Should we have “Romeo and Juliet” laws in the UK? Professor Laura Hoyano provides expert analysis on LBC Radio

September 26, 2023

RLC member Professor Laura Hoyano (Emeritus Professor of Law at Oxford University) spoke to Natasha Devon on LBC Radio on 23 Sep about “Romeo and Juliet laws”, better termed “close-in-age exceptions”, which allow a person to legally have consensual sex with a person under 16 provided that he or she is not more than a given number of years older, generally four years or less.

There is no such law in England and Wales. Laura was interviewed and:

-Provided context to these Laws, the age of consent, how these laws are defined and in which jurisdictions they are already in place, and the difficulties of the current law in England & Wales which depends on the discretion of a CPS prosecutor as to whether to prosecute a case.
-If both parties are below the age of consent, and there is a consensual sexual relationship, the challenges in identifying the perpetrator and the victim/complainant and who is going to be investigated as a suspect
– the additional problem of a consensual relationship between, eg. a person aged 16 and a person aged 15, where prosecution of the 16 year-old, apart from any sentence, results in being on the Sex Offenders Register and the disclosure and barring lists, affecting their future.
-The Home Office Policy Report “Setting the Boundaries” published in July 2000- a review which decided not to adopt a close=in-age exception, taking the view that all children under 16 required the absolute protection of the law from sexual activity.
-Why the close-in-age laws are clearer and have been working well in other jurisdictions, with a detailed analysis of the Criminal Code of Canada’s provisions, which specifically exclude relationships involving trust, dependency, authority or any other form of exploitation from the defence of consent between parties within the stipulated age brackets.

Laura’s primary areas of interest are child abuse in all forms, especially in an institutional setting, child sexual exploitation, Human Trafficking, and the trial of sex offences more generally, including of historic complaints. In 2007 with Caroline Keenan she published “Child Abuse Law and Policy across Boundaries” (OUP, 2007) which was Winner of the Inner Temple Book Prize 2008. This followed with an updated paperback edition in 2010. A second full edition by Laura Hoyano alone is due for release in 2024. More info: [Laura Hoyano Profile]

Listen here from 01:08:27: [LBC Radio]