Sexual Offences Guideline: Offences where the victim is a child

Overview

This is part of a wider consultation on a new guideline for sentencing sexual offences.

This section considers offences where the victim is a child and the offender is over the age of 18.

The definition of ‘child’ varies between offences in the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Generally, a child is defined as anyone under the age of 16 but there are some offences designed to give greater protection to those under the age of 13 and others where the definition of ‘child’ extends to anyone under the age of 18.

The draft guidelines are for offenders who are 18 years of age and over.

The first group of offences considered in this section are those that apply to children under the age of 13.  The offences include:

  • rape of a child under 13;
  • assault of a child under 13 by penetration;
  • sexual assault of a child under 13; and
  • causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity.
     

Offences involving children under the age of 13

The main difference between the under 13 offences and the equivalent offences for those 13 and over is that a victim aged under 13 is deemed to be legally incapable of consenting to sexual activity.

An individual is therefore guilty of an under 13 offence if it is proved a) the sexual activity in question took place; and b) the child was under the age of 13. The under 13 offences were included in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 as the result of a policy decision to provide increased protection for younger children.

The Council feels it is important that, for these under 13 offences, cases where a child has been groomed into acquiescence are taken as seriously by sentencers as cases where there is forced non-consensual sexual activity.

Other sexual offences against children

The second group of offences considered in this section are not specific to children under the age of 13.  The offences looked at here will, in practice, normally be applied to children aged between 13 and 15 years.

The offences include:

  • sexual activity with a child;
  • causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity;
  • sexual activity  with a child family member;
  • inciting a child family member to engage in sexual activity;
  • sexual activity in the presence of a child;
  • causing a child to watch a sexual act;
  • meeting a child following sexual grooming;
  • abuse of position of trust: sexual activity with a child;
  • abuse of position of trust: causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity;
  • abuse of position of trust: sexual activity in the presence of a child; and abuse of position of trust: causing a child to watch a sexual act.

What Happens Next

Following the conclusion of this consultation exercise, a response will be published on our website.

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Contact

Office of the Sentencing Council 020 334 0634

Key Dates

Consultation is Closed

Ran from 6 Dec 2012 to 14 Mar 2013

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