Calls to change age of consent laws amid Russell Brand allegations

Russell Brand has been accused of sexual assaults and having a relationship with a 16 year-old when he was in his thirities  (Getty Images)
Russell Brand has been accused of sexual assaults and having a relationship with a 16 year-old when he was in his thirities (Getty Images)

Calls have been made for laws around the age of sexual consent to be overhauled amid the allegations against Russell Brand.

Brand, a comedian turned conspiracy theorist, is accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl when he was in his thirties.

While he has vehemently denied all allegations and insists his relationships were consensual, the claims have ignited a debate around not only the age of consent but also age gaps.

Brand’s alleged victim, known by the pseudonym Alice, told the Sunday Times she was in an emotionally abusive three-month relationship with him that began in 2006. The actor is accused of rape, assault and emotional abuse between 2006 and 2013, in the wake of a joint investigation by The Times, Sunday Times and Channel 4’s Dispatches.

Alice told BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour on Monday it is time to start to think about changing laws around the age of sexual consent.

“There’s a reasonable argument individuals between the ages of 16 and 18 can have relations with people within that same age bracket,” she added.

But she warned there should be measures taken to stop older adults from exploiting those who are aged 16 and 17.

Harriet Wistrich, director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, told The Independent the law on the age of sexual consent needs looking at.

The human rights lawyer, who has worked on many high-profile cases involving violence against women, added: “I don’t think you could make sex between 16 and 17-year-olds illegal but we should look at whether there should be a presumption of non-consent when someone is a lot older and someone is still a teenager.”

Ms Wistrich argued society must recognise the pressure that can be exerted on teenagers by older men as she warned: “We know older men will exploit young, vulnerable women. Someone under 18 can’t vote or drive a car - are they really in a position to make free decisions in relation to someone who is a lot older than them?”

Charlotte Proudman, a human rights barrister who specialises in violence against women and girls, said: “The law doesn’t allow children to marry in England and Wales until they are adults and reach 18.

“But there’s a grey area for consent to sex for children age 16 - some of whom are at risk of grooming from much older powerful men. I’ve seen instances of predatory men waiting for girls to turn 16 and then pressuring them into sex. This isn’t an equal relationship, the power is already skewed.

“When those girls become older and look back on what happened to them, many feel used and abused - rightly so. Just because it’s legal it doesn’t mean it’s not exploitative.”