So for the UK, the age of consent is 16, but there is some sort of law that prevents people over the age of 18 having sex with people under the age of 18

My question is: if two people, say ages 16 and 17 are in a sexual relationship and then 1 year later one of them becomes over 18, does this law still apply?

  • 1
    To answer the core of the question you are asking, the fact that two people previously had legal consensual sex does not appear itself a defense to statutory rape in England and Wales. For example if they were 15 and 17 and had sex and then were 15 and 18 a few months later, the prior sex would not be a defense although it would likely influence how law enforcement exercised its discretion. Similarly, prior sex with a minor spouse might be legal, but if the couple divorced and the ex-spouse was still below the age of consent, it could be a crime for the ex-spouses to have sex with each other.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 15, 2017 at 22:44
  • Section 23 and 24 of the Sexual Offenses Act of 2003 do include exceptions for marriage and for prior sexual relations for sex with a person in a position of trust (Sections 16-19 of the Act), but not to Section 9 (statutory rape of someone below the age of consent).
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 15, 2017 at 22:51

1 Answer 1


The only age of consent in England and Wales is 16. The relevant provision is Section 9 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

9 Sexual activity with a child

(1) A person aged 18 or over (A) commits an offence if—

(a) he intentionally touches another person (B),

(b) the touching is sexual, and

(c) either—

(i) B is under 16 and A does not reasonably believe that B is 16 or over, or

(ii) B is under 13.

Sex between your two hypothetical people is always legal as both are aged 16 or older at all times (under this provision - there are a raft of reasons why it may be illegal notwithstanding).

  • 2
    "Sex between your two hypothetical people is always legal as both are aged 16 or older at all times." More accurately, "the crime of statutory rape has not been committed if your two hypothetical people are each aged 16 or older at the time of the sexual contact." There are, of course, all manner of other reasons why sex between them might be illegal (e.g. incest, duress, administration of drugs, lack of consciousness, position of trust relationships, prisoner-guard relationships, illegal prostitution, child pornography components, etc.).
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 15, 2017 at 22:24

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