The furore surrounding the Savile affair shows no signs of abating. According to the media, some "showbiz" people, contemporaries of Savile, are now running scared that they will be dragged into the mire because of their sexual encounters with, let us call them their fans, which in the case of pop music, probably means adolescent girls, age indeterminate. We are talking about the "Swinging Sixties", the decade when sex suddenly became easy and available, the era of the Pill, no inhibitions, no risk of getting pregnant, no AIDS, just mini skirts and fun and hanging loose. I got married, started a family and was building my career in that decade so I was just an observer, though my eyes regularly popped at the sight of a pelmet miniskirt (up to C level as someone called it). TV pop progammes showed screaming teenagers, mostly but not exclusively girls, going wild for their favourite pop idols. It was not uncommon for discarded panties to be thrown on the stage. I suppose this sort of harmless hysteria reached its apogee in Beatlemania. Now, I would be very surprised if no member of a pop group EVER took advantage of the situation - all that pulchritude, all that adulation, all that easily available sex.
Now, before you get out the tar and feathers or start pushing dog turds through my letterbox, let me say I am not condoning or approving this behaviour, but I am at least trying to understand the fears of those old showbiz guys who are now expecting the copper's knock on their front door any minute. And also, before you get out the tar etc etc, I am not ignoring the genuine victims of genuine sexual abuse. Vulnerable people betrayed by others put in a position of trust over them deserve our total protection, and the law should be brought to bear on those betraying that trust. At the moment, I am just trying to put some perspective into the situation that obtained in the sixties. From a legalistic point of view, it might be helpful to define a "child".
Some definitions (Source: NSPCC factsheet)
Definition of a child
There is no single law that defines the age of a child across the UK. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by the UK government in 1991, states that a child “means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.” (Article 1, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989). England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland each have their own guidance setting out the duties and responsibilities of organisations to keep children safe, but they agree that a child is anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday.
Age of consent
The Sexual Offences Act 2003 states that the age of consent for sex is 16 in England and Wales. The Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 brings the age of consent in Northern Ireland down from 17 to 16, to bring it into line with the rest of the UK.
Protection from sexual offences
It is not intended that the sexual offences legislation be used to prosecute mutually consenting sexual activity between under 16s, unless it involves abuse or exploitation. To protect younger children, the law says children under 13 can never legally give consent, so any sexual activity with a child aged 12 or under will be subject to the maximum penalties.
Protection from sexual exploitation
The legislation also gives extra protection to 16 and 17 year-olds. It is illegal to take, show or distribute indecent photographs, pay for or arrange sexual services, or for a person in a position of trust (e.g. teachers, care workers and sports coaches) to engage in sexual activity with anyone under the age of 18.
Age of criminal responsibility
10 or 12
The age of criminal responsibility is the age at which, in the eyes of the law, a child is capable of committing a crime and therefore old enough to stand trial and be convicted of a criminal offence. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the age of criminal responsibility is 10 years and in Scotland it is 12 years.
What prompted this posting to the blog was an item on this morning's news that girls of fifteen were being given contraceptive devices by the appropriate medical services without informing or getting the consent of the girls' parents. I have no idea where this fits into the definitions of "child" above, but it does seem to me that there is a confusion here than needs to be cleared up. To put it bluntly, we need - if we can - to be very clear what constitutes "abuse". In my view, betrayal of trust is the prime ingredient; I am not sure that a grope in the back of a VW Camper with a willing adolescent groupie comes into that category.