the Bill goes before the Queen to receive Royal Assent, essentially just a rubber-stamping procedure.

The House of Commons is composed of MPs (Members of Parliament) who are directly elected every 4 years by citizens of the United Kingdom aged 18 or over. The bill that included the reduction of the age of consent for gay men was overwhelmingly passed by the House of Commons, by 336 votes to 129. The Bill had been personally endorsed by the leaders of the 3 main parties in that House. However the House of Lords opposed a reduction to the age of consent for gay men and rejected the Bill by 290 votes to 122. This result, although generally unexpected, could have been foreseen as the House of Lords is composed of Bishops and government appointed peers, and is not generally regarded as being in touch with public sentiment.

However the majority in the House of Lords was so large that the government has had to drop the clause from its flagship Crime and Disorder Bill in order to allow the rest of the Bill to be passed. The government is likely to re-introduce the change to the age of consent in the Autumn either as a short Bill in its own right, or as a clause in the forthcoming Criminal Justice Bill.

Reducing The Age of Consent

The gay age of consent often stirs up strong emotions in people and both supporters and those opposed to a reduction use a wide range of arguments to support their positions. Those who oppose the age of consent being reduced tend to argue on the grounds of morality and sexual immaturity. Supporters of a reduction of the gay age of consent argue on both health and equality grounds.

The Case Against

The recent English experience of trying to reduce the gay age of consent summarised many of the objections that are often raised around this area. Led by Lady Young, it was argued that the general public simply did not want to see a lower age of consent for gay men, and this was supported by the findings of an opinion poll. Secondly, it was argued that equalisation of the age of consent implied an equality with heterosexual relationships that simply does not exist. Homosexual relationships are, by definition, inferior to heterosexual relationships and should not be encouraged by placing them on an equal legislative footing with heterosexual relationships.

The higher rates of HIV infection and cases of AIDS amongst gay men in the UK were also used as an objection against lowering the age of consent. One peer remarked that the spread of HIV was as a result of "loose living". Another added, "Do we really want to open the floodgates of suffering even further than they are already?" A further consequence could be that young men who have prematurely tried homosexuality may "find it hard to escape".

A similar argument revolves around the level of maturity a young man of 16 will have reached. Opponents of a reduction of the gay age of consent believe that many young men go through a phase of hero worship, or general confusion about their sexuality, that passes with time. A reduction of the age of consent would lay such young men open to sexual exploitation by predatory older gay men.

The consequences of lowering the age of consent for gay men in terms of future legislation are often argued by clergymen. Some believe that such an equalisation would have the effect of undermining the position of marriage in society and inevitably lead to calls for the legalisation of gay marriages.

The Case For

Those who support a reduction in the age of consent argue on quite similar grounds to those who oppose it. An equal age of consent, it is argued, can only contribute to a greater sense of self-esteem and lessen the sense of alienation and inferiority many young gay men have. It is estimated that around a quarter of gay men try to kill themselves during their lives, and American studies have revealed gay teenagers were two to three times more likely to kill themselves than their straight peers.

Secondly, as research has shown, many young people are aware of their sexual orientation by the time they are 16. Keeping the gay age of consent at 18 is therefore going to be ineffective, as young gay men who are 16 and want to be sexually active are unlikely to be deterred by an age of consent set at 18. After all, the heterosexual age of consent appears to be an ineffective deterrent, judging by the high number of underage teenage pregnancies.

Reducing the age of consent could serve to improve the physical as well as the mental health of young gay men. By lowering the age of consent to 16, young men would feel far more inclined to seek advice and support from their families, friends and doctors. An equal age of consent would particularly help teachers in England who are currently very confused about the law in relation to gay pupils, and such an opportunity to resolve the misconceptions in this situation would be welcomed.

Far more compelling for Parliament however is that if they do not equalise the ages of consent, a change will be forced upon them. As a result of a deal brokered in 1997, the British government agreed to introduce legislation to equalise the ages of consent in return for the suspension of a law suit being pursued by a young gay British man through the European Court of Human Rights. A report by the European Commission had already supported the young man saying that the current age of consent was an infringement of the European Convention on Human Rights and seriously interfered with his "right to respect for his private life". If the UK government does not address this breach of the European Convention of Human Right, it risks being censured by the European Court, which would be highly embarrassing for the government.


 

And now a message from a politician -- we received this via email.

Age of Consent at 14?

A reduction in the age of consent for homosexuals to 16 could be a step to lowering the general age of consent even further in years to come, according to the Evangelical Alliance UK.

