Birth registration: A child born in the UK receives the country’s citizenship at birth if one of the parents is a British citizen or legally settled resident. Children born in Northern Ireland may opt for British, Irish, or dual citizenship. A child born in an overseas territory is a British overseas territories citizen if at least one of the child’s parents has citizenship. There are special provisions for granting citizenship for 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: The UK government did not publish annual statistics on child abuse. The PSNI reported 836 incidents of violence against a person under 18 years old in Northern Ireland in 2011-12.
In Bermuda in 2011, the most recent date for which statistics were available, there were 120 cases of physical abuse of children up to the age of 18 years. The Department of Child and Family Services substantiated 52 of the physical abuse cases. Of the rest, 19 cases were unsubstantiated, 24 were suspected, 23 were pending, and two were deemed to be unrelated to child protection.
In March the government of the island of Jersey offered an “unreserved apology” and compensation of up to 60,000 pounds ($97,000) to 90 persons who suffered physical and sexual abuse by care staff in children’s homes between 1945 and 1994, after the government in the parish of Saint Helier offered its own “unreserved apology” to the victims.
Child protection registers contain confidential details of children who are at continuing risk of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect and for whom there is a child protection plan. Registers cover each local authority area in the country, and individual social services departments managed them. The latest figures available from March 2011 showed 50,552 children on child protection registers in the UK. Of these, 42,700 were in England, 2,401 in Northern Ireland, 2,571 in Scotland, and 2,880 in Wales.
Child Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage in the UK is 16 years. In England and Wales, persons who have not reached 18 years of age and have not been previously married require the written consent of the parents or guardians. If either of the persons is below 18 years of age, a birth certificate must be presented. In Bermuda, the minimum age of marriage is 18 years.
In 2010, the latest year for which the Office of National Statistics has official data, 3,106 women and 934 men between the ages of 16 and 19 years married in England and Wales. In Scotland in 2010, the latest year for which data is available, 219 women and 79 men under the age of 20 years married. In 2010 in Northern Ireland, 79 women and 42 men between 16 and 19 years married.
Of the 747 cases that the Forced Marriage Unit provided help and advice to between January and June, 43 percent involved girls under the age of 18 years.
In Bermuda, there were no marriages for persons under the age of 18 years in 2011 or during the year.
Harmful Traditional Practices: Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) is illegal in the UK, with a penalty of up to 14 years in prison and/or a fine. The Home Office estimated that up to 24,000 girls under the age of 15 were at risk of the procedure. In November the government launched a one-year pilot of the cross-government declaration against FGM/C: a pocket-sized document that stated the law and the potential criminal penalties against those who allow FGM/C to take place. The Home Office also launched the FGM/C Fund 2012, which supported community engagement work to tackle FGM/C.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age of consensual sex in the UK is 16 years. In Bermuda the legal minimum age for consensual sex is 16 years for heterosexuals and lesbians and 18 years for gay men.
There are strict penalties for sexual offenses against children and the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Some sexual offenses carry penalties up to life imprisonment. 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. During the year sex offenders in England and Wales gained the ability to appeal being placed on the register of sex offenders for life following a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that denying offenders the right of appeal was incompatible with their human rights.
Police recorded more than 23,000 sex offenses against children aged under 18 years in England and Wales between April 2010 and March 2011. In May nine men were found guilty of sex offenses against children. The court sentenced the leader of the group to 41 years in prison on 30 counts, including child rape, aiding and abetting, sexual assault, and trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation.
As of March 2011, England and Wales registered 35,665 individuals as sexual offenders; however, this figure did not distinguish between offenses against adults and children. In Bermuda officials reported 136 cases of sexual abuse of children up to the age of 18 years in 2011, of which 69 were substantiated, 25 were unsubstantiated, 25 were suspected, 16 were pending, and one was deemed unrelated to child protection.
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 on international parental child abduction, see the Department of State’s report on compliance at www.travel.state.gov/abduction/resources/congressreport/congressreport_4308.html as well as country-specific information at www.travel.state.gov/abduction/country/country_5790.html.