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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 November 2006, 15:38 GMT
Chief defends underage sex remark
Terry Grange
Terry Grange stressed his views were personal

A police chief constable has defended his comment that young men who have sex with girls aged between 13 or 15 should not be classed as paedophiles.

In a Sunday Times interview, Dyfed-Powys chief Terry Grange said males aged up to 30 who had sex with post-pubescents should be exempt.

But he later told the BBC the "grey area" related to girls aged 13 to 15 having sex with men aged up to 20.

The charity Kidscape said the police chief was "on very dicey ground".

In England, Wales and Scotland, anyone who has sex with a boy or girl under the age of 16 has committed an offence. The age in Northern Ireland is 17.

If the child is 13 or older and consenting, the offence is classed as "unlawful sexual intercourse".

But if they are under 13 the offence is rape.

'Personal views'

In the earlier interview with the Sunday Times, Mr Grange - who is also the child protection spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) - was asked how he would define paedophilia.

The law is pretty much black and white as I see it
Chris, Telford, UK

His exemptions from the definition ranged from teenage boys to men in their 30s, which differed from his later interview with the BBC in which he said the upper limit was 20.

He said: "We are talking about very young people [when] it is paedophilia, and I wouldn't want to mix up kids who are just the wrong side of 16 with paedophiles.

"I don't actually personally adhere to the 15-year-old being with a 20-year-old boyfriend being paedophilia, or even if the boyfriend is 30."

Mr Grange, who stressed his views were personal, said: "You take a look at the circumstances and try to make the right decision for that case.

"It may be nothing, it may be formal warnings, it may be prosecution."

'Pretty normal'

But, speaking to the BBC on Sunday morning, Mr Grange defined the grey area as where "the girl is 13, 14, 15 and the boy is 16, 17, 18, 19, possibly 20".

He added: "If you prosecute each and every time a boy has sex with a girl under 16 and above 12, then we'd be in the schools across Britain, and in the youth clubs across Britain pretty regularly because, since I've been alive, it's been pretty normal.

"It's what teenagers do."

But he said sex between a man over 20 and a girl under 13 was clearly rape and UK law reflected this.

"If the fella concerned - usually a man - is in his 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s, then I believe you should prosecute them ruthlessly, and the law allows for that," he said.

'Dicey ground'

Official government guidance on prosecuting suggests that teenagers who have sex when one of them is below 16 should not necessarily be prosecuted.

Girls, nine, 10 and 11 are now post-pubescent. They're wearing bras, they're having their periods. They are no longer children in his definition

Michelle Elliott, the director of charity Kidscape, which campaigns to keep children safe from harm or abuse, told BBC Five Live that using puberty as a guide to sexual maturity was difficult.

"Girls, nine, 10 and 11 are now post-pubescent. They're wearing bras, they're having their periods. They are no longer children in his definition.

"So I think he's on very dicey ground here. I think he was probably trying to bring up the teenage issue, and maybe got himself in deeper than he meant."

Lib Dem MP for Brecon and Radnorshire Roger Williams accused Mr Grange of causing "concern and confusion" with his comments.

"The law is quite clear that having sex with somebody under 16 is an offence," he said.

"We are trying to make it clear that young people are very vulnerable, especially to exploitation by older people, and it just isn't helpful at all."

Police chief's comments spark debate


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