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Sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal) and oral sex between young people aged 13–15 are also offences, even if both partners consent.A possible defence could be that one of the partners believed the other to be aged 16 or over.

However, the law is not intended to prosecute mutually agreed teenage sexual activity between two young people of a similar age, unless it involves abuse or exploitation.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 provides specific legal protection for children aged 12 and under who cannot legally give their consent to any form of sexual activity.

There is a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for rape, assault by penetration, and causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

There is no defence of mistaken belief about the age of the child, as there is in cases involving 13–15 year olds.

Article 79 of The Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 amended “relevant offence” for section 5(1) of the Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967 to exclude the duty to report information about the commission of an offence under Article 20.

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