The Age of Sexual Consent in Ireland

 Posted by on April 11, 2011  Add comments
Apr 112011
 

It seems that a big story is about to break concerning a prominent Irish sports journalist and an under-age girl.  Reports have been circulating in the papers without identifying the individual, but I think most people know by now who he is.

I don’t want to say too much about the case, but it does raise the difficult issue of the age of consent.  It seems to me that there’s a big difference between a middle-aged man having sex with a girl of 16, and a boy of 17 doing the same thing, yet the law treats the two equally.

If memory serves me correctly, a boy of 16 was convicted not too long ago for having sex with his girlfriend who was the same age.  He was also placed on the sex offenders register, which seems ludicrous to me.  At the same time, there’s no provision under Irish law for the girl to be charged with any offence.

I think this is unfair.  It’s a long time since I was 16, but I can remember that the girls were far more mature than we mumbling clods.  It’s widely recognised that teenage girls are emotionally more advanced than boys the same age and therefore, I think the law should be more finely tuned when dealing with people still in their teens.  I can’t see what is achieved by prosecuting a 16-year-old boy for having consensual sex with a girl of a similar age.

A man in his thirties, forties or fifties, however, is a different matter.

We have to legislate for a minimum age of consent.  That’s obvious, but when the law defines a sharp cut-off point, such as a birthday, we invite all sorts of anomalies unless some provision is made for context.  Otherwise, there will be absurdities.  A kid having sex with his girlfriend the night before her 17th birthday is a sex offender.  If he waits one day more, he’s just another teenager getting laid.

That’s ridiculous.

To my mind, a middle-aged man having sex with a 16-year-old is either a predator or a damn fool and I know that if I were the father of a girl in that situation, it would take a lot to restrain me.  However, I also know that society can’t be drawing up laws based on my atavistic emotional reaction to things I don’t like.

At this point, there are no charges against the journalist and nothing has been proven regarding illegal activity.  However, there are reports that evidence of inappropriate contact was found on his phone, and that he has tried to take his own life.

It appears that members of his own family passed the phone to the Gardai after his daughter found text messages on it, which strikes me as very strange.  Going to the police would not be the first thing on most people’s minds if they came across text messages suggesting some sort of infidelity.

We must wait and see.

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UPDATE

Newspapers are now reporting that the phone didn’t contain text messages but inappropriate photographs of a 16-year-old girl who is known to the journalist’s daughter and who is a member of the same club.

This would explain why the mother immediately went to the police, but to focus on the outcome would be to ignore the underlying reality, which is the sudden, violent and traumatic disintegration of a family.  I can’t imagine a more horrifying way for the relationship of trust between a father and a daughter to collapse.  As if that isn’t bad enough, a family has suddenly lost its financial support.

At the same time, another family has been turned inside out for related reasons.  Who can say what sort of upheaval has taken place there, or what sort of despair has been created?

If this all turns out to be correct, more than one child has been abused.

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Note: all comments speculating on the journalist’s identity will be deleted until his name has been released by a major news organisation.

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UPDATE 17th April

The Sunday World has named the journalist .

 

Also on Bock:

A Riddle for our Times


 

 

  42 Responses to “The Age of Sexual Consent in Ireland”

Comments (42)
  1.  

    I reckon he’ll be nailed to the wall.

    You won’t hear Susan “a safe pair of ovaries” McKay, head of the National Misandry Council, becoming outraged about a male teenager being threatened with jail – and probably being put on the sex offenders list with rapists and child molesters – for having sex with a female of the same age.

    Hopefully, some acne-ridden teenage male, in the event of a further “prosecution”, will take the Gov to the European Court of Human Rights and clean the fuckers out.

  2.  

    Seconds, you’re right, but at least she’d have the “not my department” defence, weak though it may be, as she’s in the Women’s Council. The Equality Authority, however, have no such defence, and I wouldn’t be holding my breath for them to speak up.

