If your child is over 16
Understanding the law for children who are 16 and 17
If your child has reached 16 or 17 (and legally able to consent to sex) this does not mean that they are no longer at risk of sexual exploitation.
Consent is defined in the Sexual Offences Act 2003, s.74 as an agreement by choice where the person concerned has the freedom and capacity to make that choice. In almost all cases involving grooming the child’s capacity is undermined by virtue of imbalance of power between the child and the perpetrator, the control exercised and the manipulation or use of force. This age group is covered by statutory duties under the Children Acts 1989 and 2004, and your child can still be subject to significant harm as a result of sexual exploitation.
The College of Policing Authorised Professional Practice Guidance on CSE is an important document for parents because it makes it clear that even if the child has reached the legal age of consent (16), the police have a duty to protect them from child sexual exploitation.
Your child’s needs should not be ignored or de-prioritised by services and agencies because your child is over the age of 16, or is no longer in mainstream education or training.
The fact that a young person is 16 or 17 years old and has reached the legal age of consent should not be taken as a sign that they are no longer at risk of sexual exploitation. These young people are still defined as children under the Children Act 1989 and 2004 respectively. They can still suffer significant harm as a result of sexual exploitation and their right to support and protection from harm should not be ignored or de-prioritised by services because they are over the age of 16, or are no longer in mainstream education.”