Belfast teen freed on bail after 12-year-old girl made pregnant
Family in shock as child is set to become one of the UK's youngest mothers
A teenager has been arrested after a 12-year-old west Belfast girl was found to be pregnant.
The 19-year-old has been released on police bail while further inquiries and medical checks are carried out.
He was arrested in the Lenadoon area on Thursday after police were advised about the young girl's pregnancy.
If the teenager is found to have had sexual relations with the girl he faces being charged with rape, which can carry a life sentence upon conviction.
The PSNI last night confirmed that police arrested a 19-year-old man in the west Belfast area on Thursday, October 1, in relation to a sexual offence.
A police spokesman added: "The man has been released on police bail pending further enquiries."
It is understood the girl's family has been left shocked by the pregnancy. If she carries the child to full term it is believed that she will be one of the youngest mothers ever in Northern Ireland.
According to recent statistics, 98% of teenagers to give birth in the province last year were over 16 years old.
The youngest mother in the UK is thought to have fallen pregnant when she was still in primary school at the age of 11. The girl, from London, gave birth last April aged 12 years and three months.
In the summer a north Belfast woman became Britain and Ireland's youngest known grandmother at 29 years old when her 15-year-old daughter gave birth.
The age of sexual consent in Northern Ireland has been reduced from 17 to 16 years of age.
It is a criminal offence to engage in any sexual activity with a child aged under 13 years of age, with a maximum penalty of 14 years' imprisonment. Where the sexual activity involves rape, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment.
The number of teenage girls to give birth in Northern Ireland has been steadily decreasing in recent years. Statistics from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency show that last year 839 children were born to teenage mothers. This was the lowest on record. And the vast majority of those (98%) were to mothers aged 16 and over.
Last year 107 teenagers from Northern Ireland had a legal abortion in England, according to UK Government statistics.
Heather Low, of the Family Planning Association, said that teenage pregnancy was a complex issue and it was too simplistic to say a young person became pregnant for one reason alone.
Ms Low said it was important that all schools had consistent relationships and sexuality education (RSE).
"RSE delays the age at which young people first have sex and, beyond the mechanics of reproduction and contraception, it teaches about wider issues of consent and negotiation, self-esteem and respect, how to recognise a healthy or unhealthy relationship, how to say no and when to say yes," she added.
Ms Low stressed it was equally important that young people who were sexually active had easy access to services where they can get information and support on contraception and wider sexual health issues confidentially and without judgment.
She added that it can be an emotional time for parents who find out their daughter or son's partner is pregnant.
"It's important to get support. Chances are that your child didn't plan this and they will be feeling scared and anxious about what to do," said Ms Low.
- The Family Planning Association's pregnancy choices counselling service www.fpa.org.uk/northern-ireland is a safe space for pregnant women and girls to talk through their feelings and options.