    If I remember right, at the time the law was changed recently and this absurdity was highlighted, the DPP came out and said that the law wouldn’t be administered in these circumstances, so there was no problem ( or at least an Irish solution to one). Until the case Bock speaks of. I can only assume that if you have a bit of pull you can get a case taken, otherwise forget it. A joke on several levels, basically.

    As for the case with the journalist, there is a hell of a difference between texting and statutory rape, it would be nice if the consequences reflected this.

  3.  

    Well Esso, we all know who said is and it looks pretty serious for said journalist if true. Have we an equality quango as well. Jesus wept.

  4.  

    I don’t know who the individual is and I don’t think it’s right to speculate on the Internet or elsewhere as to who it might be. I’m pleased to see there haven’t been any posts of a speculative nature on this site as there have been on other sites, and I congratulate the moderator for this.

    As Bock correctly pointed out, this story raises two issues: the age of consent and the issue of culpability based on age.

    In my opinion, the age of consent in Ireland should be reviewed urgently. The current status effectively criminalises half the population of 16 year olds.

    As for culpability based on age, I don’t think a 40 year old offender is any more culpable than an underage offender. Think about it: would age be a mitigating factor is the offence was murder and not unlawful carnal knowledge?

    We don’t need complex legislation to solve this; what we need is an age of consent that reflects the reality of our society today. Personally, I would advocate an age of consent for males and females of 15.

  5.  

    As far as I am concerned, both of my married daughters are virgins and are gonnae stay that way until I have the decency to die. My grandbabies? well, they came fae a stork so I’ve been told.

  6.  

    Jack — There’s no comparison between murdering somebody and having consensual sex with them. Come on.

    Murderers generally don’t feel the need to seduce their victims. They just bash them with a hammer or shoot them.

    Sex involves all sorts of subtle interactions, and the law takes account of the fact that before a certain age, people are not mature enough to make those choices, especially when dealing with an experienced adult.

  7.  

    Bock,

    Thanks for your comments.

    I wasn’t comparing crimes – I was merely putting age-related culpability in greater context. And yes: murderers generally don’t need to seduce their victims whereas sexual predators do. However, I don’t think we can distinguish in law between and 40 year old using seduction with criminal intent, and a 16 year old using peer pressure with criminal intent. I think if we tried to legislate in this regard, it would possibly create a defense of inequality. I think the easiest solution would be to have a more realistic age of consent.

    I do take your point about being mature enough to make choices of this nature, and in hindsight, perhaps 16 would be a more realistic and reasonable age.

  8.  

    It’s impossible to be prescriptive about these things. I think 17 is probably unrealistic.

    One thing I don’t understand is this : how can guys (or women) in their 30s, 40s and 50s put up with the mindless babble of 16-year-olds?

  9.  

    Earplugs!

  10.  

    Bock is absolutely correct. There is a massive difference between a sixteen year old having sex with another sixteen year old and a forty year old having sex with a sixteen year old on all sorts of levels. These kind of issues are not black and white and complex legislation may be exactly what is required to vet these type of things on a case by case basis.
    No sixteen year old should be on an offenders register for consensual sex with another person of the same age. Jack, murder is never consensual – sex between teenagers usually is. How can you use murder as an example to reinforce your argument?

  11.  

    Jethro, I used murder as an example to enforce the argument that age should not be a mitigating factor in any crime. And, as the law stands regarding statutory rape, a 16 year old is as culpable as a 40 year old. So where do we draw the line? Where does the ‘too old’ age range begin? Would it not be easier (like in the UK) just to lower the age to 16?

  12.  

    That’s where I think a graduated range of penalties might be useful depending on age and mental capacity.

  13.  

    Jethro — Now that I think of it, murder can occasionally be consensual. Remember that German chap who agreed to be cannibalised?

  14.  

    RE: “If memory serves me correctly, a boy of 16 was convicted not too long ago for having sex with his girlfriend who was the same age. He was also placed on the sex offenders register, which seems ludicrous to me. At the same time, there’s no provision under Irish law for the girl to be charged with any offence.”

