Age of consent
Historically in England and Wales the age of consent for heterosexual intercourse for girls was 12, there was no lower age limit for heterosexual intercourse for boys, buggery (but not other forms of gay sex) was illegal between men and boys at any age, and there were no explicit laws about lesbian sex.
The Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 raised the age of consent for girls to 16, and also introduced the offence of gross indecency between males, effectively making all kinds of gay male sex illegal, irrespective of age.
The Sexual Offences Act 1967 legalised sex between men in private, with an age of consent of 21. It did not apply to Scotland or Northern Ireland, where gay sex was still illegal. In August 1971 young members of the Gay Liberation Front organised a public rally in London to protest at the age of consent for gay men. 
The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 reduced the age of consent for sex between men to 18, and legalised anal sex between men and women, also with an age of consent of 18.
The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000 introduced a common age of consent of 16 (17 in Northern Ireland) for both males and females, and for both heterosexual and homosexual acts.
Suggestions for further lowering of the age
In May 2013 the barrister Barbara Hewson should be lowered to 13 to stop the "persecution of old men". Peter Tatchell, while supporting a lowering of the age, has criticised Ms Hewson, saying that 13 is too young.
In November 2013 Professor John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said there should be a national debate on lowering the age of consent (presumably for both gay and straight sex) to 15, as this would make it easier for 15-year-olds to get sexual health advice from the NHS.
Timeline of age of consent legislation
The following refer to same-sex activity between men.
|Timeline for Age of Consent Legislation|
|1967 Sexual Offences Act 1967||21||Illegal||Illegal||Illegal||Illegal||Illegal||Illegal|
|1980 Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980||21||21||Illegal||Illegal||Illegal||Illegal||Illegal|
|1982 Homosexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 1982||21||21||21||Illegal||Illegal||Illegal||Illegal|
|1983 Sexual Offences (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 1983||21||21||21||Illegal||Illegal||Illegal||21|
|1990 Sexual Offences (Jersey) law 1990||21||21||21||Illegal||Illegal||21||21|
|1992 Sexual Offences Act 1992 – Isle of Man||21||21||21||Illegal||21||21||21|
|1993 Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 1993 – Irish Republic||21||21||21||17||21||21||21|
|1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994||18||18||18||17||21||21||21|
|1995 Sexual Offences (Jersey) Law 1995||18||18||18||17||21||18||21|
|2000 Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000||16||16||17||17||21||18||21|
|2000 Sexual Offences (Amendment) (Guernsey) Law, 2000||16||16||17||17||21||18||18|
|2001 Criminal Justice Act 2001 – Isle of Man||16||16||17||17||18||18||18|
|2006 Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2006 – Isle of Man||16||16||17||17||16||18||18|
|2007 Sexual Offences (Jersey) Law 2007||16||16||17||17||16||16||18|
|2008 Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008||16||16||16||17||16||16||18|
|2011 Sexual Offences (Bailiwick of Guernsey) (Amendment) Law 2011||16||16||16||17||16||16||16|
The ages for Jersey relate to only to sodomy (referred to as "sodomie" and meaning anal intercourse). For all other homosexual acts the age of consent was the same as for heterosexual acts.
Dates are the dates referenced in the official names of the Laws or Acts: in some cases this may be later than the date when the law was agreed by the legislature in question; in other cases there may have been a further delay before the law, or part of it, came into force.
The age of consent in the Irish Republic is still 17 (as previously in Northern Ireland) for both heterosexual and homosexual acts.
- http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/equality/sexualorientation/information/lgbtrights Imperial College "A History of LGBT Rights in the UK"
- Williams, Clifford (2021) Courage to Be: Organised Gay Youth in England 1967-1990. The Book Guild Ltd. ISBN: 9781913913632
- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-24976929 BBC News 17 November 2013