Age of consent lowered to 13 so men are not prosecuted

(44 Posts)
impty Thu 09-May-13 10:26:21

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22459815

So the way to stop old men being prosecuted is to change the law so molesting teenagers is no longer a crime. So says female barrister Barbara Hewson.

She's on twitter btw if you fancy commenting to her directly.

I am outraged at this. I am wondering if she's trying to generate publicity. I can see no other reason for talking such rubbish.

sweetfluffybunnies Thu 09-May-13 10:34:40

Just read this and I can scarcely believe an apparently intelligent woman would come out with such rubbish! Is she attention-seeking, or trying to stir up public debate (hardly necessary at the moment methinks!)

It is so frustrating when this sort of thing happens. She's playing right into the hands of those who seek to mitigate this appalling behaviour.

DeepRedBetty Thu 09-May-13 10:45:59

If crack cocaine was legalised there'd be fewer drug dealers. Same logic...

Startail Thu 09-May-13 10:49:22

I think what she's trying to say, very badly, is we cannot prosecute every man who ever touched a girl aged 13-16 since 1970.

In that she's absolutely correct. Look at the thread in teacher pupil relationships, think back to the casual sexism in the streets, in your holiday jobs, in pubs and Discos in the '80s.

Our daughters need us to look to the future not waste energy on the past.

We need robust, workable child protection laws, not a climate of fear.
Many activities where 13+ DCs would like to join adult computing, cycling, diving, book or technology clubs are made very difficult by CRB rules.

13-18 and in education -21 year olds do need protection under the law, but most off all they like adult Women need to be believed when they raise reasonable concerns.

Recent horrible cases have not needed a change in the law they have required the police to make assumptions about girls from certain backgrounds.

shock wtaf?

sweetfluffybunnies Thu 09-May-13 10:59:57

So are you saying, Startail, that men like Stuart Hall should be allowed to get away with the crimes they commited in the past?

impty Thu 09-May-13 11:10:31

startail if you believe that is what she is saying then the change in the law needs to be about the length of time after a crime is committed whether it can still be brought to trial. However many of the incidents were reported earlier just swept under the carpet snd not followed through

The age of consent should not be lowered to 13. I dont think its ok for an adult to kiss or fondle a 13 year old at all ever.

If children cannot join adult classes because of crb checks thats ok by me. Prevention of sexual abuse is much better than prosecution after the event.

My daughters need me to be vigilant on their behalf. They need their innocence protected and they need me to be strong and tell them what is and isn't acceptable.

Groping and sexism has never been acceptable to me, in the past or now. I am sorry that some women have had to tolerate it in their past but I never have.

Startail, firstly the CRB no longer exists, it merged with the ISA last year and became DBS. Secondly, there are fairly strict rules over when a Protection of Children Act check is required. To over check when one isn't required, is illegal.

Will we be able to prosecute all historical offenders? Of course not. Should that mean that we condone what they did? Hell no!

We do need to look forward and ensure that children and teens have proper, workable safety in place. That doesn't mean we should also shrug off and minimalise what has happened to previous victims.

flatpackhamster Thu 09-May-13 11:26:54

impty

The age of consent should not be lowered to 13. I dont think its ok for an adult to kiss or fondle a 13 year old at all ever.

The age of consent is a largely artificial construct as is evidenced by the varying age of consent around the world. 13 in Spain, 14 in Portugal, for example, although there are caveats for that (can't have an old geezer going after a 13-year-old, for example).

But you're OUTRAGED, which is super. I don't think there's enough OUTRAGE at things on MN. OUTRAGE is far better than rationally looking at the evidence and thinking things through, and it takes far less time.

impty Thu 09-May-13 11:32:14

Hamster, please bare in mind when you are condescending me that this would never happen in reference to the gay age of consent. Girls are far less valuable, far less important than their male counterparts.

We must protect boys from predatory men but girls thats ok.

Yes I find that outrageous. Hth.

