In Britain the same laws apply to heterosexual and homosexual activity and offences can be committed by anyone, male or female, over the age of 10, which is the age of criminal responsibility. The age of consent in Britain is 16 years old (17 in Northern Ireland).

It is an offence to intentionally engage in sexual touching with a young person aged 13, 14 or 15.    ‘Touching’ covers all physical contact, including touching with any part of the body, with anything else and through anything, for example, through clothing.  It includes penetration. 

A person aged 18 or over is liable to up to 14 years imprisonment for this offence.   A person under the age of 18 is liable to up to 5 years imprisonment.   A person may claim in their defence that they believed the young person to be over 16.

Intentional sexual touching of a young person under 13 is an absolute offence.  This means there can be no defence in such a case that it was believed the person was over 16. Sexual touching which involves penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth by the penis or penetration of the vagina or anus with a part of the body or any object is punishable by up to life imprisonment.    Sexual touching not involving penetration is punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment.