Defilement of a child aged under 15 years

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2006 makes it a criminal offence to engage or attempt to engage in a sexual act with a child under the age of 15 years. This is what is meant by the term ‘defilement’. The maximum sentence for this offence is life imprisonment.

A sexual act for the purposes of the law includes sexual intercourse and buggery between people who are not married to each other and any sexual act which could constitute aggravated sexual assault.

The 2006 Act provides that the accused may argue they honestly believed the child was aged 15 years or over. The court must then consider whether or not that belief was reasonable. It is not a defence to show that the child consented to the sexual act.

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