HuevosRancheros Thu 09-May-13 11:40:08

The strange thing is, she's not even talking about lowering the age of consent because 14 year olds want to have sex with each other, which is one thing.

She wants to do it so that older men don't get in trouble when they are "touching a 17-year-old's breast, kissing a 13-year-old, or putting one's hand up a 16-year-old's skirt" as they are "not crimes comparable to gang rapes and murders". hmm angry

No, they are not such serious crimes, but they are abuse of a vulnerable young person, which is horrific.

Cannot believe she is serious about this.

wonderstuff Thu 09-May-13 11:56:01

I read the reporting on this - though couldn't get onto the article she actually wrote - I imagine the site has lots of traffic this morning.

I'm saddened by this, it seems across the judical system there are people who support her views, there are many examples of judges giving men very lenient sentences and even offering sympathy to sexual preditors - the judge who in his summing up, after finding a man guilty of abusing his disabled step-daughter , said that she was 'hardly an angel' and that he hoped the man got his job back, springs to mind. A culture of not taking these crime seriously seems to exist. I am heartened that her chambers have expressed shock and distanced themselves from her article.

I think the age of consent is right. I am a little concerned that operation Yew Tree will/has turned into a witchhunt. But I think that the evidence is that people very rarely lie about sexual assult, that often victims have been disbelieved and that men could in the past comfortably assume that they would get away with these crimes, conviction rates being so low, victims so rarely believed.

I can understand the difficulty in prosecuting for crimes that happened so long ago, but the fact is that often these crimes are not reported for years after the event.

The most positive thing to come out of operation Yew Tree is that finally we are taking the testemony of women and girls seriously. Until very recently the girls most vunerable to abuse were the ones least likely to be taken seriously - I hope this is now changing.

EverybodysStressyEyed Thu 09-May-13 12:16:05

I read the spiked article and two things stood out

In the article she says that raising the age of consent from 13 to 15 was done due to Victorian attitudes. She points out that puberty in those days was at 15 and today it is 10.

She also comments that policing of sexual morals is wrong and likens it to homosexuality being illegal

The woman needs a lesson in child psychology. Hitting puberty does not suddenly make you a mature adult. We protect under 16s because they do not have the maturity to consent or understand te consequences of their actions. They are far easier to manipulate.

Comparing the abuse of children to the illegality of a sexual act between two consenting adults is also way off the mark

Recently Jeremy irons came out and said he enjoys touching women and any woman worth her salt would tell him to fuck off if she didn't like it. To me that attitude shifts the responsibility onto the victim. But I think a lot of people see groping that way - an advance to be rebuffed or accepted. They don't recognise that the act itself can be intimidating, unpleasant or scary.

boxershorts Thu 09-May-13 12:21:43

Its not going to happen in UK

flatpackhamster Thu 09-May-13 12:45:55

impty

Hamster, please bare in mind when you are condescending me that this would never happen in reference to the gay age of consent.

Why not? Because you say so?

Girls are far less valuable, far less important than their male counterparts.

I struggle to see how you managed to produce this assumption from the article. You remind me slightly of the 'looking for a fight' people that one occasionally sees in bars.

We must protect boys from predatory men but girls thats ok.

Yes I find that outrageous. Hth.

How lucky that you're OUTRAGED then. It seems to me that you're assuming, based upon zero evidence, that this would never happen in reference to the gay age of consent, and then you assume, based upon zero evidence, that there is some sort of sexism taking place and some sort of state-managed agenda.

Spiked is a contrarian online magazine. It approaches its stories from a left-libertarian angle.

wonderstuff Thu 09-May-13 12:57:42

I think that it is reasonable to assume there would be a lot more opposition to lowering the male age of consent. I remember the debate around lowering it to 16, many people were opposed. It was very very recently that it was 21.

I hope the principle that both girls and boys are equally vunerable remains the basis for law. The idea that it should be lowered so that men aren't bared from relationships with very young girls or boys is pretty grim actually.

