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Welcome for Proposed Tightening of Sexual Offence Legislation

28 Oct 2004

THE Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY), Nigel Williams, today welcomed plans to bring Northern Ireland into line with legislation on sexual offences that applies in England and Wales.

Mr Williams said that following an answer provided by Northern Ireland Office Minister John Spellar MP in the House of Commons it appeared that parts of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 will be introduced to Northern Ireland.

“I am delighted that Mr Spellar has indicated the willingness of Government to make sure that the same protections offered to children and young people in England and Wales are available in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“The sections of the Sexual Offences Act that Mr Spellar was answering his question are vital to protect children and young people from sexual predators.

“When these are introduced in Northern Ireland they will provide more clear definitions and sentencing guidelines as well as introducing new offences.

“Mr Spellar has indicated that he plans to bring forward draft legislation for consultation early next year. I would urge Mr Spellar to ensure this happens as quickly as the consultation process allows, in order that children, young people and anyone potentially vulnerable to sexual predators will be protected, and that those guilty of preying on them receive sentences in line with the severity of these crimes.”

Notes for Editors

ST 46 26 October 2004

1.Further information on the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People can be found on www.niccy.org

2. While a number of aspects of the Sexual Offences Act, namely part 2 and provisions on grooming and abuse of trust extend to Northern Ireland, sections 1-14 do not apply as yet.

3. Sections 1-14 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 introduce a number of new offences and increase the tariffs for others in England and Wales only. In particular, the legislation sets out important new laws to give children under 13 extra protection. The law makes clear that sexual activity with a child under 13 is never acceptable, and regardless of circumstances, children of this age cannot legally give consent. All penetrative sexual activity (including penetration of the mouth) with a child under 13 will automatically be clarified as rape with a maximum life penalty. Other offences, including assault by penetration (with an object or part of the body) and sexual assault (any kind of sexual touching) will automatically be classified as rape with a possible life penalty. 
The Act introduces a number of redefined offences, new offences and increased tariffs establishing a new legal framework for the protection of all children from abuse. These include:

Revised/redefined offences and increased tariffs

  • Section 1 SOA new definition of rape to include penile penetration of another’s vagina, anus or mouth without consent and a new specific offence of rape of a child under 13 both of which come with a maximum penalty of life.
  • Redefined offences to replace indecent assault on a male and female. 
    These include Section 2 Assault by penetration; Section 3 Sexual 
    assault: sexual touching without consent; Section 6 Assault of a child 
    under 13 by penetration and Section 7 Sexual assault of a child under 
    13. Maximum tariffs are respectfully: life; 10 years; life and 14 years.
  • Section 5 Rape of a child under 13 which includes penile penetration 
    of the vagina, anus or mouth. Maximum sentence life.
  • Section 9 Sexual activity with a child which comes with a 14 year 
    maximum penalty when the person is aged 18 and over.

New offences

ST 46 26 October 2004

  • Section 4 SOA Causing a person to engage in sexual activity without 
    consent. Life where sexual offence includes penetration; otherwise 
  • Section 8 Causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual 
    activity. Life where the sexual offence includes penetration; otherwise 
    10 years.
  • Section 9 Sexual activity with a child. 14 years where the defendant 
    is over 18.
  • Section 10 Causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity. 14 
    years where the defendant is over 18.
  • Section 11 Engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child. 
    Maximum penalty of 14 years.
  • Section 12 Causing a child to watch a sexual act. 10 years when 
    defendant is aged 18 years and over.
  • Section 13 Causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual 
    activity. Life imprisonment where activity includes penetration.


Issued by: Jonathan Traynor, Media and Public Affairs Officer

Tel : 02890 311616
Fax : 02890 314545
Mob/out of hours : 07973 422583
Email : jonathan@niccy.org

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