The Offence of Underage Sex with a Minor
Underage sex with a minor is a topic that has dominated headlines for decades. But what is the actual law surrounding this controversial crime? In this article, we’ll take a look at the legal implications of engaging in underage sex with a minor, as well as the consequences of these actions.
What is the age of consent in the UK?
In the UK, the legal age of consent is 16. The law is there to protect children, and is not there to prosecute two people under the age of 16 who engage in mutually consensual sexual activity. However, in the interests of protecting younger children, anyone aged under 13 is not able to legally give consent, even if proof of the consent is shown in court.
Sexting and the law
In recent years, ‘sexting’ has become more and more popular. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it refers to sending text messages, or any other form of communication, of a sexual nature. This could be anything from sending an innuendo-filled message to distributing indecent images or video. It is illegal to engage in sexting, or any other sexual-fuelled communication, with anyone under the age of 18.
Persons in a position of trust
The age of consent may be 16, but if you’re in a position of trust this is raised to 18. A person in a position of trust refers to anyone who is supposed to be looking after the young person, for example teachers, doctors or care workers.
What happens if you’re convicted of having underage sex with a minor?
Legally, having sex with someone under the age of 16 (18 in some circumstances) is seen as sexual assault, and is taken very seriously by the Courts. If you’re over the age of 16 and have sex with a minor, the punishment depends on a variety of factors.
In the UK, rape carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. If the victim is aged 13-15, and the sex was mutually consensual, you could be facing a prison sentence of up to two years. If the victim is under 13 years of age, you could be facing life imprisonment.
The age of criminal responsibility in the UK
In some rare cases, the sexual assault has been committed by a young child. The age of criminal responsibility in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 10. This means that from this age onwards, a child is considered capable of committing a crime and standing trial. Children under this age may be given a local child curfew or placed under a child safety order.
In Scotland, the law is different. The age of criminal responsibility is 8 years of age, but a child cannot be prosecuted until they are aged 12 or older.
I’ve been accused of having underage sex with a minor – what should I do?
If you’ve been accused of serious sexual assault, even if you believe you’re innocent, it’s vital that you seek legal advice from a professional who has experience in this field.
Here at DPP Law, we offer non-judgemental, honest advice on your next steps. Our dedicated legal team have decades of experience in handling complex cases like yours, and work around the clock to secure the best possible results for our clients.
If you’d like to chat with a member of our friendly team about how to move forward with your case, please don’t hesitate to contact us.