I have worked with young victims of sexual assult - I think that anyone contemplating a change in law to allow that assult to happen inside the law should spend some time with young victims. Pretty sure they would change their minds.

impty Thu 09-May-13 13:26:00

Hamster, always interesting to get the male perspective.

As for looking for fights in bars, I doubt we frequent the same establishments.

Please read ALL the comments so you can understand how the topic flowed.

I know its terrifiying, but the rest of us (grown ups) can manage to discuss, and move topics forward.

Its frankly amusing to me that one word has had such a massive affect on you. Odd.

Dervel Thu 09-May-13 13:49:49

Hamster what is in this instance particularly wrong with being outraged? I can be outraged by something, and engage my intellect and examine the facts and discuss them rationally. The two states are not mutually exclusive.

Also as far as the original post goes, I believe Impty's original proposition which I think sums up the asinine article very well is perfectly valid. If you want to debate the facts calmly and rationally yourself can I assume you agree that with this daft barrister? If so why, and how do you support it?

annatanner Thu 09-May-13 14:18:51

Startail - agree wholeheartedly. What an excellent, common-sense post.

KRITIQ Thu 09-May-13 21:10:05

Haven't time to look at the article in detail, but she's got a couple of things wrong from your account of it Stressy-eyed.

Under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, the age of consent was 12, although "unlawful carnal knowledge" with a girl 10-12 was only considered a misdemeanour. It was only in 1875 the age of consent was raised to 13. Journalist WT Stead and feminist campaigner Josephine Butler fought to raise the age to 16 to tackle the widespread exploitation of young working class girls sold into prostitution - primarily purchased by wealthy men, especially for their sons to "practice on." The age was raised to 16 in 1885.

Butler also campaigned against the Contagious Diseases Act, which saw women detained, forcibly examined and publicly humiliated if accused of being a prostitute. (Although the law was supposedly meant to tackle the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, it only applied to women.)

Victorian values? Depends on how you look at it.

You are right about physical development having no connection to emotional or psychological development. Some girls have precocious puberty at age 7 or 8. If anyone thinks that means they are able to make fully informed decisions about engaging in sexual relationships with adults, they're talking utter rubbish.

EverybodysStressyEyed Thu 09-May-13 21:19:39

interesting kritiq - she made out that the age was raised to 16 because some powerful men got caught in a scandal and everyone went po faced about it!

EverybodysStressyEyed Thu 09-May-13 21:21:08

should clarify - she doesn't say it in a convincing way but the bits i paraphrased were presented as fact - but the way she writes shows a bias

NiceTabard Thu 09-May-13 21:32:33

Stuart Hall, amongst his other crimes, assaulted a 9yo, and a count of rape has been left on file.

This woman is going all out to minimise his actions. Anyone who thinks he is being "persecuted" does not have their head screwed on right.

She is not presenting a coherent and thoughtful argument about reducing the age of consent. She is suggesting that the age of consent be lowered in order to protect men like Stuart Hall and Jimmy Saville from facing prosecution. She is basically saying, well you can't expect dirty old men to keep their hands out of little girls knickers so let's legalise it.

And on this thread and the other one, people - who were once girls themselves for chrissakes - are saying they agree! The mind boggles.

NiceTabard Thu 09-May-13 21:34:47

Startail why do you think a 20 year old in education is more at risk than a 20 year old in employment?

I have been puzzling over that part of your post.

KRITIQ Thu 09-May-13 22:07:12

Stressy, perhaps she meant the Eliza Armstrong case, which was set up by Stead for a newspaper expose to highlight the problem of child prostitution. It was rather "tabloidesque" but did draw attention to the issue, but that in itself wasn't what got the law changed.

Josephine Butler, btw, was an amazing and inspiring woman.

Xenia Thu 09-May-13 22:24:16

Plenty of people support a lowering of the age of consent, although I doubt many would agree with me on here. I would reduce it to 14 possibly with a caveat as long as the other person was about your age.

