Ask Bish – Under Age Kissing?
Is it okay to snog someone under 16?
I’m 18 and on Saturday night kissed a girl (to full extent) who it transpires is only 15. I am receiving a lot of grief from friends, but that is mostly banterous and will blow over. What I’m more concerned about is to what extent have I done something either just wrong, or illegal? The facts: I’m 18, she’s 15 I did not know her age until checking on Sunday morning, and was sufficiently drunk not to consider it as the time, as she looked much older. Any advice or help appreciated. Thank you
Thanks for your question. (I’m assuming that you are in the UK, all of this advice is about UK law).
I’ll explain the legal aspects of your question first which may sounds worrying but please carry on reading as I want to try and set your mind at rest a little.
Technically, you may have broken the law under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 of having (or inciting) sexual activity with someone under the age of 16, but over the age of 13 (section 9 or 10).
Sexual activity has an extremely broad definition in English Law and it doesn’t just apply to penetrative sex. It applies to any sexual touching that is sexual in nature or could be deemed to be sexual. Under this very broad definition ‘kissing’ in the way you describe, could be deemed to be sexual. Even if someone wanted and was willing to be touched, if they were under the age of 16 then the other person could be committing an offence (yes, even if they are also under the age of 16).
There is a defence if the offender reasonably believed the other person to be over the age of 16. Though there might be a question about how reasonable someone’s belief might be if they say they were drunk and didn’t think about whether someone was under age.
But but but but but but but but….
The law around under age sex is not intended to be used to prosecute young people of roughly the same age and level of understanding where the activity was truly consensual. Also it’s unlikely to be in the public interest to prosecute a temporary drunken snog at a party where there was no coercion, threats, deception or grooming.
The law is deliberately vague in order to increase the number of successful prosecutions of offences against under 16s where there is a more serious sexual activity, or where there is abuse, or offenders preying on the vulnerability of young people.
So although you may have technically broken the law, it’s very unlikely that you will be prosecuted (on the facts that you have told me).
Remember though that I am not a legal professional. If you want some legal advice speak to a solicitor.
Now for some sex and relationships advice.
Try not to get too pissed when you go to parties.
Drinking and snogging are very popular activities with young people in the UK (up there with Xbox, BBM and getting slagged off by the mainstream press), however it can sometimes lead to problems. Would you have snogged someone under the age of 16 if you were sober (or at least less pissed)? One of the problems is that alcohol (and other drugs) can affect our judgement, in terms of safety, what we do and who we do it with.
Next time you go to a party make sure that your friends are looking out for you and that you are looking out for them. Make sure that you look out for each other so that you can stop your mate doing something a bit stupid. You were worried enough to ask Bish about this so maybe you should talk to your friends about it. [insert your own yoof terms here] “I very much regret kissing that young woman who turned out to be under the legal age, can one of you fine chaps make sure that I don’t do that again.”
You may have to put up with their piss-taking for a bit, but if they are good friends they will stop doing this if you tell them straight that it is upsetting you.