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Comment: Young people tell us the age of consent should stay at 16

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  1. de Villiers 18 Nov 2013, 6:05pm

    The age of consent is 15 in France, 14 in Italy and 13 in Spain.

    A number of other countries in the Union Europeean have an age of consent of either 15 or 14 with proper protections against predatory older persons or persons with positions of power and responsibility entering into relationships with younger individuals.

  2. Gary Powell 18 Nov 2013, 6:10pm

    “If we reduced the age of consent to 15, drew a line in the sand and actively discouraged 14 years [sic] from having sex […] we could feasibly be in the position where the law requires prosecution of two 14-year-olds which would be a much worse position than we currently have.”

    But this is exactly the position that we currently have. The age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales is 10. The age of consent is 16. This means two 14-year-olds who have sex are breaking the law, and are supposed to be prosecuted.

    But currently, the police and the CPS seem to turn a blind eye to the thousands of 14- and 15-year-olds having sex with someone of a similar age. So why does a law exist that everyone knows is broken with impunity?

    If the writer believes that 14-year-olds should not be prosecuted for having sex, he should be arguing for the age of consent to be lowered to 14, perhaps with the legal restriction that a partner may be no more than 2 years older than the 14-year-old is.

    1. The author was responding to the suggestion that, as well as lowering the age of consent to 15, we should crack down more on under-15s having sex (this does seem to be what is being suggested by Ashton). I generally agree that it is a bad idea to have laws that are not enforced in practice, but I’m not sure there is much of an alternative when it comes to the age of consent – there are always going to be grey areas.

    2. Midnighter 22 Nov 2013, 2:20pm

      The author’s argument on this point is clearly a slippery slope fallacy which also – as you point out – disregards the status quo.

      For this particular argument to hold water we need an explanation as to how a reduction of the age of consent in law would necessarily have to be done in such a way as to remove the ability of judges (and the police) to exercise the considerable judgement which they already do.

      This particularly nonsensical argument undermines the credibility of the rest of what is said, and led me to re-read it with a more critical eye. Like Paul Brownsey I’m now left feeling that I need some credible substantiation for the claims that this is truly what young people want. On the basis of my experience as as secondary school teacher I’d be very surprised if there was anything like such an easy consensus.

  3. Gary Powell 18 Nov 2013, 6:22pm

    If our legal system is to be respected, we must not have laws that are treated as though they do not exist. Currently, the age of consent law is treated as though it does not exist by the tens of thousands of 14- and 15-year-olds who have sex with someone of a similar age. They are able to do this because the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, and successive governments treat the age of consent law as though it does not exist for this category of person.

    My reading of Simon’s article, if I have grasped it correctly, is that his opposition to lowering the age of consent to 15 is based on the fear that, if this happens, the age of consent law will then be enforced for young teens, and that 14-year-olds will start to get prosecuted, which is perceived as a bad thing.

    Whether or not that is a bad thing, it is certainly a bad thing to have laws that are treated as though they do not exist. Better to amend the law to what is workable, and then to enforce it properly.

  4. Paul Brownsey 18 Nov 2013, 7:54pm

    This man says, “So what do young people tell us?
    They tell us they want it to remain at 16. They say it makes it clear when we think it is about the right time to have sex if they are ready.”

    He doesn’t provide any evidence that this is what “young people” (several million of them!) think.

  5. It definitely should stay at 16 at 15 you are technically still a child at 16 you are classed as a young adult plus at fifteen you aren’t emotionally ready for it and could end up pregnant it’s kind of hard to imagine my kid 15 year old brother doing IT he’s not at an age to understand what it means instead of just ‘getting release’ to me it means more than that it establishes a connection between two people who love and care for each other at 15 you won’t understand that I know I wouldn’t have at that age. So STAY at 16 for goodness sake

    1. You are “technically” still a child because that is what the law states. The law can change, hence this discussion. Your argument appears to be that “it is the law so we shouldn’t change the law” which is clearly silly.

      Stating that you are not emotionally ready for sex at 15 is ambigious, unsubstantiated and a generalisation. There is no simple measure to determine whether “this individual is ‘ready’, whereas that one is not”. There is not such a consensus in the medical profession, hence other countries have allowed for lower ages, and clearly individuals mature at differing rates so a blanket decree of when one is ready is by definition going to be unfair in a large number of cases.

      Of course you don’t want to think about a sibling having sex, and perhaps he’s an immature boy. On the other hand children grown up deceptively quickly, and if you believe he’s suddenly going to be a different person on his 16th birthday then I don’t think you’ve really thought this through.

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