DUP man speaks out on lower consent age
A senior member of the DUP voiced his opposition last night to lowering the age of sexual consent in Northern Ireland from 17 to 16.
Justice Minister Paul Goggins yesterday revealed a raft of new legislation - including tougher sentences for serious sexual crimes and lowering the age of consent - which is due to be implemented next spring.
Mr Goggins said he was reducing the age of consent to bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK.
However, Upper Bann MP David Simpson, who is a representative on the Craigavon-based anti-abortion organisation Love For Life, claimed the new legislation would result in an increase in unwanted pregnancies, single-parent families, sexually transmitted infections and women seeking abortions.
The MLA said: "The country is in a moral mess and instead of loosening morals further, the Government should be embarking on a programme of education and responsible parenthood.
"The bringing of life into the world should be based on the love between two responsible adults rather than a casual fling between immature 16-year-olds.
"We are talking here about the bringing up of children in a tough world and lowering the age of consent would mean an increase in single parent families where teenagers - who should be enjoying life - are anchored with the responsibility of bringing up babies when they are neither old enough nor mature enough."
Meanwhile, Chris Smallwoods from the Nexus organisation - a support group that works with survivors of sexual abuse - welcomed the proposals for tougher sentences for serious sex offences including those carried out against children.
Under the new legislation, anyone who commits a serious sexual assault could face life in prison.
Under present laws, rape is the only sex offence that carries this penalty.
Mr Smallwoods said: "Nexus has been around for 24 years and has always campaigned to ensure that children and other members of our community are protected.
"This new legislation seems to have three main goals and they are protection, justice and deterring.
"The issue is very much how this legislation will be applied and whether the judiciary is going to impose these tougher sentences.
"What's the point in bringing in new legislation if judges are going to hand out piecemeal sentences?"