Offences against children under 13
- Assault by penetration: with any body part or other object
- Sexual assault: touching a child sexually
- Causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity
Sentences for people found guilty range from a maximum of life imprisonment for the most serious offences to a maximum of 14 years’ custody for the other offences.
Offences against children under 16
As the law recognises the age of consent to be 16, any sexual activity involving consenting children under 16 is unlawful.
The range of offences affecting this age group are:
- Sexual activity with a child: intentional sexual touching by a person aged 18 or over on someone under 16
- Causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity: by a person aged 18 or over
- Engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child: by a person aged 18 or over with the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification
- Causing a child to watch a sexual act: either someone engaging in sex or an image of someone engaging in sex
- Arranging and facilitating a child sex offence
- Child sex offences committed by children or young people: any of the offences above committed by a person under 18
These offences carry maximum sentences of between 10 and 14 years for people found guilty except for people under 18, whose maximum penalties are between six months and five years’ imprisonment.
Offences against children under 18
These offences relate to people who have a particular responsibility in their relationship with a child which overrules any consent the child might have given to sexual activity. The offences include:
- Abuse of position of trust: providing protection for young people (16-17) considered vulnerable to exploitation by someone in a position of trust or authority
- Sex offences within the family: covering people who live with a child and have a family relationship or position of trust or authority, such as family members, adoptive parents, foster parents or married/co-habiting partners
The potential maximum sentence when found guilty of an offence ranges from five years to 14 years.
Abuse of children through prostitution or pornography
There are specific offences relating to the use of children (aged under 18) in the sex industry:
- Paying for the sexual services of a child
- Causing or inciting child prostitution or pornography
- Controlling a child prostitute or child involved in pornography
- Arranging or facilitating child prostitution or pornography
Penalties for these offences range from a maximum of seven years to life imprisonment.
Indecent photographs of children
Two laws cover this area of child sex offences: the Protection of Children Act 1978 (PCA 1978) and the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (CJA 1988).
Under the PCA 1978, an offence is committed if a person deliberately or knowingly took, made, permitted to be taken, distributed or showed indecent photographs (or pseudo-photographs created by computer or other graphic method) of a child or possessed them in order to distribute or show them or published any advertisement for indecent photographs of children.
The CJA 1988 covers the offence of possession of an indecent photograph of a child.
Maximum penalties for these offences range from six months’ imprisonment and/or the maximum fine to five years under the CJA and 10 years under the PCA.
Offenders are also subject to ancillary orders which includes signing the sex offenders register and a Sexual Offences Prevention Order which means adults are barred from engaging in regulated activity with children.
In April 2015, the government introduced new legislation for people who share sexually explicit images without the subject’s consent.
‘Revenge porn is the sharing of private sexual images (or videos) of another person without the subjects consent and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress’
Under this piece of legislation, a suspect convicted of an offence of this nature, can face a prison sentence of up to 6 months in the Magistrates Court and up to 2 years at the Crown Court.
An example of revenge porn would be an ex partner uploading a sexual explicit image of the victim to the internet, Facebook or Twitter or sending the image to their friends or family. It is irrelevant whether victim consented to the image being taken in the first place. If the image is uploaded without their consent and with the intention of causing distress, humiliation and embarrassment to the victim, then the police are likely to prosecute.
If the images taken are of a person under the age of 18, further offences may be considered under the Protection of Children Act 1978.
If you have been asked to attend an interview by the police or you are at any stage of criminal prosecution, please contact us on 0203 816 1098. Alternatively, complete our online enquiry form and one of our team will contact you directly to discuss your situation.