Stormont hears case against lowering NI age of consent

Evidence against lowering the age of consent from 17 to 16 was heard today by a Stormont committee on the Draft Sexual Offences Order.

The committee took evidence from The Christian Institute, which pointed out the importance of protecting children from interrogation to determine whether or not they have consented to sexual activity.

Lowering the age of consent to 16 removes this protection from 26,000 youngsters in Northern Ireland. For this reason, Belfast Rape Crisis Centre has strongly criticised the plans.

The Northern Ireland Office says lowering the age of consent will help agencies deal with teenage sexual health issues.

But Callum Webster, Northern Ireland Officer for The Christian Institute, told the committee: “A lower age of consent will not reduce teenage pregnancy rates.

“Otherwise, the teenage pregnancy rate in other regions of the UK would not be as high as it is”.

Despite this fact Justice Minister, Paul Goggins, claimed that there was “no compelling evidence” against bringing the age down to 16 in line with the rest of the UK.