This not the time or phase for this nation to improve children's right and decriminalise teenagers as the nation is caught up in a hang them and flog them campaign combined with a desire to keep children as kidults until hey are about 25. However we are very lucky to live in a state where there is freedom to express views other may not agree with.

What about a mumsnet campaign to lower the age of consent to 14?

Greythorne Thu 09-May-13 22:30:50

Once again, a classic bonkers comment from Xenia.

NiceTabard Thu 09-May-13 22:42:47

Xenia CPS guidance explicitly states that the current law is not intended, and should not be used, to prosecute 13-16yo engaged in sexual relationships unless there are issues around coercion, abuse, vulnerability etc.

So that is already taken care of.

The law exists to protect children aged 13-16 against abuse, expolitation etc.

But then as someone involved in the law I would assume you already know that.

cory Fri 10-May-13 07:11:54

In Sweden the age of consent is 15 and I can't say I have a particular problem with that. But I am not sure this is a reason for wanting to lower it in the UK. 14 seems very young. Looking at the stages of life, the age of consent is actually the same for Swedish and British youngsters: it is the year they leave secondary education to start Sixth Form, a transition which in both cultures comes with greater expectations of independence and maturity.

It is about vulnerability to exploitation: as NiceTabard says, the aspect of two young people having consensual, non-exploitative sex is already taken care of.

Xenia Fri 10-May-13 11:49:54

There is certainly no chance of its being lowered.

France has 15. Australia is 14. Albania's sounds sensible - 14 but older if you have not yet reached sexual maturity. Some girls do not start their periods until 14. Germany 14, Italy 14.

TheConstantLurker Fri 10-May-13 12:05:39

I was horrified by the woman's article.
I agreed with the expert (from NSPCC I think) who spoke on radio 4 last night- I look at my 13yr old and know that there is no way she is old enough to give informed consent to sexual intercourse or anything beyond kissing a contemporary.

Xenia Fri 10-May-13 12:08:42

However I assume we are all happy to live in a country where I am allowed to write here that I would support a reduction in the age of consent to 14 in the UK? We do not want to live in a nation where everyone has to have the same views on everything. It would be very dull and borderline totalitarian.

TheConstantLurker Fri 10-May-13 12:09:04

Imagine all of those people out there who have suffered sexual abuse in the past, who have been given hope in the wake of the Saville enquiries, to have this flung in their faces.

TheConstantLurker Fri 10-May-13 12:10:15

Oh sure write away. Maybe learn from the responses?

Sparklymommy Fri 10-May-13 12:14:38

My concern with a lowered age of consent is thus:

As it stands the legal age of consent in this country is 16. However there is leniency in the law whereby sexual relationships between teenagers are rarely investigated or result in prosecution (unless it is forced) from as young as about 14. I myself lost my virginity at 14 and had a sexual relationship with a boy four years my senior. I do not feel that this was "wrong" although at the time the boy was very concerned about me being underage! (Not enough to stop it though!)

However if we reduce the age of consent to 14 then does this mean that leniency level will also be reduced? In corrolation, to 12? I would be VERY uneasy about this! As the mother of a ten year old daughter the idea horrifies me.

Also, as I have said on the other post regarding this matter, there is a world of difference between a pair of teenagers embarking on an experimental sexual relationship and a man old enough to be a girls father or even grandfather, actively seeking young girls to have relationships with. That is just wrong. It is peadophilia and lowering the age of consent would make the situation worse, but reduce the seriousness of the crimes being committed against our young, vulnerable teenagers.

I accept that some teenagers look older than they are, even lie about their age, and there is a grey area, but in the case of Stuart Hall, he has ADMITTED offences against children as young as 9. How can anyone justify that, or call it a mistake? It isn't. It's a gross abuse of status and power and should be treated as the heinious crime it is.

