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What is the age of consent in the UK? Could it be changed after Russell Brand’s accusations?

A woman who alleges she was sexually assaulted by Russell Brand says she was 16 when she entered into a relationship with the then-30-year-old comedian. She believes that “we should at least start thinking about changing ideas of consent”, but what are the laws and could they be reformed?

By Megan Harwood-Baynes, health and social affairs reporter @megbaynes

Monday 18 September 2023 17:07, United Kingdom

Allegations against Russell Brand, including that he began a relationship with a 16-year-old girl when he was 30 and sexually assaulted her, have sparked calls for age of consent laws to be reformed.

Alice (not her real name) is now 30, but says she was a teenager when she first met the comedian in 2006, and their subsequent relationship left her feeling “cheap and dirty.”

Speaking to BBC Women’s Hour on Monday, Alice said: “I think we should at least start thinking about changing ideas of consent.”

Brand has vehemently denied the “very serious criminal accusations” against him.

Here, Sky News looks at age of consent laws in the UK, whether they could be reformed and what protections are in place for teenagers.

What is the age of consent in the UK?

The age of consent across the UK is 16 – this is the minimum age at which young people of any sex, gender or sexual orientation can legally engage in sexual activity.

It does not matter if all those involved are the same age, or close in age, or if those under 16 years of age have given their consent.

However, not everyone who breaks this law is charged with a crime and prosecuted, according to the Rape Crisis Center for England and Wales.

Under English and Welsh law, children under 13 are considered less capable of giving consent than those over 13.

That is why the Sexual Offenses Act 2003 lists different offenses for cases involving children and young people aged 12 and under, and why it is a factor that prosecutors must consider when deciding whether or not to prosecute someone.

Why have concerns been raised about Brand’s alleged relationship with a teenage girl?

It is alleged that when Brand was 30 years old, sent cars to Alice’s school pick her up from classes so we can have sex at home.

She claims he became increasingly controlling, encouraging her to lie to family and friends about the relationship.

She also alleges that he sexually assaulted her and removed her condom during sex without her knowledge.

‘The BBC car took me to Russell Brand’s house’

Lisa Durston, of SARSAS, a charity that supports people affected by rape and sexual assault, says the “power imbalance” between someone aged 16 or 17 and a much older partner “can make the relationship extremely unequal”.

She told Sky News: “While it is important not to deny agency to anyone over 16, it is also important to recognize the huge power imbalance involved in a relationship between a 16 or 17-year-old and someone much older.

“The law makes it illegal to engage in sexual activity with someone under 18 if you are in a position of trust, for example if you are their teacher, social worker, doctor or social worker.

“In other situations, while it may be legal to have a sexual relationship with someone much younger than you, that doesn’t mean it’s okay.

“The imbalance of power, and the ability of someone to manipulate or exploit a younger person, can make the relationship extremely unequal.

“It’s unlikely that someone who is 16 or 17 years old will have the life experience or knowledge of adult relationships to help them navigate that relationship.”

What additional protections are there for teenagers?

There are some additional protections for 16 and 17 year olds.

It is illegal:
• Taking a photo or video of anyone under 18 years of age engaging in sexual activity.
• Paying for sex with someone under 18 years of age
• Engage in sexual activity with someone under 18 if you are in a position of trust.
• Engage in sexual activities with someone under the age of 18 if they are a member of your family.

This year, England and Wales also raised the minimum age of marriage to 18, meaning 16- and 17-year-olds will no longer be able to marry or enter into a civil partnership, even if they have their parents’ consent.

People in Scotland and Northern Ireland can still marry at 16, if they have permission from their parents or guardians.

Could the UK reform the age of consent?

It has been a hot topic in recent months, particularly since it was revealed that BBC presenter Huw Edwards was accused of paying a teenager for explicit photographs; However, there is currently no widespread campaign seeking to increase the age of consent to 18 years.

In July, Edwards was charged with paying a 17-year-old more than £35,000 send you sexually explicit photographs.

The presenter He also faced accusations who was left in his underwear during a video call with the young man, who is now 20 years old.

He The Metropolitan Police later said there was “no information indicating that a criminal offense had been committed.”

Meanwhile, Phillip Schofield’s career was left in tatters after he admitted to having a romance with a young runner who worked on ITV’s This Morning.

Although the couple met when the boy was 15, the presenter insisted that a romantic relationship began five years later, when his lover was over the age of consent.

Laws of Romeo and Juliet

One option the UK could consider, if it raised the age of consent, would be the introduction of “Romeo and Juliet laws”.

In many US states, there is an exemption under which a person can legally have consensual sexual relations with a minor, as long as they are not a certain number of years older (usually less than four). It would mean that a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old could legally have sex, despite being under the age of consent, but a 16-year-old and a 30-year-old could not.

Read more:
What are the accusations against Russell Brand?
From drug addict to comedy star, often at the center of controversy
Past warnings from stars about the brand resurface

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