Age of consent

The age of consent is the term used to refer to the age at which you can legally have sex. The age at which sex becomes legal in the majority of cases is 16.


Men and boys

It is a serious criminal offence for a boy or a man to have sexual intercourse with a girl or boy who is under 16, even if she or he agrees to it.

If a boy or man has sexual intercourse with a girl or boy under the age of 13 then they have committed a statutory rape offence regardless of whether the girl or boy agreed to have sex or not.

The only time the man or boy might not be found guilty is if

  • he is under 24,
  • he can also show he genuinely believed the girl or boy was 16 or older,
  • he has never been charged with the same offence before.

There is also a defence if the man thought that the girl was his wife. This could apply if you married in another country where they recognise marriages below the age of 16.

If two young people aged under 16 (but the girl or other boy are over 12) agree to have sex within an emotional relationship, it is not always the case that the boy would definitely be prosecuted, but it is a risk. If so, then the boy could be listed on the sex offenders register.

 

Women and girls

It is a serious criminal offence for a girl or woman to have sexual intercourse with a boy or girl who is under 16, even if he or she agrees to it.

If a girl or woman has sexual intercourse with a boy or girl under the age of 13 then they have committed a statutory rape offence regardless on whether the girl or boy agreed to have sex or not.

The only time the woman might not be found guilty is

  • if she is under 24,
  • can also show she genuinely believed the boy or girl was 16 or older,
  • and she has never been charged with the same offence before.

Also there is a defence if the woman thought that the boy was her husband. This could apply if you married in another country where they recognise marriages below the age of 16.

If two young people under 16 (but the boy or other girl is over 12) agree to have sex within an emotional relationship, it is not always the case that the girl would definitely be prosecuted, but it is a risk. If so, then the girl could be listed on the sex offender register.

 

Group Sex

The law permits group sex for those over the age of 16 years in private as long as everyone consents. Encourage everyone to practice safer sex.

 

Positions of Trust

It is a criminal offence for anyone in a position of trust to force sexual relations on an individual within that trust, or to take advantage of that position of trust in order to encourage sexual relations with individuals in their care. The age of consent rises to 18 if one of the partners is or has been a carer, teacher, youth worker or in any position of trust over the other.