The age of consent

The age of consent is the age at which a person is considered to be legally competent to consent to sexual acts, and is thus the minimum age of a person with whom another person is legally permitted to engage in sexual activity. The age of consent in the UK is 16, but you might be forgiven for doubting this from accounts of recent sexual scandals.

Though still recognised in the UK law, the age of consent is usually ignored in practice by police, judges, social workers and paediatricians. A recent spate of sex scandals in Oxfordshire and Rotherham, and involving celebrities such as Jimmy Saville demonstrate the disastrous consequences of ignoring the age of consent. For example, in Oxfordshire, 370 young girls fell victim to ‘grooming gangs’. Victims were dismissed by police and care workers as ‘very difficult girls making bad choices. An excellent recent article by Melanie Phillips in the Spectator highlights the background to these scandals (‘Bring back the age of consent’, The Spectator, 14 March 2015); abuse was not only caused by gangs but also by those in authority who refused to accept that sexual activity with girls of 10, 11 and 12 is quite simply illegal.

The introduction of the age of consent at 16 came about from a response to Victorian child prostitution scandals. As such it is the most basic of legal safeguards. We must return to respecting this with all the power that judicial and statutory authority will allow. Yet how important it is that we teach our young people something way beyond the propriety of saving sex until they are 16. Lovewise seeks to raise their sights to the life-long and honourable ambition of staying pure in thought, word and deed both before and after marriage. The fact that the safeguard of the age of consent has so long been ignored by those in authority reminds us how far we have lowered our moral standards as a nation and made our children vulnerable to the sexual desires of adults. As Ms Phillips accurately concludes that we already live in ‘a kind of paedophile society’.

The full article by Melanie Phillips can be found here: