Radio Sandwell News

Age of consent should be 13 says a prominent barrister

2013-05-09 03:20:17

Stuart Hall

A prominent barrister specialising in reproductive rights has called for the age of consent to be lowered to 13.

Barbara Hewson said in an interview that the move was necessary in the wake of the Savile scandal to end the "persecution of old men".

She also said that complainants should no longer receive anonymity.

The NSPCC called her views "outdated and simply ill-informed" and said to hear them "from a highly experienced barrister simply beggars belief".

Her remarks come after a number of high-profile arrests from Operation Yewtree, the police investigation into historic sexual abuse following the Savile scandal.

The arrests have included Max Clifford, Stuart Hall and Gary Glitter among others.

Ms Hewson described Stuart Hall's crimes as "low-level misdemeanours" which "ordinarily... would not be prosecuted".

Mr Hall admitted 14 charges of indecently assaulting girls, including one aged nine, between 1967 and 1985.

'Prurient charade'

"What we have here is the manipulation of the British criminal justice system to produce scapegoats on demand. It is a grotesque spectacle.

"It's time to end this prurient charade, which has nothing to do with justice or the public interest."

She argues for an end to complainant anonymity, a strict statute of limitations to prevent prosecutions after a substantial amount of time has passed and a reduction in the age of consent to 13.

She said that "touching a 17-year-old's breast, kissing a 13-year-old, or putting one's hand up a 16-year-old's skirt" are not crimes comparable to gang rapes and murders and "anyone suggesting otherwise has lost touch with reality".

The NSPCC described crimes such as Stuart Hall's as "incredibly serious" and said that "to minimise and trivialise the impact of these offences for victims in this way is all but denying that they have in fact suffered abuse at all.

"Any suggestion of lowering the age of consent could put more young people at risk from those who prey on vulnerable young people."

They also argued to maintain complainant anonymity and allow for historic prosecutions as "many who are abused are bullied, blackmailed and shamed into staying silent, often well into adulthood."

Source: bbc.co.uk

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