Understanding Child Sex Offences Committed by Children

The severity of penalties for the offence of sexual activity with a child is well-known – with the potential for custodial sentences reaching 20 years and over for crimes of this kind that feature aggravating factors – but do the same processes and sentencing guidelines apply for child sex offences committed by children?

This is, of course, a highly complex and sensitive issue that should always be managed with care. The solicitors at DPP Law have an excellent track record of providing legal representation for children who have been accused of a wide range of crimes and offences.

Here, we will explore the process of investigating and trying child sexual offences committed by children – as well as discuss relevant laws and regulations and touch on approaches to the education of young people for the prevention of future offences of this kind.

Understanding Child Sexual Offences

Child sexual offences committed by offenders under the age of 18 are on the rise.

This may be attributed to a number of factors – not least the increased ease of access to explicit content and an online culture perpetuated by controversial influencers, coupled with an incomplete understanding of the serious moral and legal consequences of such actions.

Crimes that fall under the umbrella of child sexual offences may include:

  • Non-consensual sexual activity with a minor
  • Forcing a child to watch a sexual act or sexual content
  • The exploitation of children by way of prostitution
  • Coercing a child to engage in sexual activity or to create sexually explicit material
  • Distributing sexually explicit content featuring a child
  • Familial sexual offences involving under-16s

It’s worth noting that, even when it is consensual, sexual activity between two individuals under the age of 16 is technically still a criminal offence.

However, where there are no aggravating factors, instances of this kind rarely result in legal action, as laws surrounding this manner have been created to protect children.

Laws and Regulations

The majority of regulations relating to child sexual offences committed by those both under and over 18 are laid out in the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Where an individual under the age of 18 is the alleged perpetrator, most offences of this kind are tried in the youth court. However, this depends on the existence of any aggravating factors – and serious crimes may still be referred to the Crown Court.

Anyone under 18 who is found guilty of crimes of this kind may face a maximum of five years in custody.

Where the severity of the crime is found to be lesser, or where other mitigating factors come into play, there may also be the potential for Community Orders, Referral Orders or Reparation Orders in place of custodial sentences.

The Role of the Legal System

The laws relating to child sex offences committed by children are in place to protect all young people – a fact that should always be vital in the decision-making process, from investigation to arrest to prosecution and sentencing.

Matters such as aggravating and mitigating factors, the welfare, circumstances and background of each minor involved should be taken extensively into account in each case.

According to the Crown Prosecution Service, the following should be taken into account when handing down a sentence to an offender under the age of 18:

  • The age of the offender – both chronological and emotional
  • The seriousness of the offence
  • The likelihood of further offences being committed
  • The extent of harm likely to result from those further offences

The court should also take into account the Sentencing Council’s guidelines on sentencing children and young people throughout proceedings.

Prevention and Education

Effective education and access to clear information is always a priority when seeking to reduce the number of sexual offences committed by under-18s across the UK.

Trusted adults, educational institutions and local law enforcers often strive to inform young people of the moral and legal issues surrounding sexual activity and consent in a bid to counteract the dangerous content they may be consuming online and from their peers.

What to Do if a Young Person You Know Has Been Accused of a Sexual Offence

If you believe that you, or a young person you know, is likely to be accused of or investigated for a sexual offence, it is vital that you seek legal assistance immediately.

The solicitor you instruct may well be able to collect sufficient evidence to prove that the young person in question had strong reason to believe that the alleged victim was over 16 years of age at the time of the offence – something that could make a significant difference to the outcome of any investigation or trial.

For further information about how the legal experts at DPP Law may be able to assist you or someone you know, do not hesitate to contact us today. To read more, click here.