ICCL - Protecting Children and Respecting the Rule of Law

Published date: 
Wednesday, May 6, 2009

This report considers the implications of the Supreme Court decision in CC v Ireland in which section 1 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1935 was found unconstitutional. The Supreme Court struck down section 1, under which it was an offence for a man to have unlawful carnal knowledge (unlawful sexual intercourse) with a girl under 15 years as it did not provide for a defence of mistaken belief as to the age of the girl in question. The 1935 Act also contained a similar offence in relation to a girl less than 17 years. Such offences, often referred to as statutory rape offences, create an age below which a child cannot give legal consent to sexual acts and they differ from the offence of rape principally because it is not necessary to prove the absence of actual consent. In ruling this law invalid, the Supreme Court was concerned that to criminalise a person who was mentally innocent for such a serious offence amounted to a failure on the part of the State to defend and vindicate the rights to liberty and to good name of the person under Article 40 of the Constitution.

Irish Council for Civil Liberties