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2.7. Police chiefs plea for nuance

a. Police chief sparks row over stigma of sex with children

Daniel Foggo, Sunday Times, 19 November 2006

THE police’s leading child protection officer has said that men who have sex with children should not be classed as “paedophiles” if the victim is between the ages of 13 and 15 years old.

Terry Grange, the Association of Chief Police Officers’ (Acpo) spokesman on child protection and managing sex offenders, said only those who targeted prepubescent children deserved to be labelled and treated as “paedophiles”.

He added that the term “child pornography” should apply only to images of children aged below 13, for the same reason. “Child porn is 12 and under,” said Grange, who is chief constable of Dyfed-Powys police. “For me, that sort of thing, paedophilia, is [with] prepubescent children.”

Grange’s views, set out in an interview with The Sunday Times, is expected to spark debate among policy makers and child protection professionals.

Many believe that anyone having sexual relations with a child under 16 is not only committing an offence, but should be treated as a paedophile. 


Grange says his views — which he emphasises are personal — reflect [...] subtleties in the law, which is intended to allow a pragmatic approach to be taken in cases of young adults having consensual sex with children between the ages of 13 and 15.

“It is much more of an issue for me if a child is under 13,” said Grange. “I think the closer they get to 16 the more it becomes a grey area and I think everyone in the field of dealing with sexual health and sexual activity acknowledges that.

“As it [the age] goes down so I think the liability of the adult gets greater, so if the girl is 13 and the adult is in his twenties I am not particularly prone to accept the ‘I thought she was 16’ excuse. And if she is 12, it is rape.”

Asked how he would define paedophilia, Grange said: 

“ We are talking about very young people [when] it is paedophilia, and I wouldn’t want to mix up kids who are just the wrong side of 16 with paedophiles.”

“I don’t actually personally adhere to the 15-year-old being with a 20-year-old boyfriend being paedophilia, or even if the boyfriend is 30.”

Many European countries, including Austria, Bulgaria and Croatia, set a lower age of consent at 14, while in Spain it is 13. In Britain studies have suggested that a third of girls and a sixth of boys have sex before 16.

Leading Article: Drawing the Age Line 


[... W]hat constitutes a child? This is the challenge thrown down by Terry Grange, chief constable of Dyfed-Powys and spokesman on child protection for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo). 

Mr Grange says we are in danger of wrongly labelling offenders as paedophiles, thus potentially overstating the scale of the problem. Child pornography should refer to images of pre-pubescent children, 12 and under, he suggests, but not those of 13 and above. Adults who have sex with post-pubescent youngsters — aged between 13 and 15 — should not be automatically thought of as paedophiles. 

Let us be clear about what Mr Grange is saying. A man who has sex with a 13-year-old girl has still committed an offence: unlawful sex with somebody under the age of 16, the age of consent. He still faces a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison. 

But is he a paedophile? 

Yes, perhaps, if he is a 50-year-old. But what about a 20-year-old having sex with a 15-year-old who looks 18? Or what about a woman and a boy who is sexually mature beyond his years? 

Many will be outraged that there should be different gradations of offence in this area. The onset of puberty, which for some children is well before the age of 13, does not denote psychological maturity, which may not arrive for years. Are 13 and 14-year-olds capable of making sensible decisions about sex? 


For centuries the age of consent in Britain was 12, being raised to 13 in 1875 and to 16 ten years later, where it has remained. Since then, however, patterns of sexual behaviour have changed — or people have just become more honest about it. 

In the 1950s only 1% of young people admitted to under-age sex. This was the era when Jerry Lee Lewis, the rock’n’roll star, was hounded out of Britain after it was discovered that his perfectly legal wife (who was also his second cousin) was only 13. Now the average age at which people in Britain start having sex is 16, implying that many do so younger. 

The age of consent, still as low as 13 in Spain and 14 in several other European countries and in some American states, remains a controversial topic. In Canada the government is introducing legislation to raise the age of consent from 14 to 16, while preserving the “within five years rule” for 14 and 15-year-olds, so an 18-year-old having sex with a 14-year-old would not be committing an offence. 

Few are suggesting raising or lowering the age of consent in Britain, despite the fact that sexual mores have changed. The issue raised by Mr Grange is whether by labelling all adults who have sex with minors as paedophiles we risk diluting our efforts to get to grips with those who pose the biggest dangers to children, the hardcore minority. There are arguments on both sides. The debate, however, is worth having.

b. Police chief wants review of consent age

Mark Macaskill, The Sunday Times November 26, 2006

ONE of the country's most senior police officers has called for a debate on lowering the age of consent, suggesting that it could be reduced to bring Scotland in line with other countries.

Chief superintendent Clive Murray, president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS), fears some children are being unfairly criminalised by current legislation which does not differentiate between "youthful natural instinct" and sexual abuse.

While the age of consent in Britain is 16, he pointed to countries such as Canada and Austria where 14-year-olds can have sex legally and Spain, where sex at 13 is permitted.

The age of sexual consent in Britain has not changed since 1885 when campaigners fought to raise it from 13 to prevent child prostitution.

Murray's comments will re-ignite the debate sparked by Terry Grange, the chief const-able of Dyfed-Powys police, who last week suggested men should not be labelled paedophiles for having sex with 13-year-old girls. It provoked a storm of protest, with critics accusing Grange of "eroding" moral values and giving the "green light" to child molesters, perverts and other abusers.

"When you look at countries such as Canada and Spain, we consider them as comparable societies yet they have a lower age of consent," said Murray. "I certainly think there is scope for looking at (lowering the age of consent) and why is there this contradiction with other countries which we regard as similar societies to our own?

"I think it's of interest that (the age of consent in Scotland) is 16 and has been since 1885. Society has changed since then and it might be reasonable to ask why do we still stick at 16?" 

Many European countries, including Austria, Bulgaria and Croatia, set the age of consent at 14. In Canada, intercourse with a child of 12 can be considered lawful if the partner is less than two years older. In Finland, sex with someone under 16 is not considered sexual abuse of a child if there is no great difference in the ages or the mental and physical maturity of the persons involved.

The Philippines, which has one of the world's lowest ages of consent, allows sex with 12-year-olds.

Earlier this year, a BBC poll of 30,000 people in the UK aged 16-24 found almost a third lost their virginity below the age of consent. Alcohol was involved in almost 40% of first sexual encounters. A separate survey found twice as many girls as boys lose their virginity under the age of 16.

Critics of a change in the law fear that reducing the age of consent would not only make children vulnerable to sexual predators, but increase the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and lead to a rise in the rate of teenage pregnancies, which is among the highest
in Europe.

According to the most recent figures, more than 700 girls aged 13-15 fell pregnant in 2003-04. Earlier this year a 12-year-old from West Lothian became Britain's youngest mother.

Derek Ogg QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said lowering the age of consent could lead to exploitation of some vulnerable youngsters but that he would support a more flexible approach.

"I would much rather have a more discretionary approach to prosecution in cases where the children are under 16 but close in their respective ages," he said.

Stewart Stevenson, deputy justice spokesman for the Scottish National party, said: 

"It could potentially help decriminalise youngsters who have sex under 16 but it could also lead to further exploitation of 15-year-olds not mature enough to understand the implications."

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