Children & Young People
Consent and sexual offences
One of the important things to remember when it comes to sexual offences is that the victim does not agree for it to happen. In law, the word used to describe when a person does agree for something to happen is ‘consent’. If you do not give consent and sexual activity happens anyway, it is likely the person you were with has committed an offence.
Consent is therefore very important and when deciding consent a court will want to look at lots of different factors including what the perpetrator did to make sure that you did consent.
Reasonable belief in consent
If the perpetrator believes that you did consent to the sexual activity (even though you didn’t) then they are not guilty of the offence. The belief has to be reasonable, however, this means the perpetrator can’t just say that he honestly thought you were okay with it and he will not be guilty. The police and court have to look at what happened and decide whether a reasonable person would think that the victim was okay for it to happen, it is important that this is explored by the police in the investigation. For more information about consent that is used by police and the cps, please click here.
Does it matter that I am under 16?
Yes - age is important when thinking about whether a person can say yes to sexual activity.
If someone has sexual activity with a child under 13 years old then it is a criminal offence whether the child agrees to it or not. This means if it happens, then the perpetrator is guilty. The maximum punishment he can receive is to be sent to prison for life. This is because the law says that under 13 a child cannot decide properly whether or not to engage in sexual activity. At 13 years old and over it becomes very important whether or not you agreed to engage in sexual activity with someone and you can be asked questions about this by the police and in court.
You may have heard that 16 is the ‘age of consent’ and therefore it is against the law to have sex with someone under the age of 16 even if the young person wants to do it. If you consent to sexual activity and you are under 16, it is still automatically an offence if:
It is against the law for you and your boyfriend/girlfriend to have sex if you are under 16 and/or he/she is under 16. The law, though, is there to protect you, and it is extremely unlikely that the police will take action (if they came to know about it) against two young people who have had sex and both of them wanted to do it. It is important, however, to use contraception when having sex to protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy.
I have had sexual activity with someone: can they be taken to court?
I am under 13
It is likely that any sexual activity someone has with you is a serious criminal offenceand they could receive a lengthy prison sentence. It does not matter whetheryou wanted to have sexual activity or not. If you are both, for example, 12 yearsold, then the police may not want to investigate but other people, such as social
workers and those who care for you may want to give you advice and information
to keep you safe.
I am under 16
I am over 16
I wanted toI didn’t want to
No offence unless person you were with is a teacher or carer and you were under 18 years old.
Offence of rape/sexual assault/assault by penetration or causing someone to engage in sexual activity depending on what happened.
Special measures – protections to help you
After you give your witness statement, or perhaps before, the police should talk to you about protections available for you that, should your case go to court, make you feel more comfortable about giving evidence in court. These protections are called special measures. Examples are: