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There is no defence that the accused believed that the child was older.The age of consent to any form of sexual activity is 16 for both men and women.
It is an offence for a person aged 18 or over to have any sexual activity with a person under the age of 18 if the older person holds a position of trust (for example a teacher or social worker) as such sexual activity is an abuse of the position of trust.The age of consent to any form of sexual activity is 16 for both men and women, so that any sexual activity between an adult and someone under 16 is a criminal offence.The age of consent is the same regardless of gender or sexual orientation.There is no defence of mistaken belief about the age of the child, as there is in cases involving 13–15 year olds.Article 79 of The Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 amended “relevant offence” for section 5(1) of the Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967 to exclude the duty to report information about the commission of an offence under Article 20.Guidance from the Scottish Government acknowledges that not every case of sexual activity in under-16s will have child protection concerns, but young people may still be in need of support in relation to their sexual development and relationships. A range of specific offences protect children under 13, who cannot legally give their consent to any form of sexual activity.
The maximum penalty could be life imprisonment for rape, sexual assault, sexual assault by penetration, or causing a young child to participate in sexual activity.
There are possible defences if the sexual activity does not involve penetrative or oral sex.
These are if the older person believed the young person to be aged 16 or over and they have not previously been charged with a similar offence, or the age difference is less than two years.
Each specifically states that it is not an offence provide information, advice and/or treatment if it is in order to protect the young person’s sexual health, physical safety or emotional wellbeing.
In each UK country, a man would commit rape if he intentionally penetrates with his penis the vagina, mouth or anus of another person, male or female, without that person’s consent or if they are under 13, as young people aged 12 and under are not legally able to give consent to any sexual activity.
The Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 introduced a series of laws to protect children under 16 from abuse.