The Christian Institute

News Release

Plans to make sex ‘legal’ at 13 in Northern Ireland

Children as young as 13 could legally have sex with each other under radical plans being proposed by the Northern Ireland Office. Teenage sex could be legalised when there is no more than a 3 year age gap. In these cases the age of consent is lowered to 13. Other plans include repealing a law which bans sex in public toilets and legalising ‘mini brothels’. A public consultation on the proposals ends on Friday.

Under the new law, a young adult will be able to have sex with a child aged 13 or above providing that both parties consent and that there is no more than a 3-year age gap between the two parties. Critics fear this could encourage older teenagers to pressurise younger teenagers into having sex.

Applying equally to homosexual and heterosexual behaviour, the following would become legal:

  1. An 18-year-old boy could commit buggery on a 15-year-old boy.
  2. A 16-year-old boy could have sex with a 13-year-old girl.
  3. Two 13-year-olds could have sex.

Colin Hart, Director of the Christian Institute, said: “Peter Hain’s plans are dangerous and irresponsible. They send out the message that children are fair game for sex. By effectively lowering the age of consent to 13, the Government is turning back the clock 120 years to the situation before the 1885 law. Children are put at enormous risk because their absolute legal protection is removed. The current age of consent law deems a child under 17 to be incapable of giving their consent. So any sexual activity under that age is automatically unlawful. Under the new plans an innocent child could face a traumatic cross-examination in the witness box over whether they consented. Their absolute protection is lost.”

“Changing the law in this way naively exposes children to the manipulation of predatory older teenagers and young adults. An emotionally and physically mature 18-year-old man could coerce a child 3 years younger, male or female, into sexual activity without any legal repercussions. This is particularly alarming because, according to the Home Office, one third of all sex offenders are children.”

“If mini-brothels get the go-ahead there will be an alarming increase in sex trafficking and children coerced into prostitution. Other plans to downgrade the law covering homosexual activity in public lavatories are so weak that in practice they will effectively legalise sex in public toilets.”

Note for editors: A fuller briefing is available on our website

It was the tireless Christian campaigner Josephine Butler who succeeded in getting Parliament to pass the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act, the law that still applies in Northern Ireland to protect children and to make brothels illegal.