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 a 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 to 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 recorded 1,233 cases of abuse against a person under 18 years old in Northern Ireland in 2012-13. In September the Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry announced that it received 363 applications from child abuse victims for their investigation of allegations of widespread child abuse in Northern Ireland.
In Bermuda in 2012, 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 44 of the abuse cases. Of the rest, 47 cases were unsubstantiated, 20 were suspected but could not be proven, eight were pending with police, and one was deemed unrelated to child protection. The Department of Child and Family Services reported the number of children exposed to domestic violence increased from 53 referrals in 2011 to 83 in 2012.
Child protection registers in the UK contained confidential details of children who were at continuing risk of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect and for whom there was a child protection plan. Registers covered each local authority area in the country, and individual social services departments managed them. The latest figures available from March 2012 showed 50,573 children on child protection registers, or the subject of child protection plans in the UK. Of these, 42,700 were in England. The latest figures from March 2012 showed 2,127 children on child protection registers in Northern Ireland, 2,880 in Wales, and, as of July 2012, 2,706 in Scotland.
Forced and Early 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, the underage person must present a birth certificate. In Northern Ireland those under 18 need parental consent, “or if appropriate an order of a court dispensing with consent.” In Scotland persons between 16 and 18 years of age do not need to have parental consent to be married. In Bermuda the minimum age of marriage is 18 years.
In 2010, the latest year for which the Office of National Statistics had 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 FMU provided help and advice to between January and June, 43 percent involved girls under the age of 18 years.
In Bermuda, through August there were no marriages of persons under the age of 18 years.
Harmful Traditional Practices: Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) is illegal in the UK, with a penalty of up to 14 years in prison or a fine or both. The Home Office estimated that up to 24,000 girls under the age of 15 were at risk of the procedure. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) introduced a 24-hour helpline for anyone concerned that a child may be at risk from 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.
The penalties for sexual offenses against children and the commercial sexual exploitation of children range 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 placement on the register of sex offenders for life.
The NSPCC recorded 18,915 sexual crimes against children under 16 in England and Wales in 2012-13, compiled from research and official publications up to October. Scottish police data for 2012-13 showed 429 sexual offenses involving children ages 13-15. In Bermuda officials reported 106 cases of sexual abuse of children up to the age of 18 years in 2012, of which 40 were substantiated, 34 were unsubstantiated, 16 were suspected but could not be proven, 15 were pending with police, and one was deemed unrelated to child protection.
As of 2011 England and Wales registered 35,665 individuals as sexual offenders; this figure did not distinguish between offenses against adults and children. In Scotland in 2012-13, there were 3,314 registered sex offenders. In Northern Ireland as of September 1, there were 191 sexual offenders registered, again without differentiation among offenses against adults or children.
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 country-specific information at http://travel.state.gov/abduction/country/country_5790.html.