This barrister is not discussing changing the law for any reason other than to de-criminalise the offences that are being uncovered by operation Yewtree. That's disgusting! And I feel VERY strongly that historic cases should be dealt with by the laws at the time of the offences. So her suggestion is pointless anyhow.

funnyperson Sun 12-May-13 09:59:19

The age of consent should stay at 16
If it were lowered all the boys and old men would justify abuse of 11 year olds by saying they thought they were 13 or 14 year olds.

funnyperson Sun 12-May-13 10:04:57

I found it terrifying the way all the boys at the boys school thought the girls at my DD's school were fair game when they reached 14 and that plying the girls with alcohol was considered fine. The current culture is such that no one, but no one - adult or peer - will protect a 14 year old girl from assault. GP's and school nurses simply hand out the pill like sweeties, without telling the parents and on their moral high horse regarding confidentiality, never questioning why an underage young girl is being abused.

funnyperson Sun 12-May-13 10:07:57

The question of Gillick competence has been misinterpreted to such an extent that any prescriber can hand out the pill to any articulate under age child with impunity and without asking questions or telling the family and years of abuse can follow.

funnyperson Sun 12-May-13 10:11:41

If the age of consent were to be lowered, then logically so should the age of marriage. Or is only premarital sex OK for 14 year olds?
This would nicely take the UK back to the middle ages.

Justaperfectday Sun 12-May-13 10:19:05

Exactly funnyperson. My dd (who has high functioning asd) was raped at 15, by someone of 30 who said he thought she was 16. Her emotional intelligence is of a much younger person.
He was arrested but not charged as there was not enough evidence to show she wasn't consenting and he knew her age.
If the consenting age was reduced this would be happening at an even younger age sad

TheFallenNinja Sun 12-May-13 10:44:59

The age is consent is simply a number. You could raise it or lower it or keep it the same, it's almost irrelevant.

A number will not prevent abuse.

My personal view is that the "learned" barrister should keep her opinions (and it is an opinion that carries no more weight than if it was espoused by a plumber or a traffic warden) to herself and my message to her would be stop fucking experimenting with my children because you would like a little less paperwork to do you lazy bastard.

edam Sun 12-May-13 11:10:13

funnyperson, GPs and nurses do not 'hand out the pill like sweeties'. That's Daily Mail hysteria.

Think about confidentiality logically. If an underage girl is having sex, do you really think it's a good idea that she becomes pregnant? That's what the pill prevents. If GPs and nurses were forbidden to hand out the pill, girls would become pregnant. How does that help?

Second problem: very sadly, some of those girls will indeed be victims of abuse. By their parent. What do you think that parent will do if they think the girl has told a trusted adult?

Third problem: some of those girls will have parents with very strict views about sex before marriage, family honour and shame. What do you think those parents would do if nurses and GPs were obliged to tell them? Do you not think they would be at risk?

We have to have systems that deal with worse-case scenarios. You may not like the idea of your daughter having sex under-age. Do you really want her to get pregnant as well? Do you really want other girls to get pregnant? Do you want victims of incest to be killed by their abusers? Do you want girls who come from families with particular views about sexual morality to be killed?

GPs and nurses should indeed consider whether any under-age girl may be the victim of abuse. They should take steps to protect that girl. Forcing them to tell the parents would, sadly, put some of those girls at risk. It would also stop girls seeking help from GPs and nurses - increasing the risk of teenage pregnancy and aiding abusers, rather than stopping them.

funnyperson Tue 14-May-13 19:51:12

It is not daily mail hysteria. It is my personal experience following 30 years as a paediatrician working with school nurses and my own observation at my dd's school.
By abuse I mean underage sex. It is a sign of the times and the heart of the problem in my view that underage sex with a boy the same age or similar isn't considered abuse.
The trouble is that GP's and school nurses are so convinced they are on the moral high ground with underage sex that the default is not to tell the parents, and in my view this puts the young girls more at risk and creates a culture whereby the parents are never given the chance to protect their offspring because they aren't told what is going on

FreyaSnow Fri 24-May-13 10:45:26

The age of consent in Australia is 16, not 14. Most countries that have age of consent of 14 have additional laws which protect 14 and 15 year olds from sexual relationships with adults. So their laws are pretty similar to ours.

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