Age of Consent: Legalities of 16-Year-Olds Dating 18-Year-Olds in the UK

Posted by

The intricacies of age of consent laws in the United Kingdom can cause confusion when it comes to the legality of relationships between teenagers, particularly those who are close in age but on either side of the legal threshold. This article seeks to explore whether it is illegal for a 16-year-old to date an 18-year-old in the UK.

Related posts

Statutory Framework

Sexual Offences Act 2003

In the UK, the Sexual Offences Act 2003 is the legislation that outlines the legal age of consent for sexual activity, which is 16 years old across England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

Definition of ‘Dating’

The term ‘dating’ is not legally defined and does not have a specific legal implication. It only becomes a legal matter when it involves sexual activity with someone under the age of consent.

At 16 years old, a person is considered legally competent to give consent to sexual activity with another person, regardless of the other person’s age, so long as they too are 16 or older.

Relationships Between Teens

A romantic relationship between a 16-year-old and an 18-year-old, without sexual activity, is not illegal. The law becomes applicable only when sexual activity is involved.

Power Dynamics and Coercion

While the age of consent serves as a clear legal guideline, issues of power dynamics and coercion can still be relevant, particularly in relationships with an age gap.

Beyond sexual activity, other aspects of a relationship, such as the exchange of indecent images, could have legal implications under laws such as the Protection of Children Act 1978.

Public and Social Perceptions

The View of Close Age Relationships

There is a general societal acceptance in the UK of relationships between individuals who are close in age, which is reflected in the law’s provisions that do not criminalize such relationships.


In the United Kingdom, it is not illegal for a 16-year-old to date an 18-year-old, provided that any sexual activity is consensual and both parties are above the age of consent. However, it is essential to consider the full scope of the law, including issues related to power dynamics and other potentially illegal activities.


How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 5 / 5. Vote count: 1

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *