LEICESTER, United Kingdom – An official of the Catholic Church in Scotland has called the Scottish government’s new guidelines on underage sex “morally bankrupt.”
The Scottish Government’s National Child Protection Guidelines tell teachers, social work staff and police to “respect the privacy” of children as young as 13 who engage in underage sexual activity and that their parents should not automatically be informed.
The age of consent in Scotland is 16, so sexual activity between children aged 13, 14 and 15 is illegal.
The guidelines tell professionals working with children that a child’s “wishes and feelings” must be taken into account when deciding whether to inform parents or involve other public agencies.
“Information may lawfully be shared where there is an overriding interest which outweighs the duty of confidentiality. Overriding confidentiality must be justified and proportionate, taking into account the nature and probability of risk to the young person and/or others,” the guidelines add.
However, the Catholic Church says the guidance works against child protections protocols.
“This morally bankrupt guidance entirely ignores the statutory protection given to children and should be revised immediately. Believing children are equipped to make moral judgements about how they behave sexually, fundamentally undermines child protection,” a spokesperson for the Catholic Church in Scotland said in a statement.
“The sheer hypocrisy of this guidance is highlighted by the fact that the Scottish Government requires applications for the new free bus travel card for young people, to be made by a parent, if the young person is under 16,” the statement added.
The Family Education Trust said the guidance from the government “effectively ignores” the legal age of consent as long as it takes place in “a safe and mutually respectful relationship.”
“It is effectively a charter for underage sex. The whole emphasis on confidentiality shows scant respect for parents who are principal legal guardians,” Piers Shepherd, a senior researcher for the Family Education Trust, told the Scottish Daily Express.
“If a young person under 16 is involved in sexual activity, it raises serious health and safety concerns. Parents are best placed to shield children from the harmful effects of underage sexual activity,” he said.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government told The Telegraph the non-statutory guidance did not “in any way” conflict with legislation that set the age of consent at 16.
“The law continues to make clear that society does not encourage sexual intercourse in young people under 16. It does not, however, follow that there are child protection concerns in all cases. Overriding confidentiality must be justified and proportionate, taking into account the nature and probability of risk to the young person and/or others,” he said.
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