Boy's Challenge to 'Romeo Rape' Law; Underage Sex Legislation Is 'Gender Discrimination'

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandra Murphy

A TEENAGER facing five years in prison for having consensual sex with a 14-year-old girl launched a legal challenge yesterday against the law that could brand him a rapist.

Thousands of boys could be prosecuted unless the legal framework that treats them as 'predators' and girls as 'comely maidens' is struck down, the High Court heard.

The 18-year-old fell foul of the law when he was a 1 5 -y e a r-o l d schoolboy - months after the 2006 Criminal Law Sexual Offences Act was rushed through as emergency legislation to plug a loophole.

But barrister Gerard Hogan SC said the controversial statute was 'gender-based discrimination' against boys.

He said: 'It seems the boy is the guilty one, and the girl who has succumbed must be protected - even if she seduced him.

'Under the law, she is portrayed patronisingly as an archetypal comely maiden. Then there is an old-fashioned prejudice against young males. Boys are made criminally responsible for consensual sexual acts, while girls enjoy immunity.'

Calling the penalty 'savage', Mr Hogan said the sentence and the shame of a conviction for a sexual offence would ruin his client's life.

Urging the court to abolish 'the Romeo and Juliet provision' in the Act, Mr Hogan said both genders should face equal criminal sanction under the constitution.

The emergency law was enacted following public outrage at the release of sex offender 'Mr A' in 2006. The 41-year-old man, convicted for having sex with a 12-year-old girl, briefly gained his liberty after existing legislation was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

But the circumstances in this case were entirely different, and the age difference between the consenting parties was just a year, Mr Hogan added.

Accusing legislators of criminalising normal teenage behaviour, he said the new law could destroy the lives of young boys. …