Lords vote to lower NI age of consent

The House of Lords has approved moves to lower the age of consent in Northern Ireland to 16, in spite of widespread opposition.

Lord Morrow’s attempt to keep the age of consent at 17 through an amendment to the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order was defeated by 146 votes to 66.

Both Houses of Parliament have now approved the proposal meaning the measure will become law.

During the Lords debate the Government came under heavy criticism for forcing through the Order in spite of the Northern Ireland Assembly being against it.

The public was also opposed to the move. An opinion poll showed that 73 per cent of people in Northern Ireland want to keep the age of consent at 17.

Sex education groups and leading youth organisations in Northern Ireland say the move will send out the wrong message to young people.

Twice as many youngsters have sex before their 16th birthday in England, Scotland and Wales compared to Northern Ireland.

Rates of sexually transmitted infections are more than double and teenage conceptions are significantly higher than in the Province.

Addressing the House, Lord Morrow said: “The proposal in the order to lower the age of consent in Northern Ireland is extremely unpopular.

“This is not isolated posturing from obscure and self-appointed guardians of public morals; this is comprehensive opposition from every field and strata of society and, most significantly, from across the political and religious divide.”