Gay-rights group Outrage make no secret of their desire to set the age of consent at 14.

Martyn Eden, public affairs director of the Evangelical Alliance, said: "Arguments about equality and justice sound very plausible from a distance but we fear a vote to lower the age of consent to 16 on Tuesday will not stop the campaign to reduce the age of consent yet further.

"A reduction in the age of consent will send out the wrong signal to young people at a time when Britain suffers from one of the worst rates of teenage pregnancies and unmarried mothers in the world. We should be upholding the Christian tradition and telling youngsters it is okay to say no, rather than encouraging them to further experiment with sexual activity."

He added: "There are only two valid positions we can uphold as Christians. The first is that sex is only ever valid between man and wife within a lifelong heterosexual marriage. The other is celibacy."

The Evangelical Alliance recognises however that there is likely to be a majority in the House of Commons in favour of the proposed changes and is urging MPs to support the amendments tabled by Joe Ashton, Crispin Blunt and Jacqui Lait. These seek to protect boys and girls under 18 from exploitation from older persons in positions of authority, influence and trust.

The Evangelical Alliance, an umbrella body reflecting the views of more than one million Christians in 30 denominations, has written to 5,000 church leaders, encouraging them to write to their MPs and urging them to pray that Parliament will uphold the 2,000 year old Judeo-Christian tradition. In Partnership with CARE and the Christian Institute, the Alliance has also written directly to MPs warning them of the dangers of lowering the age of consent.

 

FYI:  The island is called Ireland, but it is divided into two
jurisdictions. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom,
governed from London. The remainder of the island is a separate
state, the Republic of Ireland, with its government in Dublin.

 

Source:  http://www.interpol.int/Public/Children/SexualAbuse/NationalLaws/

United Kingdom
Royaume Uni de Grande-Bretagne et d'Irlande du Nord
Reino Unido de Gran Bretaņa e Irlanda del Norte
London



I. Ages for legal purposes
Age of simple majority
The legal age of majority is eighteen (18) years.

Age of consent for sexual activity
The legal age of consent for sexual activity is sixteen (16) years, but eighteen (16) years for homosexual males.

Age of consent for marriage
The legal age of consent for marriage is sixteen (16) years.

Marriage Act 1949, section 2 :

" A marriage solemnised between persons either of whom is under the age of sixteen (16), shall be void. "


II. Rape
‘Rape’, Section 1 of the " Sexual Offences Act 1956 "
"(1) It is an offence for a man to rape a woman.
(2) A man who induces a married woman to have sexual intercourse with him by impersonating
her husband commits rape. "
Mode of prosecution : on indictment Punishment : imprisonment for life
Punishment for an attempt to commit this offence : imprisonment for life
For the purposes of Section 1 of the " Sexual Offences Act 1956 ", a man commits rape if :
a) he has unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman who at the time of the intercourse does not consent to it ; and
b) at that time he knows that she does not consent to the intercourse or is reckless as to whether she consents to it.
(Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1976, section 1)

III. Other forms of child sex abuse
‘Procurement of a woman by threats’, Section 2 of the " Sexual Offences Act 1956 "
"(1) It is an offence for a person to procure a woman, by threats or intimidation, to have unlawful sexual intercourse in any part of the world.
(2) A person shall not be convicted of an offence under this section on the evidence of one witness only, unless the witness is corroborated in some material particular by evidence implicating the accused. "

‘Sexual intercourse with a girl under thirteen (13)’, Section 5 of the " Sexual Offences Act 1956 "
" It is an offence for a man to have unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of thirteen (13). "
Mode of prosecution : on indictment Punishment : imprisonment for life
An attempt to commit this offence is punishable with imprisonment not exceeding seven years.
This is a class 2 offence.

‘Sexual intercourse with a girl under sixteen (16)’, Section 6 of the " Sexual Offences Act 1956 "
" (1) It is an offence, subject to the exceptions mentioned in this section, for a man to have unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of sixteen (16).
(2) (...)
(3) A man is not guilty of an offence under this section because he has unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of sixteen (16), if he is under the age of twenty-four (24) and has not previously been charged with a like offence, and he believes her to be of the age of sixteen (16) or over and has reasonable cause for the belief. "
Mode of prosecution : on indictment ; a prosecution may not be commenced more than twelve months after the offence charged. Punishment : imprisonment for 2 years
An attempt to commit this offence is punishable with two years of imprisonment.

