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Age of Consent

Volume 454: debated on Wednesday 13 December 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will assess the merits of amending legislation governing the sexual age of consent so as to introduce a within five years rule. (107679)

The Government have no intention of changing the law in relation to the age of consent. The issue was considered as part of the Review of Sexual Offences in 1999 and the public consultation which followed, “Setting the Boundaries; Reforming the law on sex offences” (Home Office, July 2000), which preceded the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Responses were received from a wide range of practitioners and members of the public, and as part of the review process, group discussions were held with secondary school children aged between 14-16 years.

Guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service in relation to sexual activity with a person under 16, allows prosecutors considerable discretion in deciding whether or not to prosecute. In deciding whether it is in the public interest to prosecute, prosecutors should take into account the age of the parties concerned, the emotional maturity of the younger party and whether he or she entered into the relationship willingly, and the nature of the relationship between the parties.