Unlucky Section 13: Sexual Activity between Children and the Sexual Offences Act 2003
King's Law Journal, Vol. 20, No. 2, 2009
Posted: 15 Aug 2009
Date Written: August 14, 2009
The purpose of section 13 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 is to protect children from sexual exploitation by other children. To achieve that end, the section prohibits almost all sexual activity between children, and so prohibits mostly innocent, ordinary activity. The government in 2003 trusted that prosecutors would exercise their discretion to trim section 13’s overreach. However, prosecutorial discretion carries its own high costs: it deters conduct beyond section 13’s intended scope, and it undermines the rule of law. Moreover, there was a better alternative, open to the government at the time. Prohibiting only sexual activity between dissimilar aged children would have largely achieved section 13’s purpose without the same need for prosecutorial discretion.
Keywords: Sexual Offences Act 2003, children, exploitation, prosecutorial discretion, rule of law
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