Sex and the Law

sex and the law

Age of Consent

What is it? The age when you can legally have sex.

The Law

In England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales you have to be 16 or older to have homosexual (gay) or heterosexual (straight) sex. Forcing someone to have sex is a crime.  It's also a crime to have sex with someone who is too drunk to give their consent.  

A boy who has sex with a girl under 16 is breaking the law, even if she agrees:

  • If she is aged 13-15, he could go to prison for two years.
  • If she is under 13, he could be sentenced to life imprisonment

A girl aged 16 or over who has sex with a boy under 16 can be prosecuted for indecent assault.

The law isn't there to make life difficult. It's there to protect young people.

Although it's legal to have sex when you are 16 this doesn't include having sex with someone who is in a  'position of trust' such as a carer, teacher and youth worker.  They will be prosecuted, could go to prison or lose their job.

What is sexual assault?:

It is an offence for anyone to touch another person in a sexual way, or threaten to do so, without their consent.


If you have been the victim of a sexual crime it is important not to deal with this on your own. Tell a trusted friend or adult or contact CRASAC to talk about what happened and what you want to do now.

Your rights and responsibilities

You have the right to:

  •     Say no to sex
  •     Say no to sexual behaviour that makes you uncomfortable
  •     Be able to change your mind even if you said yes before
  •     Be able to say no even if you have had sex before
  •     Be respected and listened to if you say no

You have a responsibility to:

  •     Use contraception that protects you and your partner from an unplanned pregnancy or (STIs) Sexually Transmitted Infection's
  •     Get a sexual health check if you have had unprotected sex
  •     Not pressure someone into having sex if they do not want to

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