Underage Sex & Sexual Offences Act 2003
Much has been written regarding capacity and consent and ways to approach it. In the case of anyone under 18, contraceptive advice and prescription are backed by Gillick competence and Fraser guidelines. But the legality of a minor engaging in sexual intercourse is a major area. Should the doctor prescribe if he knows that the child under 16 may engage in sexual intercourse?

  • Legal aspects covered by Sexual Offences Act 2003
  • The partner involved is committing an offence under section 9 for Sexual activity with a child.
  • Similar to adults convicted under section 9, the same rules apply for offenders under 18, although the maximum imprisonment sentence drops from 14 years to 5 years.
  • However, if the person involved reasonably believes that the child between ages 13 and 16 is 16 years old or over, he or she would not be committing an offence.
  • Under no circumstances would it be legal for someone to engage in sexual activity with a child under 13.
  • A comment by Lord Parker C J in 1965 on Regina V Howard reiterates how the court views this, even when the child aged under 16 consents to intercourse
    "...the law has provided no such consent affords no defence to a man on a charge of carnal knowledge of a girl under sixteen".

  • With regards to doctor's liability to providing contraception and advice
    • A doctor is not liable according to the Act even if he believes the offence would take place, but that the doctor does not intend the person to do so.
    • The doctor is seen as acting to protect the child according to the Act, by preventing STIs, preventing child from becoming pregnant, and promoting the child's well-being by giving advice.

However, one must understand that although it is an offence if such an act takes place, for a child who comes and seeks advice and contraception, that act has yet to take place.

  • Wheeler R.(2006) Gillick or Fraser? A plea for consistency over competence in children: Gillick and Fraser are not interchangeable. British Medical Journal , 332 (8 April): 807.
  • Gillick v West Norfolk & Wisbech Area Health Authority [1985] UKHL 7 (17 October 1985) from the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) website.
  • Regina v howard (1965) Lord parker C.J.
  • Sexual Offences Act 2003