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Unlucky Section 13: Sexual Activity Between Children and the Sexual Offences Act 2003

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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. Prosecutorial discretion carries its own high costs however: 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.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2009

More about this publication?
  • Until 2007 the King's Law Journal was known as the King's College Law Journal. It was established in 1990 as a legal periodical publishing scholarly and authoritative Articles, Notes and Reports on legal issues of current importance to both academic research and legal practice. It has a national and international readership, and publishes refereed contributions from authors across the United Kingdom, from continental Europe and further afield (particularly Commonwealth countries and USA). The journal includes a Reviews section containing critical notices of recently published books.

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