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This is the second article dealing with the welfare of children. This week’s article focuses on sexual offences. Under the Sexual Offences Act, there are specific offences which deal with any form of sexual abuse which may have been committed against a child by an adult.
A man who has sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of 14 years commits an offence and, if found guilty, he is liable to a sentence of life imprisonment. It is not relevant whether the young girl consented to the intercourse or if the man was unaware that the girl was under 14 years of age.
A man who has sexual intercourse with a young girl between the age of 14 and 16 may be liable to imprisonment for 12 years. Under this category, the man may not be found guilty if:
(i) he honestly believed the girl to be 16 years of age or;
(ii) he is not more than three years older than the girl and the court forms the view that he was not wholly to blame.
Many people don’t know that it is an offence for a woman to have sexual intercourse with a young male under the age of 16 whether or not he has consented. If the woman is found guilty, the penalty is five years’ imprisonment. Also, an adult who has sexual intercourse with a minor who is the adult’s adopted child, stepchild, foster child, ward or dependant in the adult’s custody is guilty of an offence, and if convicted, is liable to between 25 years and life imprisonment.
It is also an offence for an adult to have sexual intercourse with a child who is employed by the adult. If someone is found guilty of this offence, he or she may be liable to 25 years’ imprisonment. Nothing in the Sexual Offences Act prevents a charge of rape being made against a man who has sexual intercourse with a female without her consent. These offences, stated above, are age-specific offences created by statute.
Additional powers of the court
If anyone is convicted of any of these offences, the court may order the child to be removed from the care or custody of the convicted person and put in the custody of an appropriate court-appointed adult. This order remains until the child attains the age of 16 or any lower age that the court decides.
The person to whom the court assigns the child or young person is authorised to make all decisions that relate to the child’s upkeep and welfare. The court may also order the parent to pay maintenance for the upkeep of the child under the court-appointed custody arrangement.
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