Birth Registration: A child born in the UK receives the country’s citizenship at birth if one of the parents is a UK citizen or a legally settled resident. Children born in Northern Ireland may opt for UK, Irish, or dual citizenship. A child born in an overseas territory is a UK overseas territories citizen if at least one of the child’s parents has citizenship. There are special provisions for granting citizenship to persons who might otherwise be stateless. All births must be registered within 42 days in the district where the baby was born, and unregistered births were uncommon.
Child Abuse: According to the charitable NGO National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), more than 30,000 allegations of sexual offenses against children, including rape, assault and grooming offenses, were made to police forces in England and Wales in 2014/15.
In Scotland there were 3,742 recorded sexual offenses against children in 2013/14. This was a rate of 3.4 sexual offenses per 1,000 children under age 16.
The PSNI recorded 1,575 cases of abuse against a person under the age of 18 in Northern Ireland in 2014-15. As of June, 141 children were on the child protection register in Northern Ireland because of sexual abuse. The Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry continued to investigate 524 reports from victims of child abuse in 16 religious and government-run care homes and reformatory institutions in Northern Ireland from 1922 to 1995.
Social service departments in each local authority area in the country maintained confidential child protection registers containing details of children at risk of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect. The registers also included child protection plans for each child. According to the NSPCC, at the end of March 2014 there were 56,231 children on child protection registers or subject to child protection plans in the UK. In Scotland as of July 2014, there were 2,882 children on child protection registers. In Northern Ireland as of June 2015, there were 2,010 children on child protection registers.
In January the Foreign and Commonwealth Office reported widespread sexual abuse of children on the island of St. Helena. Its report had found a culture of acceptance of child abuse and alleged a number of serial child sex offenders and serial victims lived on the island. Sexual maturity, rather than age of consent, was the de facto basis in determining what was acceptable for sexual relations on the island.
Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage in the UK is 16. In England and Wales, persons under 18 and not previously married require the written consent of the parents or guardians, and the underage person must present a birth certificate. During the year forcing a UK citizen into marriage anywhere in the world became a criminal offense in England and Wales. The new law provides for a maximum prison sentence of seven years. In Scotland persons between 16 and 18 do not need parental consent to be married. In Northern Ireland persons under 18 need parental consent “or if appropriate an order of a court dispensing with consent.” In Bermuda the minimum age for marriage is 18.
The government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) operated a helpline providing confidential support and advice to victims and professionals and conducted a nationwide outreach program with schools, social services, and police. In 2014 the FMU gave advice or support to 1,267 cases, 79 percent of which involved female victims. More than 10 percent involved victims with disabilities and 11 percent of cases involved victims under the age of 16.
In June a man was sentenced to 16 years in prison for making a 25-year-old woman marry him under duress, the first ever to be jailed under the forced marriage laws introduced in 2014. The same month, Respond, a UK-based charity supporting persons with learning disabilities affected by trauma and abuse, launched My Life, My Marriage, a project aimed at challenging the practice of forcing marriage on persons with learning disabilities.
In Scotland the law provides for protection against forced marriage without free and full consent and for protecting persons who have been forced into marriage without such consent. The legal minimum age to enter into a marriage in Scotland is 16 and does not require parental consent.
The minimum age for marriage in Bermuda is 16 for both girls and boys.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): See information for girls under 18 in women’s section above.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The penalties for sexual offenses against children and the commercial sexual exploitation of children range up to life imprisonment. Released persons convicted of sexual offenses must register with police and notify police any time they change their name or address, or travel outside the UK.
Authorities identified 2,340 potential trafficking victims from 96 countries in 2014 compared with 1,746 potential victims in 2013. Of these, 29 percent were children.
The minimum age of consensual sex in the UK is 16. In Bermuda the legal minimum age for consensual sex is 16 for heterosexuals and lesbians and 18 for gay men.
International Child Abductions: The UK including Bermuda is party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Due to its distinct and separate legal system, Scotland has an independent body for handling Hague Convention cases and communicates directly with Hague Convention authorities. For information see the Department of State’s report on compliance at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html and country-specific information at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/country/united-kingdom.html.