U.K. Panel Rejects Age Distinction in Child Sex Abuse Cases

U.K. lawmakers rejected suggestions that the age of a child should be taken into account in sexual abuse cases, as Britain debates historical abuse including those of television star Jimmy Savile.

“The inclusion of age ranges could fail to take into account a history of abuse of a child across the age boundaries, could mean that distinctions are drawn unfairly and arbitrarily between children who are, for example, 15 years and six months and 16 years of age, or may fail to take account of the child’s maturity,” Parliament’s Justice Committee said in a report released in London today. “Where there is no statutory distinction, we consider the creation of distinctions to be unhelpful and confusing.”

The idea of age distinctions had been proposed in a meeting last month between the Justice Committee and groups including the Association of Chief Police Office, the Crown Prosecution Service, Rape Crisis and the Barnardo’s, a children’s charity.

Under English law, the age of sexual consent is 16. Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said March 6 that law enforcement must change the way it investigates and prosecutes sex crimes after Savile’s decades of abuse against hundreds of victims went undetected until after his death.

A police investigation into historic abuses, codenamed Operation Yewtree into Savile and others, has so far arrested 10 men.