    I remember you writing about this last year Bock.
    http://bocktherobber.com/2010/03/a-riddle-for-our-times

    It’s ridiculous. But guys would want to be careful if they are unsure of a girl’s age.

  15.  

    Ah. That’s it. I forgot the details. Thanks.

  16.  

    I did a search for riddle. I knew there was a riddle to it! :)

    Ridiculous law and as Carrig pointed out last year doesn’t do any favours for girls either.
    “The girl is still discriminated, not favoured – because church and society still deem her incapacitated”. There’s no equality in this type of nonsense.

  17.  

    I must remember to give posts names that mean something.

  18.  

    You could be onto something there Bock,
    I was only watching CNN. There’s a new book out. Moonwalking with Einstein. The art and Science of Remembering everything, by Joshua Foer

    http://e-bookdown.com/y1d/Moonwalking+with+Einstein+pdf+torrent/

    All though I’m thinking it’d be a bit of a curse to remember everything!

  19.  

    Well its always going to be impossible to make a perfect law on this.So probably the best solution is that at 18 they are free to have sex with whoever they want,as is now the case and at 15 -16 -17 only sex with other teenagers being legal.

  20.  

    But Then on second thoughts that raises for example a nineteen year old boy who has been having a legal relationship with his under 18 girlfriend suddenly becoming a criminal on his twentieth birthday if he continues with the relationship…so hardly fair either.Perhaps just drop the legal age to sixteen altogether as in many other countries.

  21.  

    So 16 is the new 17?

    How is that going to remove the anomalies?

  22.  

    I dont think there is any perfect solutions.I think its only a case of find the best but still imperfect answer.

  23.  

    One way to tackle the age difference might be to consider the position of each party. I believe the journalist in question was involved with the training of the team. This gave him a position of power, much like a teacher/student relationship. Perhaps this could be taken into account.
    Another method might be stipulate age ranges whereby the age of consent shall be considered 16 year old when his/her partener is less then say 10 years older.

  24.  

    Perspective is a vital component of this argument. If a seventeen year old has consensual sex with a sixteen year old, you cannot compare it to a man in his thirties of forties having sex with a sixteen year old. THe older man has had plenty of time to digest what is wrong with that and may become manipulative and damaged. It is completely wrong for the older man to have sex with a sixteen year old but, if two kids of the same age decide to have sex and both of them want to, it is completely different. The older man deserves to be met with the full measure of the law. The teenagers should both be considered culpable if they have made a joint decision but I don’t know if punishment is the answer in their case. The law most definitely needs to be fine tuned.

  25.  

    The age of consent is complicated by indeterminacy of emotional maturity on the part of young lads and girls. Let the legislators compromise by outlawing teenage sex outside marriage for all who have not reached their 18th birthday? A lot of mothers, and reverend mothers, would be assured by that. A teenage boy who has consensual sex with a slightly underage teenage girl shouldn’t be put on the sex offenders list, of course. Instead he should be given a rap on the knuckles or some other part of the anatomy by a tough-love parent – his parent, not hers.

  26.  

    Eh, under Irish law you’re still a child until your 18th birthday. So sex with a 17 year old still raises child protection concerns.

  27.  

    The age of consent is 17 under Irish law.

  28.  

    Yes but you’re still a child under Irish law until you’re 18. “‘Child’ means a person under the age of 18 years” according to the Children Act 2001. Although in the same Act under Section 249 (4) “child” means a child under 17 years of age.” but it seems only to that specific section. Child protection concerns would still be raised nonetheless.

  29.  

    I don’t think so. If it’s legal to have sex at 17, the law has no further interest in the matter.

  30.  

    Yes it is legal but child protection concerns would still be raised. I can’t explain it more than that here.

  31.  

    Fair enough. When you think the time is right, you might spell it out in more detail.

