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Health: Contraception

Volume 707: debated on Tuesday 27 January 2009

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the provision of free contraceptive devices to children under the age of 16 in state secondary schools would constitute aiding and abetting the criminal offence of having sexual relations with a minor under 16 years of age. [HL855]

No. The Sexual Offences Act does not prevent the provision of confidential advice and treatment to young people under 16. Those who provide sexual health services to young people are not committing an offence if they act for the purpose of:

protecting the child from sexually transmitted infection;

protecting the physical safety of the child;

preventing the child from becoming pregnant, or

promoting the child's emotional well-being by the giving of advice.

The exception covers not only health professionals, but also anyone who acts to protect a child—for example, teachers, Connexions personal advisers, teenage magazine advice columnists, parents, other relatives and friends.

The purpose behind the Sexual Offences Act is to enable the prosecution of abusive and exploitative sexual activity. This will not lead to the prosecution of mutually agreed sexual activity within normal adolescent behaviour, where there is no evidence of exploitation.