Offences Against Children Under 16

THE LEGISLATION

Sections 9 – 13 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 create offences in relation to activity committed with a child under the age of 16.

The offences are:

Section 9 – Sexual Activity With A Child

The elements of the offence are:

(A), aged 18 or over, intentionally touches (B)
the touching is sexual, and either
(B) is under 16 and (A) does not reasonably believe that (B) is 16 or over, or
(B) is under 13

Section 10 – Causing Or Inciting A Child To Engage In Sexual Activity

The elements of the offence are:

(A) aged 18 or over, intentionally causes or incites another person (B) to engage in an activity
the activity is sexual, and
either, (B) is under 16 and (A) does not reasonably believe that B is 16 or over, or
(B) is under 13

Section 11 – Engaging In Sexual Activity In The Presence Of A Child

The elements of the offence are:

(A), aged 18 or over, intentionally engages in sexual activity
(A’s) purpose is to obtain sexual gratification when (B) is present or can observe
(A) knows, or believes, that (B) is aware of the activity or intends that (B) should be aware and, either
(B) is under 16 and (A) does not reasonably believe that (B) is 16 or over, or
(B) is under 13

Section 12 – Causing A Child To Watch A Sexual Act

The elements of the offence are:

(A), aged 18 or over, intentionally causes a child under 16 (B) to watch another person engaging in an activity, or to look at an image of any person engaging in an activity
(A’s) purpose is to obtain sexual gratification
the activity is sexual, and
either, (B) is under 16 and (A) does not reasonably believe that (B) is 16 or over, or
(B) is under 13

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The Issue of Consent

The age of consent, in the main, in the UK is 16. It matters not whether that sexual activity concerns two boys, two girls or a boy and a girl.

Therefore, sexual activity with a person under 16 is unlawful even if it is consensual.

Consent in relation to the above offences is irrelevant.

However, there is a defence if there is a reasonable belief that the child is 16 or over.This does not apply if the child was 12 or under.

What is The Court Procedure?

Sections 9 and 10 are indictable only offences when penetration has occurred and carry a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment. If there is no penetration, the matter can be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court depending on the seriousness of the offence.

The offences in section 11 and 12 are either way offences with the maximum sentence in the Crown Court of 10 years imprisonment.

More details in relation to sentencing guidelines for sexual offences can be found here.

Who Can I Contact For Advice & Help?

It is imperative that you instruct an experienced solicitor as soon as you are aware of an allegation being made.

Crucially, it is always important to have a solicitor present in interview at the police station, whether it is an interview by appointment or under arrest.

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