Age of consent
The term consent means “free agreement”. The age of consent means the age at which a person is legally allowed to decide to have sex.
- The age of consent for heterosexual sex is 16 for both boys and girls, and 16 for homosexual sex for both boys and girls. This means that it is unlawful for someone who is under 16 to have sex with someone else who is under 16. Both of the young people involved could be convicted for up to 10 years in prison.
- If there is sex between two young people, one under 16 and one under 13, then it is the older one that has committed an offence.
- Any person who has sex with any young person under the age of 13 years could be convicted for life.
- Any person who attempts to, or has sex with any young person over the age of 13 and under the age of 16 could be convicted to up to 10 years in prison.
- The age of criminal responsibility in Scotland is 8 (however it is due to rise to 12), so a person under 16 can be guilty of these offences.
- If someone over the age of 16 years old has sex with someone under the age of 16 then it counts as statutory rape. Even if the person under 16 consented they are not legally allowed to consent so it still counts as rape.
Position of trust
Being in a position of trust is when you are responsible for a young person. Someone in a position of trust could be a parent or carer, a teacher, youth worker, or any other person with trust or authority.
If someone over the age of 18 is in a position of trust to another person younger (e.g. teacher) it is an offence for the person over 18 to have sex or engage in sexual activity with the younger person, even if that younger person is over 16.
It is an offence for anyone to touch another person in a sexual way without their consent, it is classed as sexual assault.
Being the victim of a sexual crime can be very upsetting. If you think you have been the victim of a sexual crime then it is important not to deal with this on your own. Tell a trusted friend or adult. You could also call ChildLine on 0800 1111. They will listen to you and help you decide what to do next.
- If someone claims that you have committed a sexual offence you do not have to answer questions. You can ask for a solicitor to be present and to speak to your solicitor before you speak to the police.
- If someone tells the police that you have been the victim of a sexual offence then giving a statement to the police is voluntary - you can refuse.