Public opinion ignored as NI age of consent lowered to 16

The Government at Westminster has today ignored the will of the people of Northern Ireland and its elected representatives by pushing ahead with plans to lower the age of consent.

A draft sexual offences order was today laid in Parliament by Minister of State, Paul Goggins. It will reduce the age of consent to 16 in the Province.

The move comes in spite of a weight of evidence showing the plan is strongly opposed by the public and politicians of different parties across Northern Ireland.

Just yesterday a majority of MLAs signed a No Day Named motion in the Northern Ireland Assembly saying they were against the proposal.

A public opinion poll published earlier this month showed that three quarters of the public (73 per cent) wanted the age of consent to remain at 17.

In February an Assembly Committee issued a report opposing a reduction. The report was passed unopposed by the full Assembly.

Callum Webster, Northern Ireland Officer of The Christian Institute, said: “This is a slap in the face to the people of Northern Ireland. The public don’t want it. Youth associations don’t want it. Belfast Rape Crisis Centre doesn’t want it. Political parties don’t want it.

“Not only is this undemocratic, but it sends out a dangerous signal to the young people of Northern Ireland. The age of consent is an important child protection measure and lowering it can only cause damage and harm.”

In a statement issued by the Northern Ireland Office, Government Minister Paul Goggins said: “The Order also sets the age of consent at 16 in line with the rest of the UK. We are certainly not encouraging 16 year olds to engage in sexual activity. What this is about is defining the age at which a criminal offence takes place even when consent is given.”