‘Meaning of sexual intercourse’, Section 44 of the " Sexual Offences Act 1956 "
" Where, on the trail of any offence under this Act, it is necessary to prove sexual intercourse (whether natural or unnatural), it shall not be necessary to prove the completion of the intercourse by the emission of seed, but the intercourse shall be deemed complete upon proof of penetration only. "

‘Incest by a man’, Section 10 of the " Sexual Offences Act 1956 "
" (1) It is an offence for a man to have sexual intercourse with a woman whom he knows to be his grand-daughter, daughter, sister or mother.
(2) In the foregoing subsection " sister " includes half-sister and for the purposes of that subsection any expression importing a relationship between two people shall be taken to apply notwithstanding that the relationship is not traced through lawful wedlock. "
Mode of prosecution : on indictment ; a prosecution may not be commenced except by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Punishment : If with a girl under thirteen (13), and so charged in the indictment, imprisonment for life ; otherwise seven years.
Punishment for an attempt to commit this offence : If with a girl under thirteen (13) who is stated to have been so in the indictment, seven years of imprisonment ; otherwise two years.

‘Incest by a woman’, Section 11 of the " Sexual Offences Act 1956 "
"(1) It is an offence for a woman of the age of sixteen (16) or over to permit a man whom she knows to be her grandfather, father, brother or son to have sexual intercourse with her by her consent.
(2) In the forgoing subsection " brother " includes half-brother, and for the purpose of that subsection any expression importing a relationship between two people shall be taken to apply notwithstanding that the relationship is not traced through lawful wedlock. "
Mode of prosecution : on indictment ; a prosecution may not be commenced except by or with the
consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Punishment : imprisonment for 7 years    Punishment for an attempt to commit this offence : imprisonment for 2 years

‘Buggery’, Section 12 of the " Sexual Offences Act 1956 "
" (1) It is an offence for a person to commit buggery with another person or with an animal. "
Mode of prosecution : on indictment
Punishment : If with a boy under the age of sixteen (16) or with a woman or animal, imprisonment
for life.
Punishment for an attempt to commit this offence : If with a boy under the age of sixteen (16) or
with a woman or animal, ten years.

‘Gross indecency’, Section 13 of the " Sexual Offences Act 1956 "
" It is an offence for a man to commit an act of gross indecency with another man, whether in public or private, or to be a party to the commission by a man of an act of gross indecency with another man, or to procure the commission by a man of an act of gross indecency with another man. "
Mode of prosecution : on indictment
Punishment : If committed by a man of or over the age of twenty-one (21) with a man under that
age, five years of imprisonment ; otherwise two years.

Punishment for an attempt to procure the commission by a man of an act of gross indecency with another man : If the attempt is committed by a man of or over the age of twenty-one (21), to procure a man under that age to commit an act of gross indecency with another man, imprisonment for five years ; otherwise 2 years.

‘Indecent assault on a woman’, Section 14 of the " Sexual Offences Act 1956 "
" (1) It is an offence, subject to the exception mentioned in subsection (3) of this section, for a person to make an indecent assault on woman.
(2) A girl under the age of sixteen (16) cannot in law give any consent which would prevent an act being an assault for the purposes of this section.
(3)-(4) (...) "
Mode of prosecution : on indictment   Punishment : imprisonment for 10 years

‘Indecent assault on a man’, Section 15 of the " Sexual Offences Act 1956 "
" (1) It is an offence for a person to make an indecent assault on a man.
(2) A boy under the age of sixteen (16) cannot in law give any consent which would prevent an act being an assault for the purposes of this section.
(3)-(5) (...) "
Mode of prosecution : on indictment  Punishment : imprisonment for 10 years

‘Abduction’, Section 17 of the " Sexual Offences Act 1956 "
" (1) It is an offence for a person to take away or detain a woman against her will with the intention that she shall marry or have unlawful sexual intercourse with that or any other person, if she is so taken away or detained either by force or for the sake for her property or expectations of property.
(2) (...) "

‘Abduction of an unmarried girl under eighteen (18) from parent or guardian’, Section 19 of the " Sexual
Offences Act 1956 "
" (1) It is an offence, subject to the exception mentioned in this section, for a person to take an unmarried girl under the age of eighteen (18) out of the possession of her parent or guardian against his will, if she is taken with the intention that she shall have unlawful sexual intercourse with men or with a particular man.
(2) A person is not guilty of an offence under this section because he takes such a girl out of the possession of her parent or guardian as mentioned above, if he believes her to be of the age of eighteen (18) or over and has reasonable cause for the belief.
(3) In this section " guardian " means any person having the parental responsibility for or care of the girl. "
Mode of prosecution : on indictment   Punishment : imprisonment for 2 years

‘Abduction of an unmarried girl under sixteen (16) from parent or guardian’, Section 20 of the " Sexual Offences
Act 1956 "
" (1) It is an offence for a person acting without lawful authority or excuse to take an unmarried girl under the age of sixteen (16) out of the possession of her parent or guardian against his will.
(2) In the foregoing subsection " guardian " means any person having parental responsibility for or care of the girl. "
Mode of prosecution : on indictment  Punishment : imprisonment for 2 years

‘Indecency with children under fourteen (14)’, Section 1 (1) of the " Indecency with Children Act "
" (1) Any person who commits an act of gross indecency with or towards a child under the age of fourteen (14), or who incites a child under that age to such an act with him or another shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, to a fine not exceeding the prescribed sum, or to both. "

IV. Child prostitution
‘Procuration of a girl under twenty-one (21)’ Section 23 of the " Sexual Offences Act 1956 "
" (1) It is an offence for a person to procure a girl under the age of twenty-one (21) to have unlawful sexual intercourse in any part of the world with a third person.
(2) A person shall not be convicted of an offence under this section on the evidence of one witness only, unless the witness is corroborated in some material particular by evidence implicating the accused. "
Mode of prosecution : on indictment   Punishment : imprisonment for 2 years
Punishment for an attempt to commit this offence : imprisonment for 2 years

‘Allowing premises to be used for intercourse’, Section 25 of the " Sexual Offences Act 1956 "
" It is an offence for a person who is the owner or occupier of any premises, or who has, or acts or assists in , the management or control of any premises, to induce or knowingly suffer a girl under the age of thirteen (13) to resort to or be on those premises for the purpose of having unlawful sexual intercourse with men or with a particular man. "

‘Causing or encouraging prostitution, etc., of a girl under sixteen (16)’, Section 26 of the " Sexual Offences Act
1956 "
" (1) It is an offence for a person to cause or encourage the prostitution of, or the commission of unlawful sexual intercourse with, or of an indecent assault on, a girl under the age of sixteen (16) for whom he is responsible.

(2) Where a girl has become a prostitute, or has had unlawful sexual intercourse, or has been indecently assaulted, a person shall be deemed for the purposes of this section to have caused or encouraged it, if he knowingly allowed her to consort with, or to enter or continue in the employment of , any prostitute or person of known immoral character.

(3) The persons who are to be treated for the purposes of this section as responsible for a girl are (subject to subsection (4) of this section)-
a) her parents ;
b) any person who is not a parent of hers but who has parental responsibility for her ; and
c) any person who has care of her.
(4) (...)
(5) If, on a charge of an offence against a girl under this section, the girl appears to the court to have been under the age of sixteen (16) at time of the offence charged, she shall be presumed for the purposes of this section to have been so, unless the contrary is proved. "
Mode of prosecution : on indictment    Punishment : imprisonment for life

‘Causing or encouraging prostitution, etc., of girl under sixteen (16)’, Section 28 of the " Sexual Offences Act
1956 "
" (1) It is an offence for a person to cause or encourage the prostitution of, or the commission of unlawful sexual intercourse with, or of an indecent assault on, a girl under the age of sixteen (16) for whom he is responsible.

(2) Where a girl has become a prostitute, or has had unlawful sexual intercourse, or has been indecently assaulted, a person shall be deemed for the purposes of this section to have caused or encouraged it, if he knowingly allowed her to consort with, or to enter or continue in the employment of, any prostitute or person of known immoral character.

(3) The persons who are to be treated for the purposes of this section as responsible for a girl are (subject to subsection (4) of this section)-
a) her parents ;
b) any person who is not a parent of hers but who has parental responsibility for her ; and
c) any person who has care of her.
(4)-(5) (...) "
Mode of prosecution : on indictment   Punishment : 2 years of imprisonment

‘Man living on the earnings of prostitution’, Section 30 of the " Sexual Offences Act 1956 "
" (1) It is an offence for a man knowingly to live wholly or in part on the earnings of prostitution.
(2) For the purpose of this section a man who lives with or is habitually in the company of a prostitute, or who exercises control, direction or influence over a prostitute’s movements in a way which shows he is aiding, abetting or compelling her prostitution with others, shall be presumed to be knowingly living on the earnings of prostitution, unless he proves the contrary. "

‘Living on earnings of male prostitution’, Section 5 of the " Sexual Offences Act 1967 "
" (1) A man or woman who knowingly lives wholly or in part on the earnings of prostitution of another man shall be liable-
a) on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months ; or
b) on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years. "

V. Child pornography
‘Indecent photographs of children’, Section 1 of the " Prosecution of Children Act 1978 "
" (1) It is an offence for a person -
a) to take, or permit to be taken, any indecent photograph of a child (meaning in this Act a person under the age of sixteen (16)) ; or
b) to distribute or show such indecent photographs ; or
c) to have in his possession such indecent photographs, with a view to their being distributed or shown by himself or others ; or
d) to publish or cause to be published any advertisement likely to be understood as conveying that the advertiser distributes or shows such indecent photographs, or intends to do so.

(2) For purposes of this Act, a person is to be regarded as distributing an indecent photograph if he parts with possession of it to, or exposes or offers it for acquisition by, another person.

(3) Proceedings for an offence under this Act shall not be instituted except by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

(4) Where a person is charged with an offence under subsection (1)b) or c), it shall be a legitimate defence for him to prove -
a) that he had a legitimate reason for distributing or showing the photographs or pseudo-photographs or (as the case may be) having them in his possession ;
b) that he had not himself seen the photographs or pseudo-photographs and did  not know, nor had any cause to suspect, them to be indecent. "

The Protection of Children Act 1978 (penalising, taking and distribution of indecent photographs of children) is extended to cover ‘pseudo-photographs’, negatives and data stored on a computer disc or other electronic means. A ‘pseudo-photograph’ is defined as being an image, whether made by computer graphics or otherwise, which appears to be a photograph. Section 160 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which penalises the possession of such photographs, is similarly extended as is
the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982.s52. and the Protection of Children (Northern Ireland)
Order 1978.

‘Possession of Indecent Photograph of a Child’, Section 160 of the " Criminal Justice Act 1988 ", as amended by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994

" (1) It is an offence for a person to have any indecent photograph of a child or pseudo-photograph.
(2) Where a person is charged with an offence under subsection above, it shall be a defence for him to prove -
a) that he had a legitimate reason for having the photograph or pseudo-photograph in his possession ; or
b) that he had not himself seen the photograph or pseudo-photograph and did notknow, nor had any cause to suspect, it to be indecent ; or
c) that the photograph or pseudo-photograph was sent to him without any prior request made by him or on his behalf and that he did not keep it for an unreasonable time.

(3) A person shall be liable on summary conviction of an offence under this section to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding LEVEL 5 on the standard scale, or both.

(4) Section 1(3), 2(3), 3 and 7 of the Protection of Children Act c) shall have effect as if any reference in them to that Act included a reference to this section.

(5)Possession before this Section comes into force (d) is not an offence. "

Update 06-23-01:
Hi, I am writing from the UK and here is some info recently in a court case a 12 year old girl was made pregnant by a 14 year old boy and the court decided in their wisdom that there was no case to answer and the young lady has since given birth. Hooray for sanity! In my opinion consent is being willing and as we all have brains let everyone make the decision or (consent or not consent) whatever there age, age does not matter I have known some people who are mentally 10 years old at 40 and some 10 year olds with a 40 year brain.  I am proud to say I lost my virginity at 14 years when I played "Dare, True or Promise" with a 12 year old girl. She dared me to put my hand inside her panties which I did, then I said is it true "You would like to see my dick?" and she said "Yes" so I proudly showed her my erect dick and from there we soon were naked and enjoying each other till we finally got around to intercourse and she was a virgin as well, as she proved when I "broke he in". I have always been grateful to that young lady and I think the feeling was mutual. Regards

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR:   Copyright holders:  We are not trying to assert any rights to your article.  We operate as a repository with a virtually unlimited storage capacity.  We capture and store articles to prevent loss due to system crashes and the space limitations that most sites operate under.  We will remove your article if you wish.  This is a non-profit site.  AgeOfConsent.com is a repository of both legal and commentary information on laws relating to sexual activity.  We do not, and can not offer any legal advice or provide any legal counsel.  Do not write to us requesting our advice or suggestions -- your email will be ignored.  This web site and its contents are in no way affiliated, funded, or regulated by any Local, State, Federal or International government agency or governing body.  Information contained on this site has been provided by readers and/or has been discovered through the research of volunteers.  Other than cursory review, no efforts have been made to independently verify the current status of the legal statutes contained in these page nor whether any cases used as examples are still precedent.   Do not rely on this information to make legal decisions.  You should contact a legal advisor in your area for a proper determination of law on any questions you might have.  Any emails and other user comments and opinions included on this site are the opinions of the creator of the message and are not necessarily those of this site, its editors, advertisers or other affiliated entities.