  32.  

    just to give you an interesting example of foreign law on the subject.Here in the Philippines the law is that sex between consenting minors aged 12-18 is not a crime but for an adult over 18 to have sex with an under 18 is a very serious crime carrying a possible 40 year sentence or even the death penalty depending on circumstances.

  33.  

    As far as I’m aware he was separated from his wife. and going to the police was not a matter of infidelity but a matter of protecting the child in question.
    I think it is a very brave thing to do and it couldn’t have been easy for them. He has ruined any family life and professional life he had, but the worst is how he ha ruined the 16 year olds last years of childhood and taken away her innocence. If, as someone said above, he was in a position of authority then it is even more dispicable and even the texting alone (sexual or not) would be highly inappropriate.
    I feel for his family and the family of the child. two ruined families now.

    also- it is easy to complain about the laws but they have to make a cut off point somewhere and you can see in the recent changes in legislation that if a boy has consentual sex with his girlfriend and is two years older than her he cant be put on the sex offenders list. the laws do protect young girls especially because of the risk of pregnancy.

  34.  

    It appears that the complaint to the police may have come from the family of the girl when they were informed about the discovery.

  35.  

    Yes but they were informed by the police only after the journalists family made and reported the discovery.

  36.  

    With regard to the case of the 16 year old boy having sex with a girl of the same age, are you referring to the Romeo and Juliet court case? The High Court ruled against the boy, but an appeal to the Supreme Court is probably on the way. The Romeo and Juliet case is about the 2006 law that allows for an underage boy to be prosecuted for having sex with an underage girl but exempts the girl.

  37.  

    To the best of my knowledge, neither Romeo nor Juliet were involved in this case.,

  38.  

    Well if a Garda finds a 17 year old engaged in sexual activity with another 17 year old or slightly above, of course there would be no charges pressed but social services would be alerted anyway. This would then be deemed too low risk to require social services to initiate any intervention, assuming that both young people come from caring environments. A 17 year old sleeping with a 40 year old would be an entirely different matter. The 40 year old would not be breaking the law but would be watched.

    The case you brought up of the 17 year old boy sleeping with a 16 year old girl, child protection concerns would be automatic in relation to the 16 year old. Intervention and supports would be put in place for her, work done with the 17 year old. However, the fact that the case was brought to Court tells me that there was more to that case than we are legally permitted to know, (there is a section in the Child Care Act 1991 that prevents media reporting on many matters relating to children), and more than likely that the case may have been initiated by the girl’s parents/guardians. The 17 year old boy may have demonstrated sexualised behaviours in the past or the 16 year old girl could have psychological or psychiatric issues enhancing her vulnerability. We simply don’t know. But in the eyes of the social services, they would both still classify as children

  39.  

    Yobbah, “The 17 year old boy may have demonstrated sexualised behaviours in the past”.
    I would think at 17 most boys would have demonstrated sexualised behaviours in the past.
    As would most girls for that matter. Why would you specifically mention the boy demonstrating sexualised behaviours? I’m not even sure what sexualised behaviours are.

  40.  

    I can tell you this. When I was 17, I had certainly demonstrated sexualised behaviour, as had everyone else I knew. Lucky the cops didn’t notice.

  41.  

    Yeah, well so did we all, but there are extreme cases lads. Particularly if say the certain 17 year in question had been attempting to do it since he was 8 towards his 4 year old sister and this behaviour continued to manifest itself throughout his life.

    I think I should have rephrased it, “inappropriate sexualised behaviours”. There’s a bit of a difference between a 16-17 year old expressing a few randy opinions and those who continuously act on them, irregardless to their own welfare and the welfare of others. And I don’t mean a casual shift behind the bicycle yard.

    My point is that 16-17 year olds would still be classified as children. Intervention would depend on the risk to them.

    I’d say the cops did notice Bock. You probably oozed sexiness at that tender age.

  42.  

    As I still do.

    Well, actually, not so much sexiness as irresistibleness. It’s just a thing I was born with. Some guys’ looks will fade,but I’ll be cursed with this irresistibility to the end of my days. It’s a curse